Patricia Annino Receives “Best in Wealth Management” Award

The Euromoney Legal Media Group chose Patricia Annino, Chair of Prince Lobel’s Estate Planning and Probate Practice Group, to receive the prestigious “Best in Wealth Management” award at the second annual Americas Women in Business Law Award ceremony held May 24, 2012, in New York City.

Selected from a short-list of eight well-known, highly-qualified nominees, Patricia’s award was based on extensive peer review research conducted by Euromoney’s research team, her professional accomplishments during the past 12 months, and her advocacy and influence in the field of wealth management.

Following the success of similar award ceremonies in Europe and Asia, the Americas Women in Business Law Awards was launched by Euromoney Legal Media Group to give law firms and professional services firms the recognition they deserve for their efforts in helping women advance in the legal profession.

Patricia Annino is a nationally recognized expert on estate planning and taxation, with more than 25 years of experience serving the estate planning needs of families, individuals, and owners of closely held and family businesses. She speaks regularly on many issues of concern to family owned businesses, including succession planning, risk management, managing a business with multiple stakeholders, the risk of divorce, and more. Annino is a graduate of Smith College and Suffolk University School of Law.

Patricia is the author of two widely utilized professional texts: Estate Planning in Massachusetts, and Taxwise Planning for Aging, Ill, or Incapacitated Clients. Patricia’s recent books for consumers include, Cracking the $$ Code: What Successful Men Know and You Don’t (Yet), Women in Family Business: What Keeps You up at Night, and Women & Money, A Practical Guide to Estate Planning.

About Prince Lobel

Prince Lobel Tye LLP is a full-service law firm providing a wide range of services for Fortune 1000 companies, closely held businesses, and individuals. Prince Lobel’s attorneys are guided by the highest standards of legal excellence, professionalism, and service – whether they are addressing complex business issues or providing advice on personal legal matters. Practice areas and industries served encompass corporate law, data privacy and security, domestic relations, employment law, estate planning and probate, insurance and reinsurance, intellectual property and Internet law, litigation, media law, nanotechnology, real estate, telecommunications law, construction law, environmental law, renewable energy, health care, and education. For more information, visit Prince Lobel at

Patricia Annino is a sought after speaker and nationally recognized authority on women and estate planning.  She educates and empowers women to value themselves and their contributions in order to ACCOMPLISH GREAT THINGS in the world – and in so doing PROTECT THEMSELVES, those they love, and the organizations they care about.  Annino recently released an updated version of her successful book, Women and Money: A Practical Guide to Estate Planning to include recent changes in the laws that govern how we protect our assets during and beyond our lifetime.  To download Annino’s FREE eBook, Estate Planning 101 visit,

Gifting Ownership of the Vacation House: A Gift or a Curse?

Ben Franklin once said that fish and houseguests smell after three days. But what if the houseguest co-owns the house? The perils of the vacation home, what to do with it, who should own it and what the rules are can be a source of family satisfaction and family conflict.

Under current law, the 2012 federal gift exemption is $5,120,000. Since many parents and grandparents are uncertain of their economic future, they may not want to gift assets that still earn income. Nor do they want to give away assets that have a low income tax basis that may be sold in the future. For these families, the vacation home is an attractive asset to consider gifting.

Gifting the vacation house to the next generation, or to a dynasty trust for the benefit of subsequent descendants, can remove that home (and any appreciation in its value) from the taxable estate. But before heading down that path, homeowners must carefully consider how that home will be owned post transfer.  We will explore three options: (i) outright ownership, (ii) an irrevocable trust (which could be a dynasty trust), and (iii) a family limited partnership or a limited liability company.

Outright Ownership

Often, the choice of making an outright gift of the vacation home is not appealing, whether the next generation owns the property as tenants in common, or as joint tenants with a right of survivorship. Many states have the right to compel a sale of that asset through a court proceeding, so the ownership of the home may be divisible in a divorce and subject to that family member’s creditors.

Also, family issues and resentments may develop with co-ownership. The child who lives out of state and never uses the home may resent sharing the expenses. Plus, with each generational transfer, the ownership becomes more fractionalized and the ownership of the asset is included in the taxable estate of each subsequent generation. There could also be conflict, such as who uses it the week of July 4th? Who pays for maintenance? Should rent be charged to cover expenses?

Irrevocable Trust (could be a dynasty trust)

A more appealing option for many families is transferring ownership of the home to an irrevocable trust. To complete the gift, the trust must be irrevocable, meaning that the donor cannot retain the ability to change, amend, or revoke its terms. The art of drafting an irrevocable trust is to remember that life is a movie not a snapshot, and that the document, while irrevocable, must also be flexible enough to contemplate the future.

The trust should address what happens to the child’s share at his or her death, whether or not the child’s spouse or stepchildren can continue to use the property in a divorce, or if the child predeceases his or her spouse. It should also address who is responsible for paying expenses, the line of succession of trustees, how the home should be furnished or updated, whether nonpaying guests may use the property, and who sets the rules for using the property.

