Needs Planning During a Pandemic

I recently received a call from a concerned parent of an adult special needs child. Her son was recently diagnosed with schizophrenia, refuses to take his medication and has been living on the street. Unable to physically care for her child and experiencing a health scare of her own, she decided it was time to get “her ducks in order” and contacted our office. Her main wish is to continue to provide financially for her son’s present and future care without disrupting his governmental disability benefits.

Cybercrime Claims

One of the most common problem I encounter investigating a cybercrime is that the reporting person and/or victim fail to provide any records and/or documentation to support their claim that they had been victimized — more so in cases involving online fraud. One of the simplest and quickest methods of documentation is printing out the webpage offer, sale or service.

Hiring a Caregiver is Tricky

You may be tempted to treat a caregiver as a “private contractor” in order to avoid the humbug of tax withholding and buying the right insurance policies. You would do so at your peril. The IRS and the state will take the position that the caregiver is an  employee, that you are an employer and that all of the legal obligations that attach to those labels apply to your situation.

Timeshares Pt. 3: Scam or Investment?

As I indicated in the last issue, under Hawaii Revised Statute §514E-9, timeshare companies are required to give clients all information regarding the unit for purchase, including all the fees attributed to that unit that are due immediately and the “hidden” fees that require seemingly endless future payments — the monthly mortgage, property tax, maintenance fees and interest.

Now’s the Time: Charities Need Our Help

In these challenging economic times, many worthwhile charitable organizations find themselves in a precarious financial position. Meanwhile, they are experiencing unprecedented demand, especially those charities that provide basic needs like food and shelter. Thankfully, new, unique provisions in the tax code have been implemented in response to the COVID-19 crisis, creating more incentives for giving.

Donating with Care

Hawai‘i’s residences are often targeted by door-to-door solicitors asking for donations. Here in Hawai‘i, we are a generous people. We take pride in living the Aloha Spirit, but we must exercise caution as well. We must know the basic things about charitable giving in the event that anyone tries to take advantage of our good nature.

Crisis Communication

If a parent suddenly fell unconscious or required emergency medical attention, would you know what do? Would you know what paperwork, insurance cards and medical records to bring with you to the hospital? Once a medical crisis occurs, it’s too late to prepare for the large amount of information that is needed by doctors, hospital staff, family and relatives. The solution? A medical organizer.

Let the IRS Take a Bath for Change

Nobody likes to pay taxes, but most of us like to take baths. Unless the bath is the kind where money flows out of your pocket and down the drain. If you feel like paying taxes is a lot like seeing your money go down the drain, you will be glad to know about an exciting estate planning opportunity that can help make the IRS take a bath after your death instead of your loved ones.

Beware: It’s the Return of the Estate Tax

The good news is that the federal estate tax took a vacation in 2010. The bad news is that it spent the whole year lifting weights and taking steroids. The estate tax is coming back in 2011, as big and bad as it has been in a long time. Now is the time to review your estate plan and make changes that could drastically affect how much of your estate goes to your loved ones, and how much goes to the IRS.

Tis the Season for Holiday Scams

The holiday season is a happy time celebrated with food, family and friends. Unfortunately, it’s also a time for fraud at the hands of identity thieves, computer hackers and deceptive sellers. Hawai‘i’s Better Business Bureau (BBB) offers advice on how to recognize and avoid common holiday scams.

The Secret of Happy Holidays: Spending with Discretion

As we enter the third holiday season after the onset of the “Great Recession,” American consumers may be battling penny-pinching fatigue. We’ve scrimped. We’ve saved. When do we get to reward ourselves? Sure, it would be fun to celebrate the holidays with a big spending binge, but if there’s one lesson to be learned from the recession, it’s the importance of fiscal prudence.

Do You Really Want to be a Trustee?

You were named as successor Trustee of a trust created by a family member or friend, and that person just died. What now? Before you rush in, think about what awaits. Until you sign on the dotted line, the fact that you have been named as a trustee does not obligate you to accept that position. Decide carefully, because once you accept the job, you accept all that goes with it. It is a position of great honor, and it involves great responsibility.

Who Gets My Stuff?

You may have heard the old joke, “where there’s a will … I want to be in it.” That may be true, but is estate planning really all about “who gets my stuff?” Who gets your stuff is important, but when you sift through the reasons for doing estate planning, you may find that identifying who gets your stuff takes a distant back seat to far more important considerations.

