Saying goodbye to a real estate legend

The commercial real estate industry lost a lion this week. Bill Lee died April 5, surrounded by family. We are deeply saddened by our loss but grateful that Bill suffers no more and is with the Lord.

Many of you knew Bill, transacted deals with him and had great respect for his business prowess. In honor of the life Bill led and the impact he had on our business, I revived a column I wrote in 2019 in his honor. Rest well, my friend!

While at a real estate summit in Las Vegas a few years ago, I re-connected with Bill. It was so great to see Bill and spend some time with him. Bill, unfortunately, had been absent from recent summits. And while I missed him, the cool thing was, it felt as though we talked weekly. Bill was legendary, but how did he become a legend? My thoughts …

Bill observed a problem. He was the top guy at Grubb and Ellis before Nixon was a crook. He was the most competitive guy I’d ever met. But, Bill realized that intra-office competition was wreaking havoc on the greater good of the office.

He tells it like this. “I had a 30,000-square-foot listing. A competitor in the cube next to me had a 30,000-square-foot occupant requirement. I didn’t tell him about my listing because I didn’t want him to get part of the fee. The culture of the office dictated that approach.”

Bill later realized the “company” suffered and created a platform that used profit-sharing and rewarded cooperation while still encouraging competition. This was heady stuff, folks. Talk about disrupting the way in which commercial real estate is brokered. WOW!

Bill had the courage to change. Great, there was a problem. Now, Bill had to convince some fellow brokers that change was the key to their collective future. Getting brokers to change anything is tantamount to separating conjoined twins.

But, Bill, ever the persuader, convinced a small band of brothers to follow him into the cooperative abyss. John Matus, John Sullivan, Mel Koich, Larry O’Brien, John Vogt, Tom Casey, Dennis Highland, Len Santoro, Bart Pitzer, and Bill’s college friend, Al Fabiano, heeded the siren call and left the building.

Bill had a tireless vision. One of the other old-timers and I were marveling at how those 11 guys, in an executive suite in El Toro, created a company that now boasts 65 global offices, close to 1,200 agents, billions in revenue, an international presence, coast to coast visibility, and the best place in the world to transact commercial real estate. Period!

I asked Bill if he ever, in his wildest dreams, believed the company would someday be this big. He looked at me rather puzzled and said, “Of course! Once we got your Orange office opened, I knew we were on our way to becoming an international company.” Talk about tireless vision.

Bill got out of the way. At a certain point, Bill realized that for Lee & Associates to grow, he needed to step away and let the eaglet fly. Knowing Bill as I do, this was warranted but was the toughest thing for him to accomplish.

Bill along with Craig Coppola, a recent William J. Lee lifetime achievement winner, authored a book titled Chasing Excellence, Real Life Stories from the Streets. It is available online and in book stores.

So, want to become a legend? Just do those four things. Simple, right?

Allen C. Buchanan, SIOR, is a principal with Lee & Associates Commercial Real Estate Services in Orange. He can be reached at abuchanan@lee-associates.com or 714.564.7104. 

Powered by WPeMatico

Who are the team players in your financial game?

Which is your favorite team?

Whether you said Angels or Dodgers, Ducks or Kings, I hope your next thought was, “but I really love my team of financial and business advisers, too.”

Our uniforms aren’t as colorful, and we rarely serve hot dogs or peanuts, but if you’ve got a financial planner, an accountant and an attorney working collaboratively toward your goals, you’re ahead in the game. And you’ve got a team that’s rooting for you, which is a nice twist.

One or more

Often clients will feel they maybe only need one of these professionals, and then try to have that professional cover the other bases as well, perhaps thinking this is more cost-effective. But it makes as much sense as having a Major Leaguer play basketball and football and expecting him to be an All-Star in those sports as well.

Each professional has their own strengths, which should be utilized accordingly. Sure, occasionally there’s a Bo Jackson or a Tim Tebow-type who is both a CPA and a CFP or CPA and attorney; just be sure you know what position they’re playing for you.

I’m an estate planning attorney. I help my clients plan for death, disability and leaving a legacy. Often that involves trusts that last for several years to several generations. Sometimes the game plan calls for lifetime gifts, transfers of business interests, forming new business entities that bring in younger generations on the ground floor, and/or charitable gift planning. None of this can be done in a vacuum.

