Win Olympic Gold – And Pay for It

Olympic gold metals are assessed for income tax, but the real cost could be the estate taxes.

Every time the Olympics come around, there’s dozens of articles and posts about how Olympic medals are subject to income tax. The IRS considers all prize winnings, such as gambling or game show prizes, to be income and thus taxable. Olympic medals get lumped into this group (as do the cash bonuses they come with). Luckily for the athletes, their medals are valued at the time they are earned, essentially the value of the materials. A gold medal from Rio is estimated to be worth $564, a silver medal is estimated at $305, and a bronze medal has little intrinsic value. Since Olympic medalists generally treat their sport as a profession the value of the medal and related bonuses are likely to be offset with a deduction for the significant expenses that most athletes incur.

What people may fail to consider is the effect the medals will have on the Olympian’s estate taxes. Property in an estate is valued at the date of death, not the original value. And though Olympic medals have little intrinsic value, their sentimental value makes them worth far more. In 2013, one of Jesse Owens’ medals from the 1936 Olympics in Berlin sold for $1.47 million, the highest price ever paid for a piece of Olympic memorabilia. A boxer from Ukraine, Wladimir Klitschko, sold his medal for $1 million. Even a medal from an athlete who isn’t as well known may be valued upwards of $30,000. These values are included in a deceased Olympian’s estate and are potentially taxable.

Michael Phelps broke a 2100 year old Olympic record by winning 13 individual gold medals over the course of four Olympics (not to mention his 28 medals total.) The medals are worth quite a lot on the open market, even if Phelps is only initially taxed on their intrinsic value. When he dies, his estate will likely need to hire a specialized appraiser to determine the value and even then, it will only be an educated guess. Of course, since Michael Phelps is superhuman, he may never die, which would make this whole process simpler.

“The Internet’s Own Boy” – Victoria Blachly to Speak on Panel

Come listen to an intriguing panel discussion on digital rights, digital privacy, net neutrality and more.

Special guests will include:

– Stuart Kaplan, Emeritus Assoc. Prof. of Rhetoric & Media Studies, L&C College & Member, ACLU OR Board of Dir.

– Bill Giard, Principal Engineer, PDIT Organization and lead’s Intel IT’s Software and Application

– Mary Beth Henry, Manager, Office for Community Technology, Mt Hood Cable Regulatory Commission, City of Portland

Victoria Blachly, Partner, Samuels Yoelin Kantor, Attorneys At Law

The Internet’s Own Boy follows the story of programming prodigy and information activist Aaron Swartz. From Swartz’s help in the development of the basic internet protocol RSS to his co-founding of Reddit, his fingerprints are all over the internet. This film is a personal story about what we lose when we are tone deaf about technology and its relationship to our civil liberties.

For more details, and to purchase tickets, visit OMSI’s event page.

March 31, 2015 – Event Schedule:

6:30pm: Panel discussion

7:00pm: The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz (Rated NR & 105 minutes)

9:00pm: Q&A

What Joan Rivers’ Death Teaches Us About End-of-Life Planning

The world lost a marvelous comedic talent when Joan Rivers passed away on September 4, 2014. Rivers was born “Joan Alexandra Molinsky”, the daughter of Russian immigrants in Brooklyn. Her father was a doctor and he reportedly threatened to have Joan committed if she pursued a career in acting. Joan instead worked in fashion and retail after earning undergraduate degrees in anthropology and English.

Joan got serious about acting in the theatre following the end of her first marriage; she then changed her name and started performing comedy. She was on the tonight Show with Johnny Carson in 1965, released her first album shortly thereafter, and had her own TV show by 1968. The rest is history. Over the course of her career, Joan Rivers starred in movies, authored books, performed thousands of stand-up shows, hosted and starred in television productions and performed on Broadway. Her perseverance following the suicide of her husband, her battle with eating disorders, and her issues with depression played out on the public stage, as did her death.

Joan Rivers once told a reporter that her estate documents said that she was not to be revived “unless she could do an hour of stand-up”. The document she was likely referring to is an Advance Directive or a Living Will, in which an individual lays out his or her wishes about being kept alive by artificial means. Joan died as a result of a complication that arose during a procedure on her vocal chords after the oxygen supply was cut off to her brain. She was placed on life support as a result of the complication and her family elected to terminate the life-sustaining treatment several days later.

There are a number of “what-if’s” to consider when preparing your estate plan. One of these questions should be “What if I should become incapacitated and cannot communicate: who will make decisions about my medical care and what sort of guidance should I give them about keeping me alive through tube feeding, ventilation, etc.?” Each state has its own rules about which documents control these decisions, so consult with an attorney in your state if you’ve got questions on this end-of-life planning.