Retirement: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

It’s safe to say that your retirement will bear little resemblance to that of your grandparents—and even your parents. The world has changed so much in the past 20 years that even the savviest prognosticators couldn’t have predicted all changes in society and technology that have transformed our daily lives. We now know there is no turning back from the life we’ve become accustomed to, but it begs the question: What’s next?

Sneaky Scams

Work-at-home and make $500 dollars a day, lose 30 lbs. in one week, and the secrets of becoming financially secure for the price of shipping and handling all “risk free.” Hawai‘i’s Better Business Bureau (BBB) warns against offers that claim a “risk free” trial but takes your payment information up front. Many consumers allege that after providing credit card or banking information that they are bombarded with fees and other charges before the free trial is over.

How to Avoid Charity Fraud

It may be hard to believe, but during natural disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes — and even the current COVID-19 pandemic — unscrupulous scammers set up fraudulent fundraising operations to take advantage of Good Samaritans who want to help.

Meaningful Estate Planning

In medicine, there is cure and care; in finance, there is worth and value. In estate planning, there is wealth and meaning. Most people see the estate planner’s role as writing a document that transfers wealth at death. Just as significant is our role to communicate our client’s meaning clearly. This meaning is the foundation for estate planning.

COVID-19 and The Market

Historic market volatility has washed over the globe in recent weeks. The spread of COVID-19 (the disease caused by coronavirus) has precipitated a record drop in the stock market and a sharp plunge in bond yields, sending the U.S. into its first bear market in over a decade. People around the world are facing a health crisis that’s driving an economic crisis, which are leading to high levels of anxiety for families and individuals regarding their well-being and financial situation.

Timeshares: Scams or Investments?

My wife loves free things. When we go to any expo at the Hawaii Convention Center or the Blaisdell, she’ll be the one hoarding free pens and reusable bags. So, I should not have been surprised when she stopped at a table run by a hotel chain that was offering a free dinner, six hours of validated parking in Waikīkī and a two-night stay at a hotel. According to the salesman, all we had to do was review a hotel from pictures they would show us. The whole process would take only 120 minutes (not two hours?).

Siblingship

Siblingship is the state of being related or interrelated, or a state of affairs existing between one of two or more individuals having one common parent. The term describes the unique, dynamic relationship existing between siblings. Siblings begin their relationship at a very young age. They experience joys and setbacks together — laugh and cry together. And through fighting, they can learn conflict resolution together. No other relationship is like siblingship.

Options for Paying for Long-Term Care

In life, we always have options. And when it comes to covering the costs of long-term care, it is no different. In this article, I’ll share a few viable strategies you can use to help cover the future costs of care in our Aloha State. It is by no means all-encompassing and exhaustive, but meant to get you thinking on this critically important topic.

A Legacy of Aloha

Estate planning is the process of protecting that which is important and then passing those important things on to our loved ones and future generations. Many concepts that are central to Hawaiian culture are particularly applicable to estate planning. Starting with the concept of ‘ohana (a very inclusive notion of family), all the way through lokahi (a sense of unity — especially appropriate at the passing of a loved one), estate planning and the culture of our islands interweave to form a rich tapestry of aloha.

Special Needs Planning

Over 54 million adults and children in the U.S. have a disability. The concerns of parents of disabled children are the same for most any parent — ensuring that their children are safe, happy and live a meaningful life. Some children may be unable to earn a living. Both the federal and state governments understand this and provide benefits so that they receive food, shelter and medical care.

Don’t Be ‘Buried Alive’

Protecting personal privacy is generally a good thing, but can also have unexpected results. Consider the plight of a 90-year-old lady (“Nancy”) who was the life of her weekly exercise classes. Nancy was very well known for youthful outlook and zest for life.
So when Nancy missed class one day, her friends tried to contact her. All they were able to learn was that she had been moved to a nursing home.

Financial Planning for Non-parents

Those who do not have children tend to have more financial flexibility to pursue their goals throughout life and retirement. This makes sense when you consider that the cost of raising a child from birth to adulthood is currently estimated at $233,610 (before you factor in college). However, childless singles and couples still need to manage their future financial needs.