The team

This type of planning requires a thorough understanding of the client’s hopes, concerns, goals and values. I spend some time discussing just that with my clients. But I also need to understand a client’s current and future financial situation. Yes, the future — do you have an inheritance coming? Is there a lawsuit pending? When are you retiring? Have you earmarked certain funds for a lifetime goal?.

The person who may be most familiar with that is the client’s financial planner, and he or she should be involved in the discussion. This will save time, money, and frustration in the long run if everyone is working toward your same goal.

Discussing gifting of assets (whether to family or charity) or business succession planning can never be properly done without the input of an accountant.

For example, if I suggest a certain gift to descendants, the accountant will be in the best position to know the specific tax consequences of such a gift and perhaps suggest the assets that are best given to charities versus a family member.

Furthermore, it’s the accountant who will need to prepare future gift tax returns and income tax returns for you and any new entity. It’s best not to surprise them with that information on April 14th.

Likewise, if you’re talking to your CPA or financial planner about forming a new business entity, he or she may suggest, for example, an S corporation for tax reasons. It’s likely the estate planning attorney is going to advise the irrevocable children’s trust you formed and wish to have as a shareholder will not qualify as an S corporation shareholder, so perhaps we should look at a limited liability company.

Open lines of communication

Odds are good you meet with your accountant and financial planner at least annually. This is probably not so with your attorney. Thus, your CPA or financial planner is more likely to know when something has occurred in your life or business that should be brought to the attention of your attorney or another member of your team who can take it from there.

If those team members already know each other and work together, it’s more likely they’ll be sharing relevant information (with your permission, of course) regularly. This passing of the ball makes for a stronger game, with fewer fouls.

Around this time of year, I frequently hear from accountants I’ve worked with for mutual clients through the prior calendar year. Sometimes they need a copy of a trust, the appraisal we had done in connection with a gift or just a refresher on what entities were set up when and why so that tax returns can be prepared (or extended. (Hey, it’s 2021, and nothing is normal.)

Sometimes there are tax and business decisions to be made, and future plans to be discussed. I always think how nice it is to be part of a winning team that has the same strategy and focus. I think the clients feel that way too (even if initially they may have been worried about exceeding their salary caps).

Pick your team. Introduce them. Let them play ball together for you. Trade when necessary.

By the way, my dog’s name is Percival. Go, Angels!

Teresa J. Rhyne is an attorney practicing in estate planning and trust administration in Riverside and Paso Robles. You can reach her at Teresa@trlawgroup.net.

Powered by WPeMatico

Random real estate thoughts: Strange market days and a reminder to live fully

Well, we are clipping along at warp speed – three months of 2021 in the books. But, occasionally, several issues burden my inbox. Therefore, please consider this column a “spring cleaning” of sorts.

Two recent appearances

Recently, I was honored to sit on a panel of commercial real estate experts and as a guest on a radio show. The cool thing was I never left my garage office. The Institute of Real Estate Management panel was conducted via Zoom and the radio spot over the phone. Coincidentally, both had similar themes: What impact has the pandemic had on commercial real estate?

Of course, the answer depends on CRE genre — industrial, office or retail. The differences between the three are as stark as the Mojave desert. Chances are if your company makes or ships things, you’ve high-fived your employees for a record 2020. Conversely, if you visit a suite of offices, you can bet the tenants are considering how to reduce their square footage, when the workforce will return – if ever – and how to conduct business in a hybrid environment, both virtual and in person.

Shortage of Inventory

Never, in all my years have I seen the shortage of industrial inventory this skimpy. At the same time, vacant regional mall space abounds.

You may be thinking, why not simply convert that vacant Sears store to a logistics hub? Good thought! But, the challenges lie with zoning and the physical plant.

Simply, that behemoth store that formerly housed more Craftsman tools than the Carpenter’s Union once generated monster sales taxes for its city. Warehouses don’t. Plus, modern industrial buildings are equipped with much higher ceilings, so the cost to retrofit would be mammoth.

Prices, prices, prices

The acute lack of available industrial space has caused prices to jump higher than a Gonzaga player at the buzzer. Yeah. Maybe next year, Bruins. But I digress. In one small slice of the Inland Empire East and in a sliver of sizes, we’ve seen was a 12% hop in pricing — in just four months!

