May 20, 2020

How Would You Feel About Being Put On A Ventilator?

If you contract COVID 19 and are hospitalized, what kinds of interventions do you want? 

According to a May 12, 2020 report from Kaiser Health News, one thing many older people definitely DON'T want is to be placed on a ventilator. To make sure their wishes are honored, they are revising their health care advance directives to reflect that preference, and making sure their designated health care surrogates are aware of it. While the pandemic has made people of all ages keenly aware of the need for health care documents, older people tend to feel a greater sense of urgency. They are more susceptible to infection, and more likely to experience severe symptoms and succumb.

When placed on mechanical ventilation, a tube is placed down the patient's throat (intubation). The patient is kept sedated and isolated in the ICU. No visitors are permitted. By now we've all heard first-hand accounts of patients who had this experience. They are thankful to be alive, but  traumatized by the days or weeks they spent intubated. Moreover, for an older person, intubation is less likely to save life. "Their prognosis is not great," says Dr. Douglas White, a professor of critical care medicine at the University of Pittsburgh. Additionally, older people generally spend more time on ventilators than younger ones, and if they survive, face a more grueling battle back to functionality.

Obviously, none of that precludes you from desiring and receiving mechanical ventilation. Each of us must assess what procedures are worth enduring for the chance to survive.

If you want to address your desires for intubation in your health care advance directives - because you wish to rule it out, or rule it in - contact us and we can assist you. Reach us at (561) 625-1100 or email

May 6, 2020

We are working at home for you. Stop by and visit!

Apr 28, 2020

Find Missing Money

Madonna found money owed her for appearing in a gaming company's video.  Robert DeNiro had money waiting from Warner Brothers. Even Bloomberg LP (yes, that Bloomberg) had checks waiting for him from New York State.

You need not be a celebrity to find missing money, though. A number of online resources are available so you can conduct your own hunt. If you're stuck at home, looking for money you didn't know was coming to you could be a pleasant diversion. And potentially profitable.

What constitutes missing money? Among the items: Utility deposits. Insurance payouts. 401ks that got lost in the shuffle when you changed employers. Forgotten contents of safe deposit boxes.

Here are a few of the sites you can check. Have fun!

Florida unclaimed funds
All states and Canadian provinces unclaimed funds

Employee Benefits Security Administration

Veterans Administration

Life Insurance Benefits

Apr 27, 2020

Parents and Adult Children Shy Away From "The Talk"

As estate planning attorneys, we generally encourage clients to discuss their estate plans and financial plans with their adult children, even if they provide them with just a rough overview. Many clients, for many reasons, are reluctant to follow through on that recommendation. Interestingly, a recent poll shows that the reluctance is mutual!

A January 2020 survey conducted by Mass Mutual of 1,500 adults ages 25-44 reveals that 47% consider it “very important” or “extremely important” to talk with their parents about their parents’ retirement savings. Half anticipate that one of their parents will live past 90. And two thirds worry that parents who live that long will run out of money and will eventually need to rely on their children for support.

But here's the surprise: Their worry doesn't translate into action. Despite their concerns, 71% of Baby Boomers’ adult children report having have little or no knowledge of their parents’ finances, saying they are uncomfortable discussing the topic. Their discomfort with this topic is second only to their discomfort in talking with their parents about sex.

Another survey, reported in a February 26, 2020 Financial Advisor magazine, also reflects this communication gap. Conducted by Harris Poll for TD Trade, it surveyed 2,000 adults between the ages of 40 and 79 with a minimum of $25,000 in investable assets. The survey revealed that just 20% have shared their estate plans with their children, and only 19% have shared their incapacity plans with their children. And just 20% have told their children how to access and manage their assets should it be necessary.
Of course, avoiding the issue doesn't eliminate the reality: Today's increased longevity brings with it financial and legal concerns unknown to prior generations of parents and children. Parents and children must air those concerns with one another if they are to prepare effectively for the future. Having the talk" may not be the easiest conversation, but it can go a long way to giving both generations greater peace of mind. 

So parents and adult children, have either of you initiated "the talk"? You need not even meet in person, which as it turns out is a plus in this era of social distancing.Time to get talking! 

Apr 13, 2020

An Estate Conflict Straight Out of Hollywood

Here’s an intriguing, somewhat salacious estate planning story straight out of Tinsel Town. It even sounds like a Hollywood movie. Not surprisingly, it involves two marriages, children from both, and of course, big money. Read on and take a break from the 24/7 pandemic information overload.

Malibu resident Joe Kaplan started out in his family's Missouri meat-packing business after college graduation. He left that business, and went on to make a fortune in financial services, creating two highly successful firms that were eventually acquired by others. The second, Innovative Merchant Solutions, was bought by Intuit.

Kaplan's first marriage lasted 20 years and produced two children, Brandon and Danielle. The marriage ended in 2006. Two years later Kaplan married Elizabeth McAdams and had a son with her, Parker, born in 2009. Rumor has it that the Kaplans' relationship was not all smooth sailing. Then, while on vacation with Elizabeth in Bermuda in July 2018, Kaplan died suddenly in his sleep. He was 55.

