The pandemic is causing us to consider a lot of things that we may not have before, even if maybe we should have.

It brings to mind something a colleague of mine shared recently. One weekend last year, she left her small children with a babysitter and headed out to enjoy dinner at a restaurant with her husband. But as she sat there, a thought crept into her head and wouldn’t leave.

What would happen to her kids, she thought, if she and her husband got into a car accident on the way home?

And even though my colleague is a lawyer herself, and she had a will at home naming guardians for her kids, she didn’t have a definite and clear answer that provided the comfort she wanted. Her will was in a vault, and her named legal guardians lived on the other side of the country.  It was that thought that spurred her to take action.

Chances of COVID-19 Infection in the Family
If you are young and healthy, it might be hard to imagine that you won’t be there to care for your kids. But if the COVID-19 pandemic is showing us anything, it’s that even a healthy person can contract a serious illness that leaves them incapacitated and unable to care for their children.

If there is more than one adult in the house, that may alleviate some of your worry. While naming legal guardians for your kids usually feels especially urgent for a single parent, parents with partners aren’t off the hook. You should take precautions too, especially since there are high infection rates among people who live in the same household.

A professor at the University of Florida has found a more than 19% chance that someone else in the household of a person infected with COVID-19 will also contract the disease. Researchers estimate the average incubation time is about four days and could be infectious for up to two weeks. That means it’s not outside the realm of possibility that you and your partner could both contract the illness, possibly at the same time.

An Easy Way to Find Guardians for Your Children
Even if you never contract COVID-19, you are of course still human, and vulnerable to accidents and other dangers that could separate you from your kids—either temporarily or permanently.

If you haven’t already done so, there’s no better time to decide who would care for your children in the immediate term if something happens to you, even on a short-term basis. 

And, if you are having a difficult time deciding who to name as legal guardians for your children, we can even help you make the right decisions.

Officially answering the question of who will care for your kids if you can’t—even for a short time—is one of the best things you can do right now. It is a real, concrete way you can protect your kids during this scary time.

If you need help with the process, please do give us a call and we’ll be glad to walk you through it.

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and defining your legacy,

If you’re a parent, you may feel even more guilty than usual.  If so, you are not alone. Currently, the burden is on you to both carry on with your work and manage your child’s full-time care and education. Two full-time jobs that you’re trying to do by yourself, likely without teachers or care providers to help you.

If you are like most parents, you were probably struggling with guilt even before the virus. You may not always make it to every award ceremony or recital, and you might not have as much time to play with your kids or help them with their homework as you’d like. Those feelings of guilt may now be compounded by all the additional responsibilities you’ve taken on in a short space of time.

Take a deep breath and let yourself off the hook. I’m sure you are doing the best you can, and your kids see it, and know it too, even when they are being ungrateful pains in the rear.

Keep reading for a few ideas about how to shift the guilt.

Name Legal Guardians
Let’s start with one thing that is fully within your control, can help to alleviate feelings that you are not doing enough, and that you can get handled easily — name legal guardians for your kids, so only the people you choose will take care of them if anything happens to you.

Legally documenting your choices for who you want to take care of your kids if you can’t is a great first step to getting legal planning in place for the people you love. (Yes, I said “choices” because you want to name at least two alternates after your first choice.) And doing so can provide you with a lot of relief, if you have not yet taken care of this for your kids.

Quality Time Doing…Nothing
While you’re probably already spending a significant amount of time with your kids, you may be too tired or overwhelmed to plan big activities, or the things you used to do for “quality time” may not be available.

So, what’s a parent to do?

Nothing.

Yes, you read that right, nothing.

If you can take 15 minutes or so out of your day and do nothing with your child, it could be the best 15 minutes you spend with them, and with yourself, all day.

It’s truly one of the best gifts you can give to your kids, and the best part is you don’t have to do anything. Mostly, our kids really just want to know we are there, and will give them our full attention, without screens, even if they aren’t paying attention to us.