Planning Is The Best Option

U.S. Trust conducts an annual survey of high-net-worth and ultra- high-net-worth Americans. A few of their findings:

• “U.S. Trust found that family dynamics, including change in family structures and roles among men, women and multiple generations, affect both immediate and extended family members. While families grow more complex, so do their challenges.”

• “Regardless of age, the wealthy feel strongly about putting their financial success to work in a way that is meaningful and will create positive social change. They rank ‘giving back to society’ among the most important uses of their wealth, and would like to help foster greater income equality and opportunity in the country.”

A few considerations they suggest:

• “Blended families have unique needs for wealth and estate planning. Wealthy investors with complex family structures may wish to consult an advisor to make sure their estate plan transfers wealth to current and former spouses, children and other heirs in the manner and proportion they desire.”

• “Multigenerational trusts can also be helpful in supporting current needs while planning for an eventual tax-efficient transfer to the next generation. High-net-worth investors may wish to ask their advisors about ways to generate income for older members of the family while ensuring long-term financial security for younger ones.”

For an interesting and informative 5 minute summary of the survey, take a look at this video.

As always, planning is the best option when it comes to complex family dynamics. Invest the time and money to protect your wealth, your goals, and your family.

Steve Seymour Elected to Board of Directors for Hood River Chamber of Commerce

Steven-Seymour-ThumbCongratulations to Steve Seymour, who was recently elected to the Board of Directors for the Hood River County Chamber of Commerce. Steve plays a key role for the firm’s office in downtown Hood River. 

Steve is a longtime member of the Columbia Gorge community. As the Former Adjutant for Mosier Post 55 of the American Legion, he served veterans of the US military while promoting patriotism in the community.

Hood River is about an hour from Portland, located at the crossroads of the spectacular Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area and the Cascade Range. The area is known not only for its outdoor recreation and dramatic vistas, but also as a hub for agriculture, wineries, breweries and cider producers. The Hood River County Chamber of Commerce supports economic development and tourism in Hood River, Cascade Locks, Odell, Parkdale, Pine Grove, and Mount Hood. 

Some of the Chamber’s signature events include the Hard-Pressed Cider Fest, Blossom Fest, Roy Webster Cross Channel Swim, Hops Fest, Harvest Fest, and Hood River Holidays.

You can find out more about the Chamber at www.hoodriver.org.

Oregon’s Investor Defender Seeks Transparency

Robert S. Banks Jr. is a Portland securities litigator making news in The New York Times for his efforts to shine a light on how the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”) manages expungement requests. The article highlights the concern over FINRA’s BrokerCheck service for investors to:

“Search for information about brokers and brokerage firms. Search for information about investment adviser firms and representatives. Obtain online background reports, if available. Link to additional resources such as educational tools for investors.”

Mr. Banks emphasized the importance of keeping accurate broker records as “an important part of the public’s trust in the brokerage industry.” As with other missteps in life, one can see where expungement may be appropriate, but with the case in the article the broker’s regulatory file included 41 customer complaints and a job termination. It’s difficult to paint that as a misstep.

Floating in Stormy Seas: Resources for Aging Loved Ones

If you are afloat in the often confusing or stressful waters of helping or managing aging parents and loved ones, then there are a few resources that may help calm the stormy seas:

1. Helen Hempel, a former Oregon elder law attorney, has co-authored Life: The Next Phase – Navigating the Issues of Caring for Aging Parents or Loved Ones.

“It provides you with practical roadmaps that guide you through four of the situations they are likely to face: needing part-time assistance, needing full-time assistance, handling a crisis, and preparing for what might happen in the future. This book gives you best practices and tools so that you can help your parent or loved one live the highest quality of life for their situation. And it will help you care for them without losing yourself in the process.”

2. Kevin Burke, a professional guardian with offices in Oregon and Washington, wrote: Guardian: The Art of Restoring Lives.

“Guardian is without a doubt the most optimistic book about elder financial abuse ever written. The stories here all show some the most vulnerable people in the country facing completely dire circumstances and triumphing. None of this is unusual. Physical, emotional and spiritual revival are available to victimized elders. All of us who know and care for elders can make this happen. And even better is knowing how to prevent elders from becoming victims in the first place.”

Elder Justice Initiative

The United States Department of Justice just launched the Elder Justice Initiative.  Enter your zip code and it provides nationwide resources for victims of elder abuse and financial exploitation, their families, and practitioners who serve them.

The goal is not only to provide a central location for contact information, but also to facilitate further research.

“Research on elder abuse is expanding our knowledge about its causes, risk factors, outcomes and interventions. Research has shown, for example, that:

• Approximately one in ten seniors over the age of 60 is abused each year.

• Of those seniors abused, the majority are older women who live in the community rather than in nursing homes or other senior living facilities.

• Elder abuse is grossly underreported, with about 1 of every 23 cases of elder abuse being reported to appropriate protective services.