My favorite time of year

NCAA Final Four, MLB opening days, Masters golf tourney, the fragrance of Orange blossoms, more daylight. All are experienced this time of year!

Considered: A tournament basketball game is akin to my profession – you lose, you go home. Consolation doesn’t pay the bills. Professional golfers start their year the same way brokers do – at zero earnings with no safety net.

Finally, 162 baseball games over six months is a marathon. Some of our deals are long races as well.

Live, live, live

Three of my close friends have gone home to the Lord in the last 30 days. I’m reminded. This is not a dress rehearsal. It’s caused me to focus on what’s important. I’ve squeezed my loved ones a bit tighter, looked past petty squabbles and choose to live each day as though it may be my last.

Rest In Peace Erik, Kevin, and Mike!

Allen C. Buchanan, SIOR, is a principal with Lee & Associates Commercial Real Estate Services in Orange. He can be reached at abuchanan@lee-associates.com or 714.564.7104. 

Powered by WPeMatico

The IRS has no plans to bring back a tool that helped low-income Americans get their stimulus checks. Here’s what to do instead

By Katie Lobosco | CNN

About 8 million low-income people were eligible for stimulus payments last year but never received the money, raising concerns about getting the latest round of help to those most in need — yet there’s no sign the Internal Revenue Service plans to restore a tool that would make it easier.

Early in the pandemic, the IRS created a simple online form to allow low-income people who aren’t usually required to file tax returns to provide their contact information to the agency. But that tool has remained offline since November, even after Congress approved two more rounds of stimulus payments.

Now, people who missed out must file a 2020 tax return in order to get the money they’re owed from the first two stimulus checks, along with the third one. People who used the non-filer tool before it went offline will automatically receive their third stimulus payment without taking action.

An IRS spokesman told CNN Thursday that there are no plans to bring back the tool but encouraged people to file returns so that they can claim a credit for all three payments as well as claim any other expanded credits they may be eligible for, like the Earned Income Tax Credit or the child tax credit.

Filing a return ensures that families may get other benefits they qualify for, like the Earned Income Tax Credit or the now expanded child tax credit — but it can be a challenging process for someone who hasn’t filed in years.

“The stakes are high with billions of federal dollars not reaching low-income people in California and across the country. The IRS reposting its online non-filers tool immediately would be a good first step,” Aparna Ramesh, senior research manager at the California Policy Lab at UC Berkeley, said in a statement.

The group found that at least 1.5 million Californians could potentially miss out on $3.5 billion in stimulus payments. It estimated that about 25% of low-income Californians didn’t get the money automatically last year.

[vemba-video id=”business/2021/03/18/irs-stimulus-checks-pandemic.cnnbusiness”]

Still waiting for the latest round

Most Americans had their stimulus payments directly deposited into their bank accounts or sent in the mail without them having to take any action. In the weeks since President Joe Biden signed the most recent stimulus bill, the IRS has swiftly delivered more than 156 million payments — but those who likely need the money the most may still be waiting.

“I think the IRS has limited resources and has to decide how much to devote to its traditional lines of business, like processing tax returns and audits, or becoming more of a customer service agency focused on benefits delivery,” said Elaine Maag, a principal research associate in the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center. “It certainly doesn’t look like that’s the priority when they’re taking down these tools rather than creating them.”

IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig told lawmakers at a hearing last month that the agency had extended its reach far beyond its normal contacts to try to reach lower-income people, working with “hundreds of local community groups and religious organizations” as well as “thousands of homeless organizations.”

A challenging year for the IRS

It will be a challenging year for the IRS, an agency whose budget has been cut about 20% over the past decade, leaving it with antiquated technology and a smaller staff.

The agency is also grappling with several changes to the tax law made by the Covid relief bills. The one passed in March also directs the IRS to send out periodic payments for an expanded child tax credit, as well as waive income taxes on up to $10,200 in unemployment benefits received in 2020, helping some laid-off workers who faced surprise tax bills on their jobless benefits.

The changes create work for the IRS, tax preparers and taxpayers. Facing pressure from lawmakers, the agency recently extended the tax filing deadline to May 17.

“This has been the most challenging tax seasons I’ve experienced, hands down,” said Courtney O’Reilly, the director of Tax Help Colorado, an IRS-certified tax assistance center.