Talk About It
If you’re on an emotional roller-coaster right now, your kids are probably having some similar struggles. This is an opportunity to connect with them, and a good time to show them a little vulnerability of your own. Remember how important sharing words of love and comfort can be, both to them and to you.

If you have been feeling alone and need support, you can also reach outside of your family for help. Sometimes venting to your friends is enough, and chances are they’ll be able to relate! But if you are not getting the support you need, there are professionals who will communicate via phone and even text message. You can always reach out to us for a referral but you can also find local therapists and phone, video, and online therapists through Psychology Today’s directory.

The point is, you are NOT alone, and you don’t have to feel alone. There are resources available and if we can be of support to you in any way, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and defining your legacy,

Wills, trusts, health care directives, powers of attorney, and legal guardian nominations are on many of our hearts and minds as COVID-19 compels us to face our own fragility and mortality.

It’s not as if we didn’t already know we are all mortal, but within our current reality, that mortality becomes all the more real. And one way to feel some control over what’s happening out there is to make sure we all have our legal affairs in order at home. That way, if something does happen to us, our families aren’t left with a big legal mess to clean up while they are grieving.

If you are trying to get your financial house in order right now, you may be just getting some basic documents in place. You may even be doing it yourself.

If that’s the case, it’s very important for you to know that the cost of a failed plan can be very high for the people you love. Plus, if your documents are not properly signed, they will not work—period. End of story. And if your documents don’t work, your family could be stuck in court or conflict, which is probably the exact thing you want to avoid by handling your estate planning now.

There are many ways plans fail, but one of the worst ways we see is when someone starts a plan and doesn’t get it signed properly. You do not want this to happen to your family, trust me. If you care enough about estate planning, you will want to make sure your plan will work when your family needs it.

That means you need to make sure your legal documents are actually signed and signed in the right way. Some legal documents require two witnesses, and some require notarization; however, in today’s social-distancing reality, these signatures could be difficult to come by. Some states have allowed remote notarization, California for some reason, has not.

While we understand you likely have a desire to get documents in place now, we also believe there is going to be a significant increase in conflict and litigation because of DIY estate planning documents for the future. Don’t let that happen to the people you love.

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and defining your legacy,

It’s an unfortunate fact that predators emerge during times of crisis to take advantage of people. That means the COVID-19 pandemic can leave your elderly parents vulnerable in more ways than one. But even when things go back to normal, this chronic problem of financial exploitation will still be a risk.

We see it happen far too often. Maybe your parents live several hours away, or in another state or country, and someone in their community gets close to them. Or maybe they have a close relationship with a financial advisor who isn’t really looking out for their best interests. This person could even be another family member, friend, business partner, hired caregiver, professional advisor, or just a casual acquaintance.

Sometimes, when bad actors become involved with your parents’ lives and assets, it can lead not only to a loss of money, but even a loss of personal freedom. One of the worst cases of this I’ve heard of is the case of Milo, a retired veteran living in Arizona, and his son Greg, who lives in California. It all started when Milo asked Greg to help him protect his small amount of money from a family member who was “borrowing” it freely. All Milo had was a savings of $140,000 and payments of $3,700 per month from social security, a pension, and veteran’s benefits.

To help his father out, Greg applied for guardianship of Milo’s money, and the court granted it. But at the same time, without notifying Greg, the court appointed a professional financial Conservator that neither Milo nor Greg knew. The Conservator quickly set to draining Milo’s small savings, with the court barring Greg from filing any more motions.

The situation escalated even further when the Conservator decided to move Milo from his assisted living facility to a cheap lock-down facility where he wouldn’t even have access to the outdoors. This would, of course, free up more money for the Conservator to access. Before this could happen, though, Greg hurried to pick his father up and bring him back to California with him.

Now, the two are essentially on-the-run from authorities, who are trying to bring Milo back to Arizona and under the control of the Conservator. Milo and Greg are out of funds and are now trying to raise capital to mount a legal battle and free Milo from this terrible situation.