Reasonable rules include who can use the property and when, the process for how that determination is made, whether use can be exclusive or must be open to all families all the time, payment of operating expenses, noise, cleanliness, pets, number of people, who pays for landscaping, parking, whether the property can be rented to nonfamily members, and other issues affecting the use and enjoyment of the property. The trust document can also address who has the right to determine the operating reserve and when income and/or principal may be distributed to the beneficiaries.

It may be also helpful for the donor to state intent – perhaps the use of the property is not intended to be equal, but based on relative degrees of interest in and ability to enjoy the property, and to take into account relative contributions (financial or otherwise) to its maintenance and improvement.

The document may also include a buyout provision by which one beneficiary (or beneficiary’s family) can sell his or her interest to other family members. Many families do not allow family members to cash out of their share in the home. An advantage to restricting what a family member can do to convert his or her share to liquid funds provides additional creditor protection and also helps keep that interest out of the taxable estate of subsequent descendants.

The trust should also address the mechanism by which a decision can be made to sell the home – should a decision that important be left only in the hands of the trustee? Should it include the trustees and all adults in the next generation? Should the vote be by majority or unanimous? The tension in that choice is that one family member who wants to use it more than others may block the sale for personal gain.

It is important to fund the trust with enough liquid assets to cover ongoing expenses and trustees. Future family discord might be avoided if family members who do not use the property are not expected to help cover its expenses. The funding can occur during the donor’s lifetime or at his or her death, through the donor’s estate plan. Once the property is transferred to the trust, the trustees should ensure that the property has sufficient property and casualty insurance coverage.

The trust document should also address the duration of the trust. It could end at a certain date, when the underlying asset is sold, when the trustees decide to end it, when the trustees and all adult beneficiaries agree to end it, when the Rule Against Perpetuities Period ends it, or if it is governed by a state that does not have any Rule Against Perpetuities, then it may never end.

Family Limited Partnership or Limited Liability Company.

A third choice is transferring the home to a family limited partnership or limited liability company, where the terms of the operating agreement control how the property is used. These entities are more businesslike than a trust, as they are members or partners. They offer the same benefits of the irrevocable trust, but may be more flexible. The operating agreement can provide a mechanism that allows it to be amended. If the entity is underfunded, the manager or general partner can make a capital call on the owners to contribute additional funds to the entity. As with the trust, the agreement will appoint a manager or management committee. The ownership structure can have two classes- voting and nonvoting. The transfer of ownership through sale or gift can be restricted.

Another benefit to gifting in this manner is that the valuation of the gift may have additional leverage and qualify for minority discounts or lack of marketability discounts. If the gift is not made all at once – but rather over several years – then all gifts are made off the record of the respective Registries of Deeds. In other words, the transfer to the entity is recorded initially, but ensuing gifts are transfers of the units or shares in the entity and are done within the entity itself, not in the Registry. This can save annual recording fees.  Additional benefits include income tax consequences in that each owner may have the benefit of the income and deductions flow through to his or her individual income tax returns.

Summary. Gifting the vacation house this year while the federal exemption is so high may be a very wise move. It is important for clients to think through their choice of entity and the considerations mentioned above before making this irrevocable decision.

Patricia Annino is a sought after speaker and nationally recognized authority on women and estate planning.  She educates and empowers women to value themselves and their contributions in order to ACCOMPLISH GREAT THINGS in the world – and in so doing PROTECT THEMSELVES, those they love, and the organizations they care about.  Annino recently released an updated version of her successful book, Women and Money: A Practical Guide to Estate Planning to include recent changes in the laws that govern how we protect our assets during and beyond our lifetime.  To download Annino’s FREE eBook, Estate Planning 101 visit,

Donor Education – Why Effective Donor Education Programs Are Important

One of the most effective ways to educate donors and help them achieve financial literacy is through sustained and focused donor education programs. The process of understanding the power of philanthropy and how it works best for a donor’s goals and objectives takes time. When donors learn together, share their ideas and understand what other donors have done and are doing, they become more comfortable with the process.

Donor education programs which focus on philanthropy and related topics, such as financial issues for women, can teach both men and women how to achieve the joy of giving while living. Your institution can incorporate into the donor education event faculty and student presentations which integrate messages into the mission of your institution. These programs can help differentiate/distinguish your institution and create deeper relationships with donors, alumnae, and alumni spouse (Women’s Philanthropy Institute 2009, 15). (8)

Effective donor education, combined with financial literacy, can also provide networking opportunities. Associating with women of similar financial standing increases their willingness to use their money to leave a legacy. This is especially relevant for women who are learning to be comfortable with their wealth. Many baby boomer women in this country will inherit twice—once from their parents and once from their spouse.  Nevertheless, donors will not give until they know that they can take care of themselves first. As an estate planning attorney, the most common question I hear from a new widow is, “Do I have enough money to live on?” (Of course that question should be asked many years before that moment in time.) Taking the time to systematically educate your women donors, to help them achieve financial literacy, to teach them that by gifting they can reap both current and future rewards will help empower them to act when they receive their “double inheritance.”