There’s more need and fewer volunteers due to the pandemic, even though most work is still done remotely. It’s a challenge to help out brand new filers, unfamiliar with the tax system, seeking desperately needed benefits over the phone.

Taxpayers earning less than $72,000 a year can use a tax preparer site for free to file a federal return. But they still need to gather the documents showing their income, have an email address and a phone number. New filers are sometimes hesitant to submit a return at all, fearing they might owe more in back taxes than they are set to receive from the stimulus benefits.

“These new benefits will be really helpful to families, but it’s so hard to make sure people who need it the most get them. It takes time to create the foundation to provide the support,” O’Reilly said.

The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2021 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

Powered by WPeMatico

Here’s how to tell if your Facebook account was one of the half billion that were breached

By Jordan Valinsky | CNN Business

Over the weekend, cybersecurity experts revealed that about half a billion Facebook users’ personal information was breached — a treasure trove of data the includes full names, birthdays, phone numbers and their location.

Facebook said that massive leak stems from an issue in 2019, which has since been fixed. Still, there’s no clawing back that data. More than 30 million accounts in the United States were affected and the company isn’t making it easy to find out if your data was included in the breach.

But a third-party website, haveibeenpwned.com, makes it simple to check by inputting your email. For now, it just checks if your email was among those stolen.

That’s a pretty big catch: Although 533 million Facebook accounts were included in the breach, only 2.5 million of those included emails in the stolen data. So you’ve got less than a half-percent chance of showing up on that website, even though you’ve got about a 20% chance of being hacked if you’ve got a Facebook account.

[vemba-video id=”business/2021/04/04/500-million-facebook-user-personal-data-leaked-online-osullivan-nr-vpx.cnn”]

HaveIBeenPwned creator and security expert Troy Hunt said on Twitter that he’s examining whether to add phone numbers.

“The primary value of the data is the association of phone numbers to identities; whilst each record included phone, only 2.5 million contained an email address,” Hunt’s website said.

Although this data is from 2019, it could still be of value to hackers and cyber criminals like those who engage in identify theft.

Facebook didn’t immediately respond to CNN on Monday about whether if it will create a way to see if their information was leaked.

— CNN Business’ Donie O’Sullivan contributed to this report.

The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2021 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

Powered by WPeMatico

Family sues after California man dies in taco eating contest

FRESNO — The son of a California man who choked to death during an amateur taco eating contest at a minor league baseball game is suing the event’s organizers for negligence.

Eighteen-year-old Marshall Hutchings’ lawsuit filed Monday alleges his father, Dana Hutchings, was not made aware of the risks and danger involved in an eating competition, the Fresno Bee reported.

The 41-year-old died after choking on tacos while competing in the contest during a Fresno Grizzlies game on Aug. 13, 2019. Participants competed to devour as many tacos as possible during a certain amount of time.

The suit names Fresno Sports and Events, the owner of the Grizzlies.

“We won’t be making any public comments,” Grizzlies President Derek Frank said in an email.

Professionals in the sport of competitive eating train and make themselves physically ready to participate, Hutchings’ attorney Martin Taleisnik said.

“But that is not always present in an amateur eating contest,” Taleisnik said. “The conductors of this event should have made the risks known to the competitors and taken steps to protect them.”

Powered by WPeMatico

Is the grass always greener somewhere else?

Much has been written about businesses vacating California. One “catcher’s mitt” state has even coined the phrase “Texodus” to describe companies bolting California for the Lone Star state.

Catchy indeed.

Another city has erected a mock Statue of Liberty on its strip – “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore…”. Who knew that would be applicable to enterprises seeking asylum from California in a business-friendly environment?

Finally, governors are racking up frequent flyer miles traveling here to recruit our manufacturing base. The promise of economic incentives, cheaper houses, and smaller tax burdens lure our local operations to consider an out-of-state move.

But is the grass really greener?

Certainly, the decision to move – in addition to the carrots aforementioned – is a complex matrix of workforce availability, quality of life, affordable utilities, access to raw materials, logistics considerations, and to a small extent, the cost and availability of commercial real estate to house the organizations. That small slice – vacant locations – is the subject of this column.