The scariest part is that Milo and Greg had all the proper legal documents in place. Sometimes, though, that is not enough to protect your parents from being taken advantage of—even to this extreme. Especially in a time of stress and confusion like the COVID-19 pandemic we are currently living in, it is vital to be vigilant and get the best possible counsel to avoid something like this happening.

This isn’t meant to make you paranoid or distrustful of the people around you, or of how your parents handle their own lives. Well, maybe it is a little. Mostly, though, it’s a call to encourage you and your family to be aware, educated, and empowered in knowing what risks are possible for your parents, and for your future inheritance.

Look out for the following “red flag” actions from influencers:

  1. Preventing important communication between family members;
  2. Withholding documents from other family members;
  3. Encouraging financial gifts or economic benefits to recently met connections (usually in the same network as your parents’ “new friend”);
  4. Naming recently met connections as attorney-in-fact (under a financial power of attorney), or as a joint owner on financial accounts, real estate, and other assets;
  5. Giving financial advice that may not be in your or your parents’ best interests, but rather in the interests of the advisor.

We recommend you start talking with your elderly parents now about how they want their affairs to be handled. Also, you should immediately investigate any situation where you suspect your loved ones are being taken advantage of. There have been too many cases of financial abuse or inappropriate influence where family members are too late to stop the bad actor.

Ideally, you’ll know the value of your parents’ tangible assets (i.e., home, car, business, stocks) and intangible assets (i.e., generational stories, personal relationships, theological legacies). Additionally, you should be working with an advisor to help you understand how family dynamics and the law will impact you, and everything that matters to you and your parents when they’re gone.

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and defining your legacy,

If you or your parents have a retirement account, (or any investment accounts for that matter) now is a perfect time to get connected to how those accounts are invested. While you may have outsourced all of this to a broker, which is fine, I don’t believe you should ever allow your investments to be made without your clear understanding of exactly what you are investing in as well as how and whether your investments align with your plans for the future.  

Some brokers and advisors believe this, too. Unfortunately, because it takes more time to ensure you understand your investments, many brokers and advisors would rather keep you in the dark. Now is not the time (or ever, really) for you to be okay with being in the dark about your investments.

Educate Yourself
If you or your parents have a retirement account, and you are not intimately connected to how those assets are being invested, it’s time to get more involved.

Log in to your retirement account or pull your last statement and look. Many brokerages select investment funds for their clients’ portfolios based on rates of growth. They’ll offer investment options based on a few tiers of growth and risk, and very often you have no idea what your assets are actually invested in.

Labels like “slow-growth” or “conservative” or “high-growth” or “income” aren’t enough to tell you exactly where your money is invested. So, what you want to do now is look at your statement, which should contain the names of the funds chosen for you, and you can go from there to do your research. Look up each of the funds on sites like Yahoo Finance to see what you are investing in, and whether you understand these companies, believe in their future growth, and want to stay invested there.

Go through this process with your parents, too. The money they have invested in the stock market is part of your overall family wealth. If it’s not there to support them through their senior years, that financial responsibility will eventually fall to you. Having these conversations with them now can be difficult, but it’s important.

If you have a broker you work with, call them now, and ask to get on a video conference. Then, have them help you review each investment, why it’s been chosen, and whether there may be better or other options for you or your parents.

Here’s the key: make sure you understand it, and don’t hang up the phone until you do. If your broker is using words you don’t understand, keep asking questions until you do understand. If you need a referral to an advisor give us a call.

With everything that is happening in the world—and with the volatility of the stock market and our current reality —knowing your options is vital to preserving the full legacy you and your parents have worked hard to build.

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and defining your legacy,

With all the media about “digital wills” and “online estate planning” it could be tempting to think you can do your estate planning yourself, online. And, maybe you can. But, if you do, you need to know the potential pitfalls. Online estate planning could be a big trap for the unwary and end up leaving your family worse off than if you had done nothing at all.

