Structuring Your Veterinary Practice for Future Opportunities

Veterinarian helping dog Steven A. Loeb, Esq. of our Business Law  Department recently hosted a webinar through Elevation Research Group, Inc. to a few hundred veterinarians across to the country on legal considerations in the business of veterinary medicine.  

Some points to be considered:

  • How to structure a partnership arrangement
  • Bringing in a new doctor
  • Being bought out or earning out of your practice
  • Owing business real estate
  • Creating liquidity for your practice for retirement or your family
  • Doing all this while minimizing Uncle Sam's share of your practice

Steve's topic is entitled "Structuring Your Veterinary Practice and Planning for Future Opportunities".  A link to the presentation can be found through www.elevationrg.com.

Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, Twitter - Where does it go when you do?

Man on LaptopAnyone reading this blog post likely has a rich social media life - you keep up with friends and family on Facebook, you share pictures on Flickr and videos on YouTube and the like, you may have a following you tweet to, you are active on message boards, you blog, or you are active in one of the thousands or other social media sites that have become part of the fabric of our lives.  This begs the question asked by Ken Strutin in the New York Law Journal: "What Happens to Your Digital Life When You Die?"

The problem - law has not kept up with society, or a Strutin puts it "Courts and legislatures have only begun to reckon with the disposition of digital assets when no one is left with the knowledge or authority to conclude the business of the cyber-afterlife."

The first question - does an executor even have authority to have access to or control of your digital afterlife?  Some states, like Oklahoma, have created laws granting that authority - most have not.  What does that mean for you?  Your Will should specifically grant your executor the right to access your social media and cyber-sites.

Does your cyber life have tangible value?  Are you addressing who should get that value should you no longer be here?  Do your parents want your e-book business, or would your sister be able to make better use of it?

Finally, regardless of the legal authority to access your digital life, have you given your family the means to by sharing passwords?  I've previously blogged about the importance of having this information somewhere that someone can access - and updating it regularly - in Your Online Afterlife and You Die - and Your Passwords Die With You.

Thank you to Furia Rubel Communications for bringing this article to my attention.

Credit Card debt Crippling Retirement?

Oftentimes the oldest generation of Americans are seen as the most frugal - they experienced the Great Depression, they abhor debt, they saved their pennies, and while they may now be living off of social security, at least they don't owe anyone money.  

A New York Time blog post in The New Old Age challenges that picture today in the posting "Retirements Swallowed by Debt".  There are some bleak statistics in the article:

  • growing numbers of elderly want or need jobs
  • 30% of workers over 55 have more credit card debt than retirement savings
  • average credit card debt for those 65 and older is $10,235

I think the critical take away from the article is how children seem to stumble across the problem as a surprise - not an issue being candidly discussed.  I know my clients often hide the debt, embarrassed by the situation.  Their kids are then shocked when no only are the dealing with a health care situation (which is what typically brings them into looking at the finances), but also a money management situation.

The solution - communication.  I am not advocating that anyone who is retired turn over their finances.  However, I think the question every once in while to mom and dad "are you doing OK financially - is there any way I can help" can open the door to talking about issues before they become problems.

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Valentines Day and the IRS - Not your usual love match

Heart Balloons Valentine's Day usually puts one in the mind of hearts, flowers and candy. This year however, it's going to be a favorite day for the millions of taxpayers who itemize their returns, because it's the first day that those tax payers returns will be able to be filed into the IRS system.

 I previously advised to Hold your Horses on Filing those Income Tax Returns because the IRS needed to update its internal computer software to reflect the changes in the 2010 Tax Act.  The IRS issued an alert yesterday that:

Beginning Feb. 14, the IRS will start processing both paper and e-filed returns claiming itemized deductions on Schedule A, the higher education tuition and fees deduction on Form 8917 and the educator expenses deduction. Based on filings last year, about nine million tax returns claimed any of these deductions on returns received by the IRS before Feb. 14.

However, for those of you who e-file, you can go ahead and put all of your return information into the system. The filing software will hold your return until the February 14 "Go" date if yours is the type of return that cannot yet be filed.

The biggest impact itemize return filers – if they're only starting to process the returns on February 14, and by their own numbers they received 9 million such returns by February 14 of last year, you're likely not getting your tax refund happily direct deposited in a 10 day time frame that you been used to.

Looking who to blame for the interest free loan you're extending to the government by waiting to get your refund back? Point the finger at Congress and the President who waited until December of 2010 to create the income tax rules for income earned in 2010.