So, I got my Jon Lansner data cap on and examined several metropolitan service areas around the United States. Compared were available Class-A 100,000 square foot (used was a range of 75,000-125,000 square feet) industrial buildings built after 2000. Considered were the existing square footage – both vacant and occupied, number of spaces available, average asking lease and sale prices. Also, a benchmark for SoCal was included. All that was missing was Jon’s trusty spreadsheet.

Los Angeles County: 6,431,024 square feet existing and under construction with 35 buildings available; average asking lease rates $1.03 psf; average asking sale price $357 psf.

Orange County: 1,707,949 square feet existing and under construction with three buildings available; average asking lease rates $.93 psf; average asking sale price $$296 psf.

Inland Empire east and west: 7,099,294 square feet existing and under construction with 10 buildings available; average asking lease rates $.66 psf; average asking sale price $170 psf.

Las Vegas: 1,888,928 square feet existing and under construction with six buildings available; average asking lease rates $.74 psf; average asking sale price $260 psf.

Salt Lake City: 2,576,011 square feet existing and under construction with 10 buildings available; average asking lease rates $.57 psf; average asking sale price $150 psf.

Denver,: 4,139,989 square feet existing and under construction with 31 buildings available; average asking lease rates $.73 psfl average asking sale price $162 psf.

Chicago: 9,810,710 square feet existing and under construction with 28 buildings available; average asking lease rates $.52 psf; average asking sale price $99 psf.

Columbus, Ohio; 792,518 square feet existing and under construction with four buildings available; average asking lease rates $.54 psf; average asking sale price $105 psf.

Nashville, Tennessee: 1,555,186 square feet existing and under construction with seven buildings available; average asking lease rates $.62 psf; average asking sale price $94 psf.

Dallas Fort Worth, Texas: 11,749,896 square feet existing and under construction with 53 buildings available; average asking lease rates $.48 psf; average asking sale price $90 psf.

Houston: 9,695,070 square feet existing and under construction with 41 buildings available; average asking lease rates $.58 psf; average asking sale price $84 psf

Atlanta: 5,464,511 square feet existing and under construction with 15 buildings available; average asking lease rates $.50 psf; average asking sale price $90 psf.

Jacksonville, Fla: 452,611 square feet existing and under construction with one building available; average asking lease rates $.30 psf; average asking sale price $73 psf.

Allen C. Buchanan, SIOR, is a principal with Lee & Associates Commercial Real Estate Services in Orange. He can be reached at abuchanan@lee-associates.com or 714.564.7104. 

Powered by WPeMatico

Why married couples should be a tax-cutting team

Most professionals can remember the experience of working with their first client. My first client thought the large capital losses I reported on her tax return must have been a gross error due to my inexperience as a fresh-out-of-college accountant.

She exclaimed that the losses were impossible because her husband, who had recently started to day trade, had told her all year how much money he had made.

When I patiently reviewed with them the losses on the statements from the broker, the husband had an explanation, “It is OK, honey. I only sell the losers.”

As the story illustrates, tax time is also a financial reckoning time for couples when they realize how much they actually made (or lost) and where all the money was spent. Just last week, millions of married couples were looking forward to stimulus payments they didn’t receive because their income exceeded the threshold.

Some spouses were surprised to find their combined adjusted gross income was over $150,000. They also found themselves asking each other, “Where did it go?”

Many couples also assumed that last year they saved money by not physically going to the office and that they could deduct the expenses of telecommuting. Instead, they found out that they spent more than they had thought on delivered lunches and that the home office set up and lunches were not deductible employee expenses under the new tax law.

Tax professionals often find that married clients act as if they are two single individuals who just happen to file together on one form. Once a year, the spouses come together and combine their W-2s, 1099s and their deductible expenses. The numbers are added together on a jointly filed return. Not much thought is put into coordinating what they are doing to reduce their tax burden during the year.

Instead of experiencing these surprises annually, what if you and your spouse became a tax-cutting team? Here is the truth about the challenges of cutting your taxes and an example of what you might be able to do to remedy it.

The truth is, there is not that much opportunity for tax planning if you and your spouse earn a wage or salary and if you do not have investments or a small business. If your taxes are based on a couple of W-2s, some bank interest on a 1099 and a 1098 for your mortgage, please do not blame your tax program or preparer if you owe.

There is no special trick or secret knowledge to reduce your taxes. The government changed the withholding tables a couple of years ago, so you have more in your check every pay period in exchange for a smaller or no refund at tax time. Many who routinely anticipated refunds now owe.