First and foremost, before you do any of your own online estate planning, it’s critical to understand your family dynamics, the nature of your assets, and what the state of California would say should happen to your assets if something happens to you. You see, if you don’t do estate planning, the state does have a plan for your assets if you become incapacitated or when you die. You need to know what that plan is, so you know whether you want to change it.

But Don’t I Need a Will and Can’t I Just Do It Online?
Here’s the funny thing about estate planning: the one legal document that everyone thinks they need most actually does the least.

Every adult does need SOME estate planning. A will is always a good idea because it says who gets, and who oversees distributing, what you have. However, if the default law would have given your assets to the same people you would choose and authority to the person you would name anyway, then an online will would probably do nothing valuable for you at all.

Even a properly drafted will does not keep your family out of court (a will must always be adjudicated by a judge). And if drafted improperly, it could require the person you’ve named to handle things for you to get a bond, which is like an insurance policy. These are expensive and can be hard to get for an executor who has less than a stellar credit score. If your named executor cannot get a bond, it would then mean the court would appoint a court ordered executor, and that can be costly for your estate. This is just one of the examples of how having a will prepared online, can create more expense for the people you love. Unfortunately, all the online will preparation solutions I’ve reviewed don’t even mention this risk.

So, yes, you can do your own will online, but at what potential cost for the people you love?

The Problem with Online Wills
DIY online estate plans (and even many estate plans created by lawyers) usually include three or four basic documents: a will, a financial power of attorney, an advance health care directive, and possibly a trust.

But, honestly, completing these documents without counsel is simply not enough to guarantee your estate will be executed as simply, affordably, and effectively as you would wish.

For instance—are you sure there isn’t some missing consideration that could lead to turmoil as your family tries to figure it out? Did you know that most family fights don’t even happen over money, but over lack of clarity? Have you considered all your extended family, including stepchildren and ex-spouses? What will be done with all the personal, sentimental items you want to pass on to your children?

And there have been far too many scenarios where seniors, even those who had some estate planning done, get caught in the court system or even declared incompetent, and then have court-appointed guardians named, who then drain their accounts. In many cases, their assets are gutted before they can go to their kids. You don’t want that to happen to you or your family and a do-it-yourself will makes that outcome more likely, not less.

What about making sure your family knows what you have and where it is? An online will won’t tell them that. There’s nearly $10 billion being held in the California department of unclaimed property; much of it because someone died and their family lost track of their assets.

So how can you be sure you’ve got everything covered, legally?

With online wills and DIY estate planning docs, you wouldn’t even know what questions to ask to uncover the potential risks to the people you love, who deserve to receive what you’ve created in your life, without a big mess.

Think about this: do you know anyone who has lost family relationships because, after a loved one died, the family ended up in an irrevocable fight? Maybe this has even happened in your own family. I see it all the time and the consequences—both, financial and emotional—can be devastating.

And, it’s all unnecessary.

Yes, even if there are attorneys on staff at these online companies, they don’t get to know you and your family dynamics enough to spot the real issues that could arise. They are, instead, focused on a one-size-fits-all solution and easy answers to complex issues.

The Kind of Help Your Family Deserves
Many lawyers who specialize in estate planning often base their work on template documents. Even if they are well-intentioned, they’re working with an old, traditional system that places the focus solely on providing documents. But the documents are only as good as the understanding a lawyer has about your family dynamics, the nature of your assets, how the law will apply to your situation, and how the documents can be written as simply as possible to achieve your wishes. You need much more than just a set of four or five filled-out template documents to address all those complexities.

Your plan should include an inventory of your assets and guarantee they are all owned in a way that will keep your family out of court and conflict while ensuring everyone named in your plan has what they need and understands your choices. Most importantly, you should understand your plan and ensure that it passes along more than just your money.

