West County Chamber: Working for You

I have made no secret that I am a member of the West Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce. If you look on Facebook, you’ll see me photo-bombing good friends Lisa Ennis and Dave Wheeler at our recent new member expo. With regard to the Chamber, on recent Fridays, I have been reporting on all things Chamber. I am real pleased to report that my good friend and fearless leader Chamber CEO Claire Louder was appointed by County Executive-elect Steve Schuh to chair the transition committee for workforce development. The citizen committee is charged with making recommendations on how we can reform County government to better serve the public, and will submit its report no later than January 31st, 2014. Claire will also be serving as a member of the Military Affairs Subcommittee of the Economic Development Committee.

Why it matters: Workforce development issues – finding, hiring, training, and keeping good employees – are among the most frequently heard frustrations from our members. Ensuring that our county Workforce Development Corporation is doing everything it should to address these needs, and that our business community knows what resources are available to them, can help address these issues.

Recognizing and building on the economic role of Fort Meade in our community is critical to the success of every business in the Chamber’s area, whether or not you do business with Fort Meade directly. The new homes, increased employment on post, and burgeoning number of contractors in the area, not to mention millions of dollars of construction occurring on and off post as a result of Fort Meade’s growth, help drive business for everyone from the smallest service provider to the largest developer.

Next
We’ll wade back into some advanced estate planning in this space next week. Clients come and go in that area and it’s time to talk about what all the documents are about. In the meantime, the holidays are coming. Shop Small Business on Saturday, November 29 (thank you American Express). Most importantly, stay warm!

Until then, good luck and good hunting.

Randy

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Related articles

The Fisher Law Office is known for its experience in estate planning, probate administration, asset protection, and business development. Annapolis attorney Randall D. Fisher has practiced for over 20 years, maintains the highest peer review rating for ethics (AV Preeminent) by Martindale-Hubbell, and is a sucker for long walks on the fairways.

Find out how to reach Randy via TheFisherLawOffice.com or find him at Facebook.com/FisherLawOffice, on Twitter @thefisherlawoffice, or at LinkedIn.com/in/FisherLawOffice.

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Building a Business on the Alphabet Soup of Estate Planning

We have been celebrating our 10th year in business and been walking through a series of discussions about all things Fisher Law Office. Part of what we need to discuss is what we do and how we go about it. More accurately, what kind of widgets we make and why we make them.

Our business focuses on wealth planning, business planning and asset protection. We do so through offering a variety of business and estate planning services. The tools of the trade, a series of legal documents, are a veritable alphabet soup of widgets.

Estate planning comes in two parts — basic and advanced. Business planning has its multiple parts and often involves speaking to someone about the life, which ultimately becomes their estate. There seemed to be a natural blend.

So I can show you how I built my business plan, lets start with a talk about an estate plan in its elemental forms. A basic estate plan benefits both you and your loved ones in the event of your incapacity and upon your death. People plan when they are healthy to choose appropriate fiduciaries to handle their affairs. Without such a plan in place, the court will appoint a conservator if you are incapacitated and will appoint an administrator upon your death. The court will also appoint guaradians for your minor children.

By taking the time to plan now, you make these decisions yourself instead of leaving it up to the court. Moreover, you choose your beneficiaries instead of having the state determine them for you; you are able to plan the manner and timing of distributions to those beneficiaries; and you can avoid probate and minimize taxes.

So people who come to see me to discuss estate planning are discussing business issues at the same time. Thus estate planning has benefits  to business and benefits to business will have benefits to the estate. But what are the documents most commonly used in basic estate planning?

The ABCs of Basic Estate Planning
Generally, the documents comprising a basic estate plan are a revocable living trust, a pour over will, an advance health care directive or health care power of attorney and living will, a durable power of attorney for financial matters, and a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act Authorization.

Revocable Living Trust
People often use a revocable living trust to avoid probate, for tax planning and to control the manner and timing of distribution to beneficiaries. Unlike a will, which is a public document filed with the court, the trust is private. Property held in the name of the trust is not subject to probate proceedings.

You need to transfer your assets (e.g. real estate) into the trust, generally with the assistance of an attorney. You continue to control and manage the assets as you do now, but upon your incapacity, your named successor trustee manages the trust assets on your behalf without a court having to appoint a conservator. Upon your death, your successor trustee distributes the assets to your beneficiaries according to the terms of the trust.