The standard deduction for married couples filing jointly, which is the amount you can claim instead of adding up and using your itemized deductions, is $24,800. As a result, less than 14% of taxpayers itemized deductions on their federal returns in 2019. So, unless you created tax planning opportunities by opening a small business or by investing, there is not much even the best tax professional can do to reduce your tax bill.

But all is not lost. You can create opportunities for tax planning with your spouse. Here is a good example.

Don, who is married to Melodie, makes a decent salary at a real estate investment firm. Melodie previously was a dancer but decided to stay at home with their two young kids. Since they took the standard deduction and their only income was Don’s W-2 and some bank interest, there was no opportunity for tax planning.

They often argued about Melodie’s expensive passion for health and fitness activities, and Don voiced concern for her safety at the gym. Melodie felt lonely not working out with others and expressed interest in providing personal training services.  After much discussion and the required permits, they renovated their garage, where Melodie trains others. She also sells supplements and workout gear online.

Melodie’s hobby became a business. Her costs became deductible expenses, and she earned some extra income. Working together, the couple was able to support her aspirations and reduce their taxes.

To deduct expenses under IRS safe harbor rules as a legitimate business and not as a hobby, an activity must generate a profit in at least three of five years ending with the tax year in question. In other words, you can deduct a loss for two of five of your first years in business. But there is still a benefit even if you or your spouse only net $1 in income each year. The costs of the hobby were paid out of the business revenue and not from the household budget.

There is also a chance that you can make it big if you support the dreams of your spouse. Disney, Mattel, Amazon and many other companies started in homes and garages.

The first step to becoming a tax-cutting, wealth-building team is to set an appointment with a tax planning professional (and your spouse). Look for someone interested in individual and small business tax planning vs. just tax preparation or other services.

Ask for referrals from your other professionals or financially successful people you know and look at their website’s content. Seek out someone you can build a relationship with who has time for you. And please, do not be too concerned if they are on the younger side.

By the way, my first client, 30 years later, is still a client and dear friend. He no longer day trades.

Michelle C. Herting, CPA, ABV, AEP, specializes in most things related to trust and estate taxes, gifting, and succession planning. She has three offices in Southern California.

Powered by WPeMatico

Trial review board raises concerns about AstraZeneca vaccine data

By Michael Nedelman | CNN

The independent board that reviews data from multiple Covid-19 vaccine candidates has expressed concern over AstraZeneca’s announcements on its latest findings, according to a statement posted early Tuesday by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

“Late Monday, the Data and Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB) notified NIAID, BARDA, and AstraZeneca that it was concerned by information released by AstraZeneca on initial data from its COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial,” the statement says. “The DSMB expressed concern that AstraZeneca may have included outdated information from that trial, which may have provided an incomplete view of the efficacy data.

“We urge the company to work with the DSMB to review the efficacy data and ensure the most accurate, up-to-date efficacy data be made public as quickly as possible.”

AstraZeneca has not responded to CNN’s request for comment.

[vemba-video id=”health/2021/03/22/astrazeneca-efficacy-us-clinical-trial-leana-wen-newday-vpx.cnn”]

Early Monday, AstraZeneca issued a press release saying its Covid-19 vaccine showed 79% efficacy against symptomatic disease and 100% efficacy against severe disease and hospitalization, citing long-awaited US trial data. The latter figure was based on five events in the placebo arm, NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci said during a coronavirus briefing Monday.

The DSMB is an independent expert group that sees trial data before the pharmaceutical companies, the doctors running the trials, or even the US Food and Drug Administration. It has the power advise a company of positive interim findings, or to halt a trial over safety concerns. That’s what happened to the AstraZeneca trial in September after a study participant developed neurological symptoms, for example.

Last year, the National Institutes of Health appointed a common DSMB to monitor Covid-19 vaccine clinical trials that were being funded by the federal government — including AstraZeneca, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. This DSMB has 10 to 15 members with specialties including vaccine development, statistics and ethics.

DSMBs sometimes disagree with investigators over the interpretation of trial results, Stephen Evans, a professor of pharmacoepidemiology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said in a statement to the Science Media Centre in the UK. But that’s usually done in private, he said, “so this is unprecedented in my opinion.”