Do it yourself estate planning is risky. While it may be better than nothing, it may also be worse. And it won’t be until after you are gone that your loved ones find out that answer.

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and defining your legacy,

Right now, huge numbers of people are coming face to face with their own mortality, and realizing they need to plan for the worst. This goes not just for those in the “senior” category, but for all of us, no matter our age. We are facing the reality of our mortality, and many of us are doing it courageously by taking this as an opportunity to learn what we need to do for the people we love.

Recently I heard a tragic story from a colleague whose client lost her fiancé to COVID-19. Because she wasn’t listed on her fiancé’s health directive and HIPAA waiver, she could not get anyone to update her on his condition once he entered the hospital.

Naturally, she didn’t give up trying, and eventually someone told her that he wasn’t in the ICU anymore. She was enormously relieved, but when she hadn’t heard anything else by the next day, she called again for news. Finally, after being transferred several times, she learned that the reason her fiancé wasn’t in the ICU was because he was in the morgue. He’d passed away the day before, and no one had told her. Heartbreaking.

Nobody expects something like this to happen, especially to people who are healthy and making plans for their own futures. But sometimes the worst does happen, and if it does, you want the people you love to be able to grieve properly, without leaving them with a mess of confusion on top of it all.

Now, think about your own situation. What will happen to your loved ones, and the assets you’ll leave behind, if you become sick or die?

Without a doubt, you’d want to ensure certain people in your life are informed if you have to go to the hospital and kept up to date on your condition while you are there. You’d also probably want to avoid them having to go through a drawn-out court process to handle your estate after your death or save them from the fate of not being able to access your assets if you are hospitalized. This article is all about you having the tools you need to make sure everything is in place to do the right thing for the people you love, just in case something happens to you.

Covering the Bases
First, you need to have a worst-case scenario conversation with your family. A lot of people try to avoid conversations about death, but the fact is, we will all die. It’s better to face that with those we love so that when the time comes, we will be as ready as we can be, and so will they.

Create an Asset Inventory
This is something you can get started on right now, by yourself, without the help of a lawyer. It is a great resource to leave for your loved ones so they know where to find everything that is important to you, and will be important to them, if something happens to you.

First, get out your calendar and schedule an appointment with yourself. Set aside an hour or so to put all your asset information in one place (we use a spreadsheet when we do this for clients): real estate, bank accounts, retirement accounts, life insurance, stocks, bonds, business interests, etc.

Update Your Health Care Directive
This is extremely important if you want your loved ones to avoid the tragic situation my colleague’s client found herself in. Do NOT delay reviewing and updating these documents.

Your Health Care Directive should have three parts:

  • A Living Will/ Medical Directive, which states how you want decisions to be made for you.
  • A Medical Power of Attorney, which states who should make these decisions if you can’t make them yourself.
  • A HIPAA Release that allows medical professionals to disclose information to your Medical Power of Attorney/Agent.

Name Legal Guardians for Your Kids
A very important thing for all parents of minor children to do is name legal guardians for your children. Think about what would happen to them right now if something were to happen to you, for both the long term and the immediate future. This is the single most important thing parents of minor children should do because it would have the greatest impact on – or leave the biggest hole for – our minor children if something happens to us.

Going Beyond Just the Basics
The goal in setting up an estate plan is, ultimately, to keep your loved ones out of court and out of conflict. To do that, you must make the right decisions during the planning process, retitle assets so they are protected by your plan, and ensure your plan stays up to date for the rest of your life.

Estate planning is all about merging your family dynamics, assets (both material and non-material), and the law into a cohesive plan which accomplishes all that you really want to do for the people you love.

If you are ready to face your mortality courageously and want to ensure your family is protected and provided for no matter what, don’t wait. Get the help of a professional (someone who’s providing virtual planning sessions) and get started now.