Elizabeth's prenuptial agreement guaranteed her $5 million. Everything else, including their Malibu residence, is in a Living Trust Joe established for her benefit and the benefit of all three of his children. According to the Joe Kaplan Living Trust, Elizabeth is entitled to live in the house, rent-free, until she remarries or begins cohabiting with someone who is not a blood relative. Joe named his brother, Aaron Kaplan, as trustee. Aaron is a well-known producer of many television shows, including American Housewife, The Chi, and the Santa Clarita Diet. Joe is not a beneficiary of the trust.

Aaron knew his brother liked to stash large quantities of cash in his home. Not long after Joe's death, Aaron began to suspect that his sister-in-law might try to pocket those monies and other valuables, which rightfully belong to the trust, not her. He was also concerned about the solvency of the trust, as his brother reportedly left behind $15 million in gambling debts. Of particular concern to him were the contents of a wall safe in Joe's personal closet.

Aaron took his concerns to his lawyers. They sent Elizabeth a letter reminding her that everything in the house is trust property and advising her not to touch the safe. But there's more: They installed a secret monitoring system in Joe's closet. Two motion-activated cameras were placed there, ready to record any attempt to access the safe.

As it turns out, there was an attempt. Footage revealed Elizabeth and a locksmith trying to get the safe open. Other footage recorded Elizabeth searching through her late husband’s clothing, discovering $10,000 in cash, and pocketing it. While going through his clothing, she was allegedly on the phone with her father and uncle, making disparaging remarks to them about her late husband.

But the secret cameras didn't remain secret. Elizabeth discovered them, disabled them, and recording ceased. In February 2020, Aaron filed a petition for instruction with the court documenting what had transpired. His attorneys stated: "Based on consultations with his attorney, the Trustee understood that he could – and should – have motion-activated cameras installed in Joe’s personal closet to monitor and protect those assets for the beneficiaries of Joe’s Trust." Additionally, Aaron accused his sister-in-law of extortion, saying she threatened to go public with the camera story in order to ruin his reputation - unless he stepped down as trustee.

Aaron refused to step down. And Elizabeth has not backed down, either. Recently she filed a lawsuit against Aaron, accusing him of invasion of privacy. Although Aaron claims both cameras were focused solely inside Joe's closet - one trained on the safe and the other toward the back of the closet - Elizabeth says one camera was pointed in the direction of her personal closet, where she regularly dressed and undressed. Her lawsuit also claims that Aaron failed to fulfill his duties as trustee by providing her with the $5 million she’s entitled to from her late husband's estate. 

"Protecting trust assets is not a defense to his violations of Elizabeth’s right of privacy or of criminal statutes," her attorneys state. "Not only were his actions criminal, they were in poor judgment, repulsive and perverted, since Aaron, as a male trustee, effectively placed his ‘eyes and ears’ in a woman’s master bedroom suite, regardless of whether he actually saw Elizabeth scantily dressed or nude."

Aaron's attorneys' reply: Elizabeth is sensationalizing her husband's death and Aaron has simply done what is required of a fiduciary: "As trustee, Aaron is focused only on protecting the Trust for the benefit of all of its beneficiaries as his brother wished, and he will not succumb to extortionist tactics."

Fortunately, if you are a trustee, performing your fiduciary duty is likely to be fairly straightforward, and hidden cameras won't be necessary. The Kaplan case will no doubt present more moments of suspense as the parties battle it out. As they say on TV -  a business that trustee Aaron Kaplan knows well -  Stay tuned.

Apr 10, 2020

COVID-19 Legal Plans: What Do You Need Now?

Apr 1, 2020

Nursing Homes, Assisted Living Residents and Families Cope With Pandemic

There are 71,000 people living in 691 licensed nursing homes in Florida, and thousands more in assisted living residences. Nursing homes and assisted living residences provide comfort, security and help. But these days, they also provide everything the corona virus needs to get a foothold: groups of older, more susceptible people living in close proximity to one another.

A blizzard of new federal and state rules to protect residents' health have been issued over the last few weeks. Those same rules are leaving many residents lonely and isolated, as well as demanding heroic efforts from facility staff. Here is an overview of the key rules under our “new normal”:

You cannot visit, for now
On March 14, the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration banned most visitors to long-term care facilities and assisted living residences. The ban lasts for 30 days, but may be extended. Exceptions may be made for compassionate visitations (end of life visits, for example). Anyone seeking entry to a facility may be given a screening questionnaire and have their temperature taken. Staff members are also checked for fever upon arrival.

Communal dining and other group activities have been curtailed. Residents are also discouraged from leaving the facility except for essential services.

How can you stay in touch with a resident?
By now you’ve probably seen news clips of family members standing outside residents’ windows, blowing kisses and holding up signs. But there are other, simpler ways to stay in touch with your loved one. Phone calls. Old fashioned letters. (Although some are worried about infected paper surfaces, the CDC and WHO say that this is an unlikely means of viral transmission). In some facilities, a staff member goes from room to room to coordinate video chats for families via skype, face time, etc.