However, he noted, he isn’t concerned unless there’s a safety issue, “which does not appear to be the case.”

The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2021 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

Powered by WPeMatico

In marriage we trust: Why having an estate plan is a must

I have frequently heard from couples who put off estate planning because they couldn’t agree on a plan. I usually say this is the same as not going to the doctor because you haven’t diagnosed yourself.

An estate planning attorney’s job is to guide you through the options available and the techniques that can be used to meet the goals you both have, even if those goals may seem to conflict. There are always options. Here are some …

Separate and community property

Married couples often have estates that vary in size. One partner may have accrued net worth from before the marriage or inherited property from their parents, resulting in a large sum of separate property in addition to their half of the community property accrued during the marriage.

The spouse with more assets may be hesitant to have an estate plan that leaves everything to the surviving spouse, particularly if there are children or other dependents. This may be the case even when the assets are all owned equally.

What if the surviving spouse remarries and leaves it all to the new spouse? What if the surviving spouse has more kids later? What if the cabana boy or girl seduces it all away from the surviving spouse?

These are all concerns that can be handled through the use of trusts. A living trust can provide that on the death of the first spouse his or her share of the community property and all their separate property will be held in a separate trust known as the “decedent’s trust”.

The decedent’s trust can provide that the income and principal are available to the surviving spouse if needed, but the surviving spouse cannot change the beneficiaries, thus giving some assurance that the decedent’s plan for their assets will be carried out.

The surviving spouse could be the trustee of the decedent’s trust — that is, the party responsible for managing the assets and making distributions pursuant to the terms of the trust. Or, for extra security, a third party could act as a trustee.

Another option would be to allow the surviving spouse to serve as trustee unless and until they remarried, at which point a third-party trustee takes over, and perhaps distributions from the trust are more restrictive.

Alternatively, consider having an adult child serve as co-trustee with the surviving spouse in the event of remarriage.

Children from other relationships

“His, hers, and ours” children are not uncommon in modern-day marriages. A spouse generally wishes to care for their surviving spouse but also wants to be fair to their children. We’ve all heard stories of the “wicked step-parent” who took all the assets, cut out the deceased spouse’s children, and left it all to their own (no-good) children.

Again, leaving the first-to-die spouse’s share of assets in a trust, with a carefully designed plan for trusteeship and distribution of those assets, can meet the deceased spouse’s goals, while keeping peace among step-relatives. The trust assets can be available to the surviving spouse under certain conditions, and then distributed to the children (biological, adopted, step, as set forth in the trust) upon the surviving spouse’s death.

With blended families, consideration should be given to a professional fiduciary to serve as trustee. A professional can balance the desire for income to be distributed to the surviving spouse against the need for preservation or growth of principal for the children who are the successor beneficiaries. And, a professional trustee isn’t sitting at the Thanksgiving table, so financial discussions won’t take attention away from the feast.

I also often suggest parents consider life insurance that pays immediately to the children, so there is at least one gift to the kids that isn’t contingent on the death of a step-parent. Sometimes a plan as simple as life insurance to the kids, all else to the surviving spouse, can work well for all parties.

Different heirs

Sometimes the issue isn’t the kids or even the size of each partner’s estate, but simply that each spouse has a different choice for the ultimate beneficiary, be it a charity, nieces and nephews or friends. Again, a trust can work to achieve different goals.

Spouses can agree that upon the second death one-half goes to spouse A’s beneficiaries and one-half to spouse B’s. They can either keep these all in one trust and “trust” that the surviving spouse doesn’t change the terms, or again have the trust split into two at the first death, with half becoming irrevocable.

Other options

When one spouse has significantly more assets or each has significant separate property, spouses may want to consider having separate trusts — one that holds separate property for each and one that holds community property.

It’s also possible, and can be good planning, to gift assets to children during your lifetime through the use of irrevocable trusts.

Each of the options discussed in this article has many variations, and the structure of a trust has estate, income, and property tax consequences, all of which should be discussed with your estate planning attorney. You don’t need to have the answers ahead of time; you just need to have the discussion with a professional adviser.

They don’t call us counselors for nothing.

Teresa J. Rhyne is an attorney practicing in estate planning and trust administration in Riverside and Paso Robles. Reach her at Teresa@trlawgroup.net

Powered by WPeMatico