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and defining your legacy,

Coronavirus Aid, Relief, And Economic Security Act Badges: Pile of CARES Act Buttons With US Flag, 3d illustration

It’s the beginning of the month, and bills are coming due. If you are stressed out, it’s important that you know where and how to get access to financial relief. Please consider this not only for yourself, but for your adult children and elderly parents, too, even if you do not need it for yourself.

On March 27, President Trump signed a $2.2 trillion stimulus bill into law that will hopefully provide some relief for many, perhaps including you. The CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act) sends money directly to Americans, expands unemployment coverage, and funds loans and grants for small businesses. So, let’s look at how you can access these funds.

Who gets direct stimulus money and how much do they get?
All eligible adults who have a Social Security Number, filed tax returns in 2018 and/or 2019 will automatically get a $1,200 direct stimulus deposit from the government within a particular income bracket. This is true whether you have been laid off, are currently employed, or are currently self-employed or an independent contractor.

To get the full amount:

  • A single adult must have an adjusted gross income of $75,000 or less.
  • Married couples with no children must earn $150,000 or less for a combined total stimulus of $2,400.
  • Every qualifying child 16 or under adds $500 to a family’s direct stimulus.
  • If you have filed as head of household, have dependents, and earned $112,500 when you last filed, you will get the full payment.

This payment is not considered income—it’s essentially free money from the government. Therefore, it will not be taxed. It also is not a loan, so if you are eligible, you will not be charged interest or expected to pay it back. As of right now, the stimulus is a one-time payment.

Are there exceptions?
Payment decreases and eventually stops for single people earning $99,000 or more or married people who have no children and earn $198,000 annually. Additionally, a family with two children will no longer be eligible for payments if their income is over $218,000.

If you are an adult claimed on your parent’s tax return, you do not get the $1,200.

What do I need to do to get my stimulus money?
For most people, no action is necessary. If the IRS has your bank account information already, it will transfer the money to you via direct deposit. If, however, you need to update your bank account information, the IRS has posted on their website that they are in the process of building an online portal where you can do so.

An important note: if you have not filed a tax return in the past couple of years, or you don’t usually need to file one, you should file a “simple tax return” showing whatever income you did have, so you can qualify for these benefits.

 You can continue to check for updates on how to make sure you get your payment by regularly checking for updates on their Coronavirus Tax Relief page.  https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus

When will that money come through?
Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin says that he expects most people will get their payments by Friday, April 17th, though other sources say that it could take up to 4–8 weeks.

Loans (and Grant Money) for Independent Contractors
If you have a business, are an independent contractor or are self-employed, you can apply for loans, and get a $10,000 grant from the government via the CARES Act.

These are Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) and Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans. Please note that there are still elements of these loans that are not fully understood, and we are giving our best legal interpretation based on information from the Small Business Administration and the US Chamber of Commerce.

VERY IMPORTANT: If you apply for EIDL right now, you can claim a $10,000 advance that does not need to be repaid. It’s essentially a grant that can be used to keep your business alive. You can apply for it right here: https://covid19relief.sba.gov/ Do it, now. This is applicable if you are an independent contractor, or a self-employed business owner. Basically, if you file a separate tax return for your business or a Schedule C on your personal tax return, you SHOULD qualify. But please see note above that we don’t really know how all of this will be implemented. What we do believe is that you should get your application in for the EIDL grant money.

The PPP applications will be made through your bank, so contact your banker, if you believe you will need the PPP loan, which will be forgiven if used for payroll specifically in the weeks after receiving the loan funds.

You should have the following information on hand to fill out either of the two loan applications:

  • IRS Form 4506T—Tax Information Authorization—completed and signed by each principal or owner,
  • Recent federal income tax returns,
  • SBA Form 413—Personal Financial Statement,
  • SBA Form 2202—Schedule of Liabilities listing all fixed debts,
  • Any profit and loss statements, recent tax returns, and balance sheets.

Here’s a bit more information about both loan programs.