Image: graur razvan ionut / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Military Power of Attorney and Advanced Directives

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Kevin Reese and his military working dog GrekUnder the "learn something new every day" heading, Pet Trust Law Blog reports today on a federal statute providing for a Military Power of Attorney for service personnel.    The statute (US Code Title 10, Section 1044b) providing for Military Powers of Attorney has some interesting provisions:

  • A document will be a "Military Power of Attorney" if it is notarized in any state, or as set forth in US Code Title 10, Section 1044a (dealing with what military personnel have the power to act as notary)
  • A  Military Power of Attorney does not have to meet the format or substance of any State's laws to be deemed valid. So, if the document is a Military Power of Attorney, but it doesn't meet a state's standards (ie: there are no witnesses, or a specific form isn't used) it still needs to be given full force and effect.
  • The document should be specifically identified as a Military Power of Attorney per Section 1044b according to specific language prescribed by regulations (but failure to properly identify it will not make it invalid).
  • If a person is missing in action, the power of attorney will continue in full force and effect during that time.

There are similar provisions for Advanced Medical Directives found in  US Code Title 10, Section 1044c.

And what does this all have to do with pets?  As blogger Dan Meek points out, "A Special Military Power of Attorney for Pets can designate an individual or individuals to care for and maintain your pet (s) during your absence, and authorize any and all medical care necessary, including major surgery and humane disposal, as deemed necessary by the Veterinary Service".

While it is important for every adult to have a Power of Attorney to allow someone else to make financial decisions if they cannot. it is critical for military servicemen and servicewomen.  If I wasn't aware of these special provisions, I am guessing other estate planners might not be as well. The military provides the documents - we planners might consider adding into our talks a 20 second did you know infomercial on Military Powers of Attorney and Advance Medical Directives. 

Photo courtesy of soldiersmediacenter.

Looking for a Form to file 2010 Estate Tax Return or Gift Tax Return?

IRSHere's another problem with last minute or retroactive tax planning by Congress - the IRS needs to come up with forms that you can file to comply with teh new law.  Julie Garber reports today in Julies' Wills & Estate Planning Blog that the IRS is working on it:

  • For the estates of people who died between January 1, 2010 and December 16, 2010, if they are filing a Form 706 Estate Tax Return, it will be due on September 19, 2011, so the IRS still has time to put the form together.
  • For the estates of people who died between January 1, 2010 and December 16, 2010, if they are using the 1022 basis step up methodology, a form is being generated that again will be due on September 19, 2011, so the IRS still has time to put the form together
  • For the estates of people who died between December 17, 2010 and December 31, 2010, the Form 706 Estate Tax Return will be due 9 months after the date of death.  Again, this gives the IRS lots of time for the IRS to update Form 706.
  • On the other hand, the Gift Tax Return, Form 709, is due by April 18, 2011 reporting gifts made during 2010. Julie advises that "This leaves the IRS frantically working to revise Form 709 to comply with the 2010 gift tax rules, so expect the 2010 version of Form 709 and its instructions to be released by the end of January."

 

New Lease on Life

HeartMany times as attorneys we are asked to help people during hard times - an illness, the death of a loved one, business downturn, tax issues. The contrast of an uplifting call can be so great that I wanted to share it.

One of my partners just stopped by to share with me that a client of his had just called to say he had had a successful heart transplant this past Saturday.  Just sit back a moment to consider the wonderousness of that call.  This gentleman had an operation that will extend his life by decades.  We have advanced so far in life altering surgery that he is on the phone 2 days later.  This miracle came as a gift of life from someone who had taken the time to complete an organ donation card.

Each of us has the ability to create a gift of life from a tragedy if we choose to do so.  Look at Consider Becoming an Organ Donor in New Jersey. Thinking about organ donation is not a usual New Years resolution, but as you are looking around for new actions to take in a new year, completing an organ donor card might be one to consider.

Image: renjith krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Transfer Taxes on Sale - Video Overview

First, we're trying something new here and have created a video overview the 2011-2012 Tax Sale on Gift Taxes, Estate Taxes, and Generation Skipping Taxes.  For wealthy individuals this is an unprecedented opportunity to transfer that wealth to other generations at little or no tax costs.  

While our video aims to educate you about why these tax law changes can have a real dollar impact on a family, take a quick look at the tax law changes:

Estate, Gift and Generation Skipping Tax
Transfer Tax 2009 2011-2012 2013+
Estate Tax

* $3.5 Million Exemption

* Max 55% Tax Rate

* $5 Million Exemption

* Max 35% Tax Rate

* $1 Million Exemption

* Max 55% Tax Rate

Gift Tax

* $1 Million Exemption

* Max 55% Tax Rate

* $5 Million Exemption

* Max 35% Tax Rate

* $1 Million Exemption

* Max 55% Tax Rate

GST Tax

* $3.5 Million Exemption

* Max 55% Tax Rate

* $5 Million Exemption

* Max 35% Tax Rate

* $1 Million Exemption

* Max 55% Tax Rate

In short, you can make a tax free gift of 5 times more assets in 2011-2012 than you could in 2009, or will be able to in 2013.  This is truly a limited opportunity for people to cut Uncle Sam out of their estate plan.

Is video a good medium to discuss these topics?  Does the PowerPoint add or take away from the information?  Does video make tax law more accessible?  Feedback is appreciated!