Will
A “pour-over” will is typically used in conjunction with a living trust, to catch any assets that may not have been transferred to the trust, so they can be distributed according to the trust’s terms. You also nominate guardians for your minor children in the will.

Durable Power of Attorney
A Durable Power of Attorney for property management enables a designated individual to handle your non-trust assets (e.g. pay your bills from a non-trust checking account, transfer assets to your trust) in the even you are incapable.

Advanced Health Care Directive and Living Will
An Advance Health Care Directive or Power of Attorney for Health Care allows you to designate an agent to make health care decisions for you in the event you are incapacitated. In addition to the release and execution of health care records and forms and consent to surgery and the like, it can be used to express your preferences regarding life sustaining care. In some states, you express your directives to medical providers and medical institutions in a living will.

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act Authorization
A Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPAA”) authorization permits your designated agent to obtain protected medical information about you in order to handle your medical affairs.

These wrap through a basic estate plan and are the building blocks of advanced plans, which are used to transfer assets to the next generation. We’ll talk about advanced estate planning in this space at a later time. We’ll also talk about some common client comments about estate planning in this space, as well.

If you haven’t taken care of your own estate planning, there are a lot of great lawyers that can help you with these decisions. If you live near us, give us a call. We would love a chance to work with you. If you don’t live near us, give us a call anyway and we will route you to some very good people.

Until then, good luck and good hunting.

Randy

__________________________________________

Related articles

The Fisher Law Office is known for its experience in estate planning, probate administration, asset protection, and business development. Annapolis attorney Randall D. Fisher has practiced for over 20 years, maintains the highest peer review rating for ethics (AV Preeminent) by Martindale-Hubbell, and is a sucker for long walks on the fairways.

Find out how to reach Randy via TheFisherLawOffice.com or find him at Facebook.com/FisherLawOffice, on Twitter @thefisherlawoffice, or at LinkedIn.com/in/FisherLawOffice.

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Smoke in your eyes? Run for it — the opportunity awaits no matter your age

Two weeks ago in this space we started talking about starting over. I said that I have been at this for 10 year now and as my way of saying thank you, I wanted to Pay It Forward.

I spoke previously about having to start over. I talked about fear freezing you in your tracks when you try to start over. I also talked about the bridge on fire and the motivation to get off it. That fear is there whether you are 30, 40, 50, 60, 70 or 80.

The one thing I didn’t talk about is being old.

I don’t feel old. I am starting to admit I might look it. My wife is very kind to deny it, but I think she just needs her contacts changed. Some clients think I am old and think that is a good thing. Some clients think “why aren’t you retiring?” They don’t seem to get that I am where I want to be. (Plus there is the small matter of some unpaid college loans.) What all of it has made me realize is that age is just a number, not a prison sentence. I truly am doing what I want to be doing regardless of that number.

Older newbie entrepreneurs like me are proving it true over recent years by starting businesses and not only not only doing what they want to do, but also thriving. My fear factor shows the biggest obstacle standing in the way of an older entrepreneur starting a business is typically self inflicted. But time, and a burning bridge, changes everything.

Age is more than a number
A recent study found that entrepreneurs between 50 and 59 years old started 20 percent of all new businesses in 2013. The group of 60 years old and over was also responsible for another 15 percent, the study said.

And those numbers may be only going up. In an older study, outplacement firm Challenger Gray & Christmas found that 5.5 percent of jobless managers and executives launched their own businesses in 2013 – a number that shot up 31 percent when compared to 2012 and was the highest in five years.

Reasons to start over
Recently, the New York Times reported on some of the reasons as to why older entrepreneurs were making such a dent in the business market over recent years and outlined somewhat of a perfect storm to allow for such a move. They said it all started with a tough job market centering on the glorified young worker, making it a bit tougher for workers over 50 to get hired. (Does anyone smell the smoke from the bridge here?)

The Times thought it was a newfound desire to be your own boss coupled with the personal and social satisfaction of doing new what you can believe in were what drove older entrepreneurs to start up their new ventures. I thought it was the realization there were no other options.

It won’t be easy
Every entrepreneur, regardless of age, looking to a start new business venture has a unique set of obstacles to overcome.