How you communicate with your loved one will obviously depend on many factors, including your technical expertise, technology available at your loved one's residence, and your loved one’s cognitive functioning.

You won't necessarily know if the residence has COVID19 cases
As of March 31, 66 long-term care residents at 19 different facilities in Florida had tested positive for the virus. While  families naturally want to know if their loved one's living facility is affected, Florida is withholding the identity of affected facilities. According to the AHCA, releasing the information would violate HIPAA privacy laws. And Florida Governor DeSantis believes the information would cause relatives to worry unnecessarily. Critics counter that HIPAA applies to individuals, not facilities, and that being kept in the dark causes more worry. In any event, Stefan Grow, an attorney for ACHA, says the information will be released only when “…the State Health Officer’s determination that release of the information is necessary for the protection of the public’s health.”

No new admissions
In order to protect residents and staff during the pandemic, long-term care nursing homes are accepting new residents only if they are transferring directly from a hospital stay. Hospitals must follow strict protocols to ensure that discharged patients have tested negative for the virus. 
Assisted living facilities are accepting new residents, but only after careful screening to ensure the applicant is virus-free. 
Here's hoping that we return soon to the OLD normal. Good health to all!

Mar 25, 2020

Warren Buffet Instructs Fiduciaries To Retain Berkshire Stock

Warren Buffet, the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, is worth $82.2 billion. His estate plan provides for his children in a manner consistent with his philosophy: Leave your children enough to do anything, but not enough to do nothing. The bulk of his fortune will go to charity when he dies. The 89-year-old has already given $34 billion to the Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation. 

Ninety-nine percent of Buffet's wealth is in Berkshire stock. In the just-released 2020 annual report, he directs his trustees and executors to retain the stock, and to ignore their fiduciary responsibility to diversify investments. He writes: "Today, my will specifically directs its executors - as well as the trustees who will succeed them in administering my estate after the will is closed - not to sell any Berkshire shares... My will also absolves both the executors and the trustees from liability for maintaining what obviously will be an extreme concentration of assets."

Even with today's plunging stock market, it's reasonable to assume that Berkshire will rebound and return to its stellar historical performance. It has quite a track record: From 1965 to 2019, the S+P overall return was 19,784%. That looks positively shabby compared to Berkshire's return for the same period: 2,744,062%. Buffet's beneficiaries are unlikely to complain so long as the stock does well. But if Berkshire stock declines significantly after his death, beneficiaries may not care that Buffet let his fiduciaries off the hook, and may go ahead and sue anyway. 

A Feb. 29 New York Times article ("Is An Investment Sage's Estate Plan Imprudent?") draws parallels between Buffet and the late Charles Dumont, whose fortune was entirely in Kodak stock. Like Buffet, Dumont directed his trustees to retain Kodak, saying his trustees were not to be held responsible for any decline in value. And decline it did, dramatically, for the half-century it was held in trust. The trustee was taken to court for violation of fiduciary duty, and in 2004 the New York Surrogate Court found the trustee personally liable for $21 million in losses. (Luckily for the trustee, an appeals court later reversed the ruling.)

The takeaway here is this: whether you are a personal representative and trustee for a zillionaire or for a person of ordinary means, you must be mindful of all your fiduciary duties, including the duty to diversify. For a list of all that is required of you, click here. 

Mar 17, 2020

IRS gives most individual taxpayers until July 15 to file

The Internal Revenue Service has just announced that most Americans will have an additional 90 days to pay taxes due to the unprecedented situation we are facing. This pushes the deadline date from April 15 to July 15, 2020. The extension is available for taxpayers who owe $1 million or less in taxes. During this time period, fees and penalties are waived, too. 

Mar 13, 2020

A Letter To Our Clients About COVID-19 Preparations

A Letter From The Karp Law Firm Regarding COVID-19 Preparations

The COVID-19 situation is presenting challenges for everyone. This is a time for taking logical precautions, not for panic. We will get through this! 

Until we do, we want to let you know that our office is open and operational and ready to serve you. Rest assured that we are closely monitoring the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization and have implemented all recommended steps to keep our offices safe and sanitary:

All staff are washing hands regularly.

Any staff member who does not feel well or has been in contact with an affected individual must work from home and cannot come to the office. Thus far no such situation has occurred.

We are wiping down every surface regularly with disinfectant, and doing the same in every conference room each time it is used.

Hand sanitizer is available at the front door for anyone entering the office. 

For now, we're refraining from embracing or shaking hands.

Virtual Appointments Available

If you would prefer a telephonic conference to an in-person meeting, we will be happy to arrange this for you. We also request that we meet telephonically if you are not feeling well or believe you have been in contact with an affected individual. Call 561-625-1100 and we will convert your existing appointment into a telephone conference, or schedule a new one.

Free Seminars Temporarily Postponed

We have temporarily suspended our public workshops. We will resume offering them as soon as we can. In the meantime, you can find much of the information disseminated at our workshop on our web site, As soon as our new schedule is ready, it will also be posted on our web site.

If you have any questions, feel free to call us at (561) 625-1100. 

All the best,
The Attorneys & Staff of The Karp Law Firm

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