Recognizing Warning Signs of Abuse

I was a guest on “Generations Radio,” AM 690, on Nov. 22, 2019 with Lt. John McCarthy of the Financial Crimes Unit of the Honolulu Police Department. The 39-year department veteran is nationally recognized as an expert in financial crimes and elder abuse. On the show, we discussed how scams go undetected because victims don’t recognize the warning signs of abuse. What follows are danger signals that should prompt further investigation…

Robocalls: An Overview

In the last year, Americans received about 5 billion robocalls per month, up from the 2 billion a month just two years ago. Robocalls are automated calls made by a computer program, enabling the telemarketer or scammer on the other end to call multitudes of phone numbers in a short span of time. It took me under five minutes of “Googling” to find a website and fill out a form to order robocalling software that I could use to dial hundreds of telephone numbers an hour.

Once a Child Becomes an Adult…

A frantic mother once called me after her daughter was injured in a ski accident. When she called the hospital to find out the status of her daughter, hospital personnel would’t release any information and didn’t allow her make decisions on her child’s behalf. Just imagine the stress this caused! This situation is all too common. When a child leave for college, for example, in the eyes of the law, he or she is now an adult and parental rights cease. This fact is often overlooked.

Managing Aging Parents’ Finances

Making financial decisions takes time, attention and energy at any age. In the case of elderly adults, it can become increasingly difficult to manage daily finances, particularly if their health is declining or they’re experiencing cognitive issues. If you’re providing support to aging parents — or plan to in the future — here is some advice on how to handle the situation and prepare for what’s to come.

Kick Out Your Freeloading Adult Kid(s)

My office has received an increase in calls from parents, siblings or other relatives trying to kick an adult child out of their house. Often, the caller has already requested that the child leave, only to receive an adamant “no” from the unwelcome person. In one instance, a mother was selling the home that she loved to move into a small, one-bedroom apartment, hoping her son would not be allowed to live there.

Saving for Unfunded Liabilities

For many years, we have heard our federal and state politicians talk about “unfunded liabilities” of the government. An unfunded liability is any liability or expense that does not have sufficient savings or investments set aside to pay for it. The party responsible for paying the unfunded liability pays for it out of current income or savings or by borrowing the funds.
The risk of an unfunded liability is two-fold:

Pay Medicare Supplements With SPIA

With rising health care costs, many Medicare participants use Medicare supplement insurance to help cover expenses that Medicare does not. However, many still struggle to pay the premiums for their Medicare supplement insurance. Surprisingly, another insurance product — one that can guarantee a monthly income stream — might be the solution.

If Your Kids Plan a Later-in-Life Family…

Many couples are choosing to start families later in life compared to their parents and grandparents. And, increasingly, mothers are waiting to have their first child at age 35 or older. This trend has financial implications. On one hand, parents may be more financially secure and have clear priorities for the future. On the other hand, these parents are closer to retirement, so balancing kids’ expenses with saving can be a juggle.

Don’t Be Duped By a Text Message

There’s been a marked increase in text messages with a spoofed Caller ID that ask the recipient to click on a hyperlink — that’s always the objective of this type of scam. It is their methodology to hijack your device. Two Major Risks include: The recipient does not know who really sent the message; and the hyperlink may redirect the message recipient to a website where malicious software may compromise the recipient’s cellphone.

Stealing Home: An Ultimate Betrayal

The term “stealing home” is associated with baseball. It occurs when a runner is on third base and uses guile, speed and luck to make a dash for home plate to score a run. This usually happens when the runner takes advantage of the pitcher being distracted. In the Elder Abuse Unit, however, my team has come to know the term in a different context. We have seen situations when a homeowner literally has had their residence stolen.

Spam, Eggs and Rice

A few years ago, I created the Heartfelt Advance Care Plan booklet to provide my clients with a tool to improve their end-of-life care, to honor their choices and to reduce conflict and guilt among surviving family members. Those who do fill it out usually comment about how difficult yet rewarding it was to complete. Asking and answering detailed questions about end-of-life wishes, regardless of how difficult it may be, is tremendously helpful to both the dying and their survivors.

HELOC Growth Rate

In recent years, financial planners have shown the effectiveness of using a reverse mortgage line of credit to supplement a retirement portfolio. But while a line of credit can be a strategic part of a retirement income plan, there are often misconceptions related to how the credit line grows. In yet another Forbes article focused on reverse mortgages, Wade Pfau, Ph.D., CFA, professor of retirement income at The American College, sets the record straight with an in-depth analysis of how a Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) works, grows and stands to benefit borrowers.

The Key to Financial Advisor Acronyms

Professionals in many industries tout their education and professional experience as a way to demonstrate their expertise and set themselves apart. The financial industry is a prime example. With almost 200 professional credentials available, advisors can sharpen their ability to serve clients well. If you are searching for a financial advisor and seeking clarity on what the acronyms after each professional’s name means, here is a primer on eight of the most commonly used designations.