You have to be willing to do everything. You have to know when it is better to hire an expert than do it yourself. You have to know how to not look hungry. You need cash in the bank. Most small new businesses make their way on the backs of personal savings. It is worse if you are “experienced” like me because of banks’ reluctance to give older business owners a boost.

Banking regulations have changed. A doctor client told me the tale of walking into a bank with his diploma and receiving a $50,000 loan based on the diploma. The banker who gave him the loan verified the story. Unfortunately, the days of the “good guy” loans are gone. Now they are all looking for “security”.

But of course, there are some ways around that, like starting your own microbusiness, or even freelancing out of your home or strictly online and take on only a fraction of those kinds of operating costs.

If you step on the bridge, don’t stop
Don’t forget my diving board example. If you are going out, go. Don’t look back. There are plenty of skill sets you can offer if you spent decades working in one career and decide you want to shift gears and start your own business. And despite what some may believe, older age can be an advantage.

Having gray or no hair seems to provide a sense of comfort in certain businesses. Having a sense of  “by any means necessary” mentality doesn’t hurt, either. Older entrepreneurs have that kind of approach to making their mark on the startup scene, tapping into retirement accounts or seeking out difficult development loans. Anne Arundel County Economic Development Commission numbers showed they tend to come out on top.

A Last Word
There is nothing magical here — just the message you can do it if you want it bad enough. Sometimes you have to remind yourself to just be too stubborn to fail.

Next
We’ll wade back into the estate planning pool in this space next week. Clients come and go in that area and it’s time to talk about what all the documents are about.

Until then, good luck and good hunting.

Randy

__________________________________________

Related articles

The Fisher Law Office is known for its experience in estate planning, probate administration, asset protection, and business development. Annapolis attorney Randall D. Fisher has practiced for over 20 years, maintains the highest peer review rating for ethics (AV Preeminent) by Martindale-Hubbell, and is a sucker for long walks on the fairways.

Find out how to reach Randy via TheFisherLawOffice.com or find him at Facebook.com/FisherLawOffice, on Twitter @thefisherlawoffice, or at LinkedIn.com/in/FisherLawOffice.

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An update on Fort Meade traffic (and why it matters)

My good friend, Claire Louder, CEO of the West Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce, regularly updates members about the status of Fort Meade and how if affects local businesses. Interestingly, the update today was about traffic:

Starting Nov. 22, the Reece Road access control point will be closed to all traffic for approximately four weeks. The closure is part of the installation’s ongoing road improvement projects. During this period, the Mapes Road/Route 175 gate will be open and serve as the installation’s 24-hour, 7-day-a-week access control point. Additionally, the Llewellyn Avenue gate will be open Monday-Friday from 5:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. for visitors, businesses and all non-DoD ID card holders.

Individuals looking for long-term passes will be directed to the VCC. While Llewellyn Gate is open, DoD-ID Card holders are encouraged to use the installation’s other ACPs that will be open: Mapes/175, Mapes/32 and Rockenbach Road. Llewellyn will be closed after 6 p.m. and weekends; all visitors will go through the Mapes/175 Gate.

For more information, go to
http://www.ftmeade.army.mil/directorates/des/vcc/vcc.html#gatehours

The question for a non-chamber member is this, “Why does it matter?”

This is good news for local merchants – opening of the Mapes and Llewellyn gates expedites access into the Odenton Town Center, encouraging personnel to come off post for lunch and errands. The Chamber has been advocating for better base access for years. Based on the Chamber’s relationship with those in the know on Fort Meade, the Chamber has been told to expect that once the Reece gate reopens in early 2015, at least one of these Town Center gates should remain open due to increased staffing at the gates. And that should mean more potential customers walking past business.

It also is important from the perspective of change. Everyone remembers there was an election last Tuesday and change struck big in Maryland. The effects of that change are not yet known. But a constant remains despite that change. Roads need to be built, repaired or repaved. Businesses need customers to travel to their stores and customers need roads to get to businesses to shop for what they need. It takes a Chamber to advocate for better roads for customers to get to its member businesses. You don’t usually get any paving from a networking group.

Now that you have this improved access, good luck and good hunting.

