STRESS TEST 2021

By Tim Barkley. January 2021. 2020 hindsight. That’s when we look back and try to see more clearly than we could in the moment. Stress test. That’s when we test ourselves to see if we’re fit and healthy, so we can fix what’s wrong before it’s too late. 2020 was our stress test – as individuals, as a Town, a society and a nation, even as a world community. We behaved mostly as people behave anytime they’re under stress – some better than usual, even heroic; some worse, even nefarious; most of us just plodding along and trying to get along, stay safe and sane, and get through somehow. Many folks realized their mortality more acutely than usual, and reviewed and updated their financial and estate plans. It’s harder to just leave the 30-year...

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THE EDUCATED CLIENT

By Tim Barkley. December 2020. The lawyer nodded. “I think I understand your situation,” he said. “Here's what I advise …” Some time later, the client still looked uncertain. “Could you go over that again? I feel silly not getting it the first time through, but I really don't understand.” “I'm sorry,” replied the lawyer.  “Let me try this … Here's another way to look at it.”  With a few quick pen strokes he sketched a flowchart on a legal pad. “It goes like this …” “Oh!” exclaimed the client. “Now I get it.  I've been reading about this on the Internet and going to seminars, and never got it.  Now I understand!” The light came on in the client's eyes, that most satisfying sight to any planning professional seeking the reward of a client's...

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THANK YOU, MOUNT AIRY!

By Tim Barkley. November 2020. In July of 1995, a young lawyer looking for office space found a small office for rent in what is now the Long & Foster building on Ridgeville Boulevard, sharing a conference room with a guy named Mike Zimmer in what had been the offices of the late Chuck Carlton. The building housed the files of Mr. Carlton and the late Elizabeth Tripp. Moving from the first-floor office to a second-floor suite, thence to a suite over the Subway, the no-longer-young lawyer has found himself downtown with a “Park Avenue address,” in a hundred-year-old building that was once known as Mr. Rilddlemoser’s Hall or the Potomac Edison Building. The building has housed a movie theatre and, twice, an antique store, and is now...

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LET ME GO!

By Tim Barkley.  October 2020. “Just let me go. I don’t ever want to be on life support!” “If I’m ever on life support, just pull the plug. Right away!” “I wouldn’t want to be on life support. If I have to be, not more than 24 hours!” This writer spends a good bit of time talking to folks about end-of-life issues, including life support. The question comes up: If you were in a situation where keeping you alive required medical interventions and the use of life support, how long would you want to be in that situation? Years ago, the fear was that “they” would let you go too soon. Everyone worried about the hospital or nursing home wanting to empty the bed to bring in a new patient. Now, the fear is that “they” will keep you alive too long,...

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MYTHS AND MISUNDERSTANDINGS

By Tim Barkley.  September 2020. “If I don’t have a will, the State will get everything when I die!” “I don’t need a will, because everything is going to my spouse!” “If I have a will, my estate doesn’t go through probate!” “I need a living trust, so I can avoid probate! That lady on TV said so!” The author addresses these and similar misunderstandings on a daily basis.  Some are alarmist, some induce heedless complacency; all can lead to bad results. If you don’t have a will, your assets are not given to the State.  Your assets pass to the people that the State assumes – rightly or wrongly – you would want to have them.  Sometimes the assumptions are odd.  Assets owned by you in your sole name are divided between your children and your...

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YOU HAVE THE POWER

You Have the Power. August 2020. By Timothy S. Barkley, Sr. The lady in the parking lot was excited: “Thank you! You don’t know how much you’ve helped us.” I was taken aback, but rose to the occasion: “Certainly!” I must have looked puzzled, because she laughed and said “I’m Sally Smith. You wrote up powers of attorney for my son when he left for college. We’d never thought about it until we read your article, but it seemed like a good idea, and we called. “He left for college a few days later, driving himself, and we got a heart-stopping phone call. He had been in an accident on the way down to school and was in the hospital. But he had the papers in the glove box of his car, and so they called us. “They said that without the power of...

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FUMBLING THE BUSINESS

By Tim Barkley. July 2020. “I have a buyer for my husband’s work van, and he can’t sign because he has dementia. We need the money. What can I do?” “We have a buyer for my mom’s business, but she just had a stroke and can’t sign papers. What do we need to do?” The first thing is to look for a power of attorney. If the business owner signed one, that can “save the day.” But, if the business is incorporated or an LLC, not just any garden-variety online freebie power of attorney will do. The power of attorney needs to specifically give powers over your business interests and business assets, not just over investments and personal assets. Business owners are often so busy running the business that they don’t have time to attend to the...

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GIVING THE BUSINESS

By Tim Barkley. June 2020. “My husband just died, and I’m trying to figure out what to do with his business. I don’t even have the code to the security system. His business records are all online or in his computer, and I don’t have the password. Can you help?” Of course. Glad to do so. Online public records can be a starting place. If the deceased owned real estate, in his name or in the name of the business, those records are online. In a recent case, we knew about a line of credit, because the bank sent bills. What we didn’t know until we looked at the online land records was that the line of credit was actually the purchase money for the office suite. The estate went from “seriously underwater” to “seriously solvent” almost...

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ARE YOU BEING SERVED?

By Tim Barkley. May 2020. “I don't want to achieve immortality through my work; I want to achieve immortality through not dying. I don't want to live on in the hearts of my countrymen; I want to live on in my apartment.” These immortal words of Woody Allen present the human quandary. Yes, we all know somewhere in our subconscious that we have not actually achieved immortality “through not dying,” that we cannot; but it’s easy to continue with life as though we expect to just somehow “live on in our apartment” forever. Clients of this author used to sit in the conference room and explain what should be in their wills and powers of attorney “in case something happens to me.” “The Virus” has changed all of that. Now, the conferences are...

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THE DANCE

By Tim Barkley. April 2020. It was a little like a scene from a sci-fi movie when representatives of alien cultures meet to sign intergalactic treaties. But these were just garden-variety wills – yet signed under very unique circumstances. They came in wearing gloves and masks. The documents to be executed had already been laid on the table. We respectfully backed away to the other side of the large conference table as obligatory but somewhat muffled pleasantries were exchanged. The initial ceremonies completed, they signed and retreated. We circled the table, staying diametrically opposite them at all times. We witnessed their signatures, then had their signatures notarized. The documents were taken to “the back office” for copying and...

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NO NEW THING

By Tim Barkley. March 2020. Jack and Jill (not their real names) were sipping coffee when the attorney came into the conference room. “Thanks for calling,” the attorney greeted them. “I understand you want to update your estate plan.” “Well, really, we want to create one,” Jill clarified. “Jack got some papers a long time ago from a lawyer at his old work, but it doesn’t really deal with our situation now.” “Let’s see … two of you. Any kids?” “Three. All ours, and all adults. It’s really simple … everything to me, and if we die together, everything to the kids.” “Great. Simpler is better. What are we planning for? Real estate? Mutual funds? Vehicles?” “We own our house, and we have a couple of timeshares. We both have IRAs, and he has a...

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HOME ALONE II

By Tim Barkley. February 2020. Last month's offering to our readers considered the effect of the Inheritance Tax on folks without spouse, siblings or children as estate beneficiaries.  This month's article offers practical steps to ease the task of your surviving nieces, nephews, friends or other loved ones as they try to sort out your affairs. First, and most basically, be sure your estate planning documents are up-to-date, and that someone knows where to find them. An out-of-date will that leaves assets you no longer own to persons who are no longer living can be an invitation to expensive and time-consuming litigation. Changes in terminology, technology and social norms can make a decades-old medical directive worse than useless. This...

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