Economic Injury Disaster Loans (Above and Beyond the $10,000 Grant)
Every state has been declared a disaster area due to COVID-19, and therefore your business may be eligible for an SBA economic injury disaster loan (EIDL). This is a low-interest loan that has terms that can last as long as 30 years, and can provide you with capital loans of up to $2 million and an advance of up to $10,000.

Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) can be used to cover:

  • Paid sick leave to employees unable to work due to the direct effects of COVID-19,
  • Rent or mortgage payments,
  • Maintaining payroll (to help prevent layoffs and pay cuts),
  • Increased costs due to supply chain disruption,
  • Payment obligations that could not be met due to revenue loss.

Whereas the application used to take hours, it now only takes about 10 minutes to fill out. A couple of important notes, however:

  • SBA loan reps have said that they are focusing on processing applications filed after March 30th, so if you have a confirmation number starting with 2000, you should probably reapply.
  • Be sure to check the box toward the end of the application if you want to be considered for an advance up to $10,000 (as I mentioned at the top of the article, this amount does not need to be repaid and so is essentially a grant!).

You can apply for disaster loan assistance here: https://covid19relief.sba.gov/

Coronavirus Emergency Paycheck Protection Loan
The CARES Act’s $350 billion allocation to small businesses is specifically called the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). It specifically incentivizes borrowers who maintain their payrolls, i.e., don’t lay off their employees. This program will fully forgive loans where at least 75% of the forgiven amount is used to pay employees for the eight weeks following the loan. If you lay off employees or cut salaries and wages, your loan forgiveness will also be reduced.

PPP loans can be used to cover:

  • Payroll costs,
  • Group health care benefits during periods of paid, sick, medical, or family leave, and insurance premiums;
  • Interest on a mortgage obligation,
  • Rent, under lease agreements in force before February 15, 2020,
  • Utilities, for which service began before February 15, 2020,
  • Interest on any debt incurred before February 15, 2020.

Small businesses with less than 500 employees (including sole proprietorships, independent contractors, and those who are self employed) are eligible. You can apply through SBA 7(a) lenders, federally insured credit unions, or participating Farm Credit Systems (ie your bank). Other lenders might be on the scene soon as well, but a lot of them are currently being reviewed for approval to the program.

Full details are available here: https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/paycheck-protection-program-ppp

You can also see find a Paycheck Protection Application here, and be prepared when applications open on April 3rd to apply through your local bank: https://www.sba.gov/sites/default/files/2020-03/Borrower%20Paycheck%20Protection%20Program%20Application_0.pdf.

What if I am not eligible or need more money?
If you don’t qualify for stimulus money, all is not lost. There are several other ways that the CARES Act has made it easier for you to get a short term financial boost.

  1. Unemployment
    The CARES Act has also legally expanded unemployment benefits, expanding them for 13 more weeks and adding an additional $600 per week. Some self-employed, freelance, and independent contractors may be eligible, too. These benefits vary from state to state, and you can find how to apply at the Unemployment Benefits Finder site: https://www.careeronestop.org/LocalHelp/UnemploymentBenefits/find-unemployment-benefits.aspx?newsearch=true. Be sure to have your Social Security number, the Social Security numbers for dependents you are claiming, and your driver’s license or state ID handy while you apply.
  2. Private Loans
    If you’re in good standing with your bank, you may be able to get a “bridge loan” extended to you in order to cover your bills. Several major banks have set aside money specifically for the purpose of supplying these loans to customers that they deem eligible for them.
  3. Retirement Account
    If you don’t have another rainy-day savings account, the CARES Act waives the 10% penalty tax that you would normally get for withdrawing money early. The criteria is pretty open-ended, and applies to people who experience financial hardship because of COVID-19 in some way.

If you are experiencing fear about affording to pay your bills, remember that you do have options for accessing savings, loans, and stimulus money. Stay up to date on the above resources, and if you need any help navigating your way through this uncertain period, we are here to help.

Bel well and stay safe.

