How Does the SECURE Act Affect My Estate Plan and My Child with Special Needs?

For most families with a loved one with disabilities, much of the assets which will be used for the loved one’s long-term needs are found in pre-tax accounts, such as IRAs.

SECURE Act Means Drastic Changes to Retirement Account Inheritance Rules
Congress recently passed, and the President signed into law, the “SECURE Act” (Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Act of 2019), which drastically changes how inherited retirement accounts are treated.

If you are using a pre-tax retirement account to pass assets on to your heirs, the Act drastically limits their ability to “stretch” withdrawals out over many years.  Stretching – taking only a small amount of funds every year then paying taxes only on the amount of those withdrawals – allows the account to grow larger over time. It results in tax savings and financial growth for your loved one, at the expense of the U.S. Treasury (this is why Congress wanted to change it).

What does this elimination of the “stretch” mean in practical terms?  Most significantly, it means that most beneficiaries of a retirement account will have to withdraw all the money in the account within ten years following the death of the account owner.  This creates a real financial risk for your heirs because the longer they wait to withdraw the funds, the bigger the tax hit they will receive.

For example, if they wanted to delay dipping into the account, they could find themselves in a situation where they’re required to take out

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Don’t Neglect the Third Stage of Estate Planning

Recently, I was out of the office for an early morning meeting with a client. While waiting in the lobby, I ran into a different client who happened to work in the building. I’d done some significant estate planning for her and her husband, and she told me that she’d been meaning to call me because they had follow-up questions about carrying out their estate plan.

I had a few minutes before my meeting and we were able to talk through her questions, which were actually fairly typical among my clients. But they reminded me how easy it is to forget that the estate planning process doesn’t end as soon as the documents are signed.

I’ll explain: It’s always such a relief for my clients on the day they sign their estate planning documents. Maybe it’s something they have put off for years. Maybe the last time they did any formal planning, they had young children and now their lives have changed. Whatever the reason, something led my clients to update their estate plan, and doing it is a critical step in the right direction.

But are they done as soon as they sign the documents? No, because signing documents isn’t the final step: Estate planning, in fact, involves three separate stages, and people must get through all to three to effectively complete the process.

The first stage is fairly obvious. Coming up with a plan and putting it to paper is the initial step in developing a comprehensive

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Another State Taxing a Trust

When it comes to the everyday life of an individual who has a developmental disability, life can present unexpected obstacles not only for the individual, but for family and friends, as well.  The challenges are made easier through well-planned trusts which protect important government benefits, such as Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and ensure that when the parent passes away, the child is taken care of financially.  However, certain laws create the threat of taking away these important assets.

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Elder Abuse and Exploitation – It can even happen to “Super Heroes”

In Stan Lee’s iconic story of “Spider-Man,” young Peter Parker fails to stop a robbery, which leads to the death of his uncle.  Thereafter, Peter is the crime-stopping Spider-Man.  Peter’s double life then centers on protecting others from abuse.

Sadly, there has been recent news that Stan Lee was the victim of financial exploitation at the hands of his business manager.  Allegations include that Mr. Lee signed documents which he couldn’t understand and that the business manager kept a great deal of money which should have gone to Mr. Lee.

The good news is that elder abuse and financial exploitation can be stopped.  It’s not always easy, but it often is done!  In Mr. Lee’s case, justice is happening after his death.  His estate has filed a lawsuit and the police have filed charges.

I think, in a sense, as we recognize Elder Abuse Awareness Month, Mr. Lee would be proud to be fighting the villain even from beyond the grave.  Think about it – what an awesome storyline for a hero!

Here are nine potential action steps you can take to stop elder abuse:

  1. Contact an experienced elder law attorney or local free legal services program for help. Ohio has a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping seniors, ProSeniors, which can be reached at (513) 345-4160.
  2. Report the situation to Adult Protective Services. There is an office located in every Ohio county.  You can find contact information at or 800-677-1116.  In some cases, making the report is mandatory
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An Invitation to Hear Haley Moss, JD – Practicing Attorney and First Openly Identified Person with Autism Practicing Law in Florida

I’m honored to be on the Board of Milestones Autism Resources, which is featuring Haley Moss, JD, as one of the keynote speakers for the Milestones National Autism Conference.  Her address will be on June 12, 2019, in Cleveland, Ohio.

Haley, an incredible spokesperson for the legal field and for persons with autism, is an associate at the Zumpano Patricios law firm. She has been celebrated nationally because of her accomplishments and the important message she shares about diversity, inclusion, and integrity. You can learn more about Haley here.

Hickman & Lowder believes strongly in the importance of supporting Milestones Autism Resources and invite you to join us in attending the conference and welcoming Haley.

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No Privacy – the Brave New World of Social Media, Technology, and the Law

There’s no question that technology is changing our lives. Driverless cars, facial recognition, and medical breakthroughs are making the world a vastly different place than it was even 10 years ago. But how is technology changing the world of law? More to the point, what is the impact of technological developments on lawsuits, on the courts, and on the way that lawyers and clients alike argue and provide their points?

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