• Cognitive decline, even mild cognitive incapacity, is a pronounced risk factor for financial capability and therefore a risk factor for financial exploitation.

• Seniors who have been abused are more likely to be institutionalized in a nursing home or to be hospitalized than those not abused.”

How do I Choose the Right Lawyer? Part 1: Finding a Lawyer

At last count, Oregon had around 12,000 active resident lawyers. This is a little over 30 lawyers for every 100,000 residents in the entire state. So, you wouldn’t think that it should be difficult to select a lawyer to help you with your legal questions. However, this is a question that people ask us all the time, because it’s hard to pick the lawyer that’s right for you, your business, and your family.

Let’s say that you already have decided that you need to retain the services of a lawyer. (Perhaps after reading this helpful gem from our blog archives). You still have to find the best lawyer for you. In this occasional series on WealthLawBlog.com, we’re going to first look at common ways that clients find lawyers to represent them. Then, we’ll look at things that you should think about when you are interviewing lawyers to work on your project. Finally, we’ll look at some of the things to keep in mind when you need a specialized type of attorney.

1. The Internet and other paid ads

We’ve all done it – let’s say that you need a plumber. So you Google “Plumber” or maybe you go to Angie’s List or Yelp to look for reviews on plumbers in your area. This is an increasingly common, but unpredictable way to select a lawyer. Unlike a leaky pipe, online reviewers will almost never disclose all of the facts of their case. Therefore, you can’t really tell if the lawyer would do a good job for you or not. Additionally, many of the most experienced lawyers started practicing law at a time when the rules of professional conduct didn’t allow lawyers to advertise in any way other than a small posting in the phone book. Law firms of all sizes are investing more into their internet presence (like WealthLawBlog.com) as a way to communicate with clients, and advertising in general. However, we have heard that it is hard for firms to distinguish themselves online so all of the law firms start to look the same.

2. State Bar Referral Line

Most state bar associations have a phone number that you can call and they will refer you to an attorney. These are services that attorneys subscribe to in order to generate business. They say generally what area of law they practice in and where they are willing to meet clients. The advantage to these lists is that the lawyers agree to only charge a nominal amount for the initial discussion. Also, if you don’t know any lawyers, this may be a way to find someone. The disadvantage is that you never know what quality of attorney you are going to get. The folks that work at the referral lines rotate through the lists of attorneys in the practice and geographic areas as potential clients call in to the phone number. You might get a great attorney, or you might get someone who is not so great. Many attorneys also don’t like this list, because it is not the way to get the very best clients – i.e., those who are easy to work with and pay their bills on time.

3. Family and Friends

Most of us have friends and family who have had to hire a lawyer in the past. You can ask them how their experience was and what advice they would have. If their case was similar to yours, you can ask them if they think that you should hire the lawyer they worked with. You have to keep in mind though, that they may not be comfortable sharing all the details of what they worked with the lawyer on and their lawyer won’t be able to discuss it because of client confidentiality, which we’ll talk about next time. Similarly, you may not want to go into specifics with your family or friend. We deal with very sensitive matters in this office, and clients often want to keep things confidential. This may mean that you, your friend, or family member may be acting without the complete picture when they refer you to an attorney. In that case, I’d recommend that you get referrals from a number of different folks.

If you are fortunate enough to be related to, or friends with, an attorney (Hi Mom!), that person may be able to help you with your concern or can help you figure out what kind of attorney should be able to help you best and then refer you to a couple of attorneys. Lawyers who are active in an area will generally hear things about the best and worst lawyers out there and can help you find someone. We get referrals all the time from other lawyers who have a client that needs some specialized help or that needs a lawyer with a presence in Portland or Hood River.

4. Referrals from other professionals

Finally, lawyers get many of our best referrals from other professionals in the area. Your accountant, doctor, or financial advisor probably knows you very well. They also almost certainly know a variety of lawyers who practice in the area and may be able to refer you to a lawyer that can help you solve the problem in front of you but that may also be a good fit for you and your situation. A financial advisor, for example, will generally only refer a client to someone that they really believe will be a good fit for the client, as they often believe that it would reflect poorly on them if it didn’t work out.

That said, an accountant may refer a client to lawyers who have different approaches to problem solving. For example, we often see referral lists in litigation cases where one of the lawyers is settlement-oriented, another of the lawyers is a take-no-prisoners-fight-to-the-death-oriented, and the third lawyer is somewhere in between the two.

Lawyers like referrals from other professionals that they trust. The most effective business owners, litigants, and consumers of legal services are also those who have good teams of professionals around them. So, if your accountant and tax lawyer communicate well, then it will save you time and money.

* * *

Once you have found an attorney, you have to figure out if they are the right person to represent you. Our next article in this series will discuss how to interview a lawyer (once you’ve found them) to see if they’d be a good fit for your team.