Randy

__________________________________________

Related articles

The Fisher Law Office is known for its experience in estate planning, probate administration, asset protection, and business development. Annapolis attorney Randall D. Fisher has practiced for over 20 years, maintains the highest peer review rating for ethics (AV Preeminent) by Martindale-Hubbell, and is a sucker for long walks on the fairways.

Find out how to reach Randy via TheFisherLawOffice.com or find him at Facebook.com/FisherLawOffice, on Twitter @thefisherlawoffice, or at LinkedIn.com/in/FisherLawOffice.

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Estate planning — why do it?

Two new clients came to see me last week. They needed changes to an old estate plan. They weren’t in my office because they wanted to be. They were there because someone they trusted told them to come. In that respect, they aren’t alone. Most people make estate plans because someone else died or someone else told them to.

The state of Maryland passed some significant estate planning legislation in the last legislative session that will change the compass once again on what an individual may have as specific goals for their estate plan. You would have thought those changes would be driving people into our office in droves. But not really.

We will talk about those specific changes and their impacts in this space in the near future. For the moment, however, I thought we ought to back up and start is a generic discussion of estate planning.

The true goals of estate planning are different for everybody. Some people enjoy living frugally to leave assets to loved ones. Others hope to spend that last dollar on an exotic vacation and die while laughing on the flight home about the hot check they wrote the bartender. Some want to leave their entire estate outright to their children. Others want to strictly control distribution to their beneficiaries. Some intend to leave their estate to charity.

Because estate planning is overused, it is important to come up with an understandable definition. Basically, your estate consists of assets you accumulated during your lifetime. This means real estate, bank and brokerage accounts, retirement plans, life insurance, other investments, and even your junk. Everything you own and value that can be passed on is your estate. Planning for your estate is best done while you are still alive and well because the purpose of planning is for the time when we are either no longer alive or no longer well. Thus, good estate planning should cover three potential time frames: the present, disability, and death.

Planning for the present consists of coming up with a plan that does not unduly complicate your life as well as one that enables you to stay in control of your estate as long as possible. You also need a plan that remains as flexible and changeable as possible in order to adapt to constantly changing rules, statutes, and laws. Planning for disability usually comes next. Although none of us wish to become incapacitated, the reality is that surveys suggest close to half of all seniors will become disabled at some point in their lives. Do you know who will take care of you, your spouse, and others who may be dependent on you if that should occur? Lastly, you plan for when you’re gone. This time frame is where most of us focus when considering our estate planning. Again, everyone’s goals will be different for post-death planning.

Many well-respected attorneys battle the myth that the only purpose of estate planning is to avoid probate and save on taxes at death. While both of these goals are important, they are but a small part of our true purpose for post-death estate planning. For some people, the primary goal is to pass on a family business or farm to a child who is active in the business, yet try to equalize assets going to another child. Others want to ensure inheritances going to family members are protected as much as possible from divorcing spouses, crazy in-laws, creditors, lawsuits, illness, or bankruptcy and also want to protect heirs who may be too young or too immature from their own bad spending habits, possible addictions, and bad influences. Getting advice from a qualified estate planning attorney can offer may options with which to achieve these goals.

With the proper tools and advice you can accomplish almost any estate planning goal you have in mind. I tell my clients regularly “if you can describe it, I can write it.” The basic element here is to find out what you want and then make it happen. It isn’t about me pulling something off my shelf and saying “here, this will fit you nicely.” These plans are meant to be tailored to the individual.

When you are working with an attorney on your estate plan, it is as critical that they are listening as it is that you are open an honest. There are a lot of great lawyers that can help you with these decisions. If you live near us, give us a call. We would love a chance to work with you. If you don’t live near us, give us a call anyway and we will route you to some very good people.

Until then, good luck and good hunting.

Randy

__________________________________________

Related articles

The Fisher Law Office is known for its experience in estate planning, probate administration, asset protection, and business development. Annapolis attorney Randall D. Fisher has practiced for over 20 years, maintains the highest peer review rating for ethics (AV Preeminent) by Martindale-Hubbell, and is a sucker for long walks on the fairways.

Find out how to reach Randy via TheFisherLawOffice.com or find him at Facebook.com/FisherLawOffice, on Twitter @thefisherlawoffice, or at LinkedIn.com/in/FisherLawOffice.

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