Honoring the Mighty Pen

Making an estate plan that clearly documents intention helps surviving family members avoid fighting; especially in court. Yet lawyers will write the estate plan for exactly that purpose — writing as if it were going to be fought over in court. I call this legalese legal dis-ease. Write your intentions down in your own hand-writing for inclusion in your estate plan so that you don’t risk miscommunication or misunderstanding among surviving family members.

5 Retirement Planning Mistakes to Avoid

The most important goal for many of my clients is to retire on their terms – which often means planning a long, secure retirement that enables them to check off items on their ultimate bucket list. Retirement requires careful planning in addition to avoiding financial missteps along the way. Here are five common mistakes, and strategies to avoid them…

Please, Make the Time to Visit

When my father-in-law “Gramps” had a stroke, he spent time at the hospital, rehab, and then a nursing home, before finally being able to return to his house. During those months of recovery away from home, my family made every effort to visit him daily. Between my wife, brother-in-law, mother-in-law and myself, we were pretty successful in making sure he would have the company of a loved one every day.

Understanding Grieving Styles

There is no “good grief” or “bad grief”— there is only grief. Drs. Kenneth Doka and Terry Martin* suggest that there are two types of grievers: “instrumental” and “intuitive.” Neither type is deficient; only different. Understanding the difference can allow family members to empathize with, rather than attribute bad motives to, another family member.

Setting Financial Goals You Can Keep

Setting New Year’s resolutions is a tradition for millions of Americans who see January 1 as a fresh start. However, we all know how easy it is to have resolutions fall to the wayside as the year progresses.

Fortunately, if the goal you have in mind is a financial one, there are ways you can break it down into steps that will keep you motivated and on track to achieve it.

Lottery/Sweepstakes: An Overview

If I were to open a crime college, a place to learn the fine art of thievery, one class that would assuredly be on the curriculum would be Advance Fee Frauds, commonly known as sweepstakes and lottery frauds. This con involves the victim being told the lie that money is coming their way (usually from lottery winnings, insurance refunds or inheritance) but a fee/tax/processing charge has to be paid first to receive it. This one scheme is responsible for more money being stolen in Hawai‘i than any other crime.

Tension over Intention

It is not just families who disagree about the interpretation of legal documents. There seems to be tension among estate planning attorneys in regard to recommending that clients write down their heartfelt intentions to accompany those documents. Many lawyers believe that it is the form that is most important — that the written legal language will communicate their client’s heartfelt wishes. Others believe that, no matter how carefully written, the form alone cannot transfer intention.

Educating Adult Children About Saving

Many parents, in addition to planning for their own future, care deeply about helping their children find their financial footing as they enter adulthood. Having spent decades building up their nest eggs for retirement, they recognize the power of long-term financial planning and hope their children will capture the same benefits by starting to invest while they are young. Convincing someone just starting off in their careers to set aside money for retirement — which to them, may seem like light years away — can be a tough sell.

Hiring a Private Caregiver Can Be Tricky

When hiring a caregiver, you may be tempted to try to make the process as simple as possible by treating the caregiver as a “private contractor.” You tell the person “I will pay you so much an hour, and you deal with the IRS and the State when it comes time to pay taxes.” After all, taking on the responsibilities of withholding taxes (and then paying the taxing authorities), buying Workers’ Compensation insurance, paying Social Security and Medicare tax, and all the rest, can be a real pain. However, the IRS and the State will take the position that the caregiver is an “employee,” that you are an “employer,” and that all the legal obligations that attach to those labels are applicable to your situation.

Our Care, Our Choice

Before you panic about the new “Hawai‘i Aid in Dying Law,” it’s a great law but not for the reasons you may think. Governor Ige signed the Our Care, Our Choice Act on April 5, 2018 and it will become law on January 1, 2019. The new law’s purpose is to establish a regulated process whereby a mentally competent adult resident of Hawai‘i with a terminal illness and less than six months to live may choose to end life with a prescription.

Mastering Change

Class reunions are poignant reminders of change. With each passing year, our classmates grow a little grayer, perhaps a little balder, and maybe a little more expansive at the midsection. Good thing we are not like our classmates, right? Actually, we are. Father Time is catching up with all of us. That sobering fact should inspire us to reflect each year on our estate plans and whether they still do what we want them to do.