Do your parents have an estate plan? Is it up to date? No matter how rich or poor you or your parents are, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, you need to be asking these and several other questions. When your parents become incapacitated or die, their affairs will become your responsibility, and it will be impossible to ask them to clarify anything. So, if you do not know whether they have estate planning in place to help you best support them, read on.  

The Best-Case Scenario

In a best-case scenario, your parents have an updated estate plan, and they’ve walked you through it. They have provided an inventory of their assets that’s easy for you to find listing out everything they own and how it’s titled. Ideally, the plan also includes directions on how to handle their non-monetary assets, and a video, audio recording or written stories that pass on their values, insights and experience. On top of all that, it’s best if they’ve introduced you to the lawyer who set it all up, so you know who to turn to when the time comes.

Less-Than-Ideal Scenarios

If that’s not the case, you could have some holes to fill. If they’ve not done any planning at all, now is the time to encourage them to get it done and support them in any way you can. If they already have a completed plan, it’s likely that it has been sitting on their shelf or in a drawer for years, not updated, with no inventory of their assets and no way to capture and pass on their intangible assets. Even worse, their lawyer could have been using outdated systems that are no longer recognized, which can lead to trouble down the road.

It’s also possible that if they’ve never updated their estate plan, it no longer tracks with their current assets, and may even require complex actions that are no longer necessary upon their death. Worst of all, you may have no idea what your parents own or how to find their assets, and at their incapacity or death you’ll be left with a mess, even though your parents had good intentions and thought their planning was handled.

The Worst-Case Scenario

In a worst-case scenario (which we see more frequently than we’d like), your parents may have worked with someone who exerted undue influence over their decisions. This person may have led them to write something into their plan that they either didn’t really want to or wouldn’t otherwise have chosen if they understood all their options.  

Either way, it’s critical for you to know who your parents have worked with to create their estate plan, and how and why they made the choices they did. If you aren’t in the know, now is the time to find out. 

If your parents are already discussing these matters but have not yet included you, you can ask them to schedule a family meeting with their existing attorney. On your parents’ request, that attorney should look forward to walking you through your parents’ planning, the choices they made, and how you will be impacted in the event of their incapacity or death.

You want to develop a relationship with their estate planning attorney now. This advisor can be one of the most important supporters of you and your parents during your time of need. It’s a relationship you will want to establish before you need it, so you won’t be scrambling during a time of crisis.

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and defining your legacy,

If you have pets, I’m sure you love them, but you may not have not provided any written or, better yet, legally documented instructions about what should happen to them if you become incapacitated or when you die. If you have, read this article with an eye to ensuring you’ve checked all the right boxes. If you haven’t, read on because it’s time to act, and this knowledge will make it easier for you to do things right.

Let’s start by looking at what happens if you become incapacitated or when you die if you’ve done nothing to ensure the well-being and care of your pets. It may be that if you do nothing, one or more of your friends and family will step forward to take care of your pets. But, will the person who steps forward be the person you would choose? And, will they take care of your pets the way you want?

If you do care, you need to take action rather than just leaving the well-being and care of your pets to chance. If you don’t designate at least one person, and ideally one person plus backups to care for your pets, and provide instructions to the people you’ve named, and perhaps also money to support the care of your pets, your pets could become a burden to your friends and family, or even end up at the humane society.

Steps to Plan for Your Pet’s Care in Your Estate Plan
So, step one in all circumstances is to legally name the people you would want to care for your pets in the event you cannot.

Step two is to give the people you’ve named specific instructions about how you want your pets to be cared for if you cannot do it including type and amounts of food, any medications needed, exercise plan, and any other special things you know about your pets that any caretaker should know.

Finally, step three is to consider whether you need to provide financial resources to care for your pets.

If your pet has any special needs, or if you want to provide funding for training, regular exercise, or a certain kind of food or care, it’s up to you to provide the financial resources to the people you’ve named to take care of your pets. All of this can be included as part of your comprehensive estate plan.

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and defining your legacy,