Patricia Annino is a sought after speaker and nationally recognized authority on women and estate planning.  She educates and empowers women to value themselves and their contributions in order to ACCOMPLISH GREAT THINGS in the world – and in so doing PROTECT THEMSELVES, those they love, and the organizations they care about.  Annino recently released an updated version of her successful book, Women and Money: A Practical Guide to Estate Planning to include recent changes in the laws that govern how we protect our assets during and beyond our lifetime.  To download Annino’s FREE eBook, Estate Planning 101 visit,

New Risks to Wealth Management: To Gift or Not to Gift

Traditional risks related to the family’s wealth (including financial, intellectual and social assets) include the illness or death of the key family stakeholder, economic downturn and changes in the regulatory or legal environment. New risks are triggered by the dissipation of wealth due to generational mathematics—with each ensuing generation, the wealth is splintered—and the lack of creation of new wealth; this very turbulent economic time; the increased complexity of legal and tax matters; and the increased complexity of wealth management choices. These risks can be mitigated when the family coordinates its advisors and monitors the integration of all professional services.

The risks are further mitigated when the family embraces and encourages financial education and financial literacy across the generations. Mentoring, shadowing, exposure to the concepts and resources along the generation continuums reduces the chances for unintended consequences.

New Risk: The Bracket Game:  To Gift or Not to Gift…That Is The Question…..

On December 17, 2010, President Obama signed the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation Act of 2010 (the Act). The Act significantly changes the federal estate tax, which impacts estate planning for many and presents significant estate planning opportunities. The biggest surprise in the new law is the ability to give $5,000,000 of assets away now and remove those assets and any appreciation in their value from the donor’s taxable estate. In a marriage, this doubles the amount to $10,000,000. This law is in effect until December 31, 2012, and it is unclear what the state of the law will be from 2013 on.

This significant increase in the gift exemption adds to the donor’s ability to gift the annual exclusion of $13,000 each year and the donor’s ability to pay anyone’s tuition and medical expenses as long as payment is made to the provider.

The Act has prompted spirited discussions, “Well, now that I can really give that much, should I? What are the non tax risks to making those gifts?”

     Factors to consider when deciding whether to gift or not to gift:

1.     How much is enough?

This question is always worth discussing. Warren Buffet’s answer is, “Leave your children enough money so they can do anything, but not enough that they don’t have to do anything (although Buffet did not leave his children the bulk of his fortune, he did leave each of them a foundation of $1billion dollars to give to the charities of their choosing).  In my experience, the answer depends upon the individual, often changes over the lifetime of the donor and has to do with his/her children and the economic times.

2.     What strings do I want on the gift?

Whatever the amount, you must decide how much control there    is over the gift. Is it to be given outright? In trust? Who is the trustee? How long should the trust extend? What are the terms of distribution? Who are the permissible beneficiaries?

3.     Should I leverage the gift?

In addition to the strings that you want to impose on the gift, you should also address leverage. If you make a gift that is eligible for a minority or marketability discount, that increases the value of the gift by at least 20%. If you fund an irrevocable trust and anticipates that the trustee will use the funds to make annual life insurance premium payments, then significantly more may be added to the trust through leverage than if the gift were to be invested along more traditional methods.

4.     Am I willing to assume the risk that the gift, once given, is gone?

What if the donee becomes divorced or has creditor issues during the donor’s lifetime, and the gift is jeopardized? Can you live with that consequence? The cascading effects from a gift can have far reaching consequences. For example, if the donor parent gifts 20% of the stock in his closely held business to his children; and one of the children becomes divorced, it is not just that the child’s interest in the business may be vulnerable. Even if it is not vulnerable, the divorce court also has the right to order the valuation of the child’s interest in that business. To do that means valuing the business in its entirety;  and having that asset valued in a hostile environment—where the ex-in-law’s lawyer will try to value that as high as possible—will in all likelihood be in direct opposition to the donor parent’s valuation and appraisals for estate planning and transfer tax purposes. In addition, if the donee child is ordered to pay alimony or child support, then the income from the gifted asset will be taken into account when the court establishes the dollar amount. If the income is phantom income, which the child donee does not actually receive, that can present additional complications and litigation.

5.     Am I willing to give up the “fruit as well as the tree”?

In most cases, the fruit and the tree—meaning the income and the principal—go hand in hand. For example, are you ready to give away 20% of the underlying asset, knowing that the corresponding 20% of the income which is attributable to that asset will also no longer be available to you?

6.     Have I considered gift splitting?

Gift splitting—where one spouse makes the gift, and the other gives consents to that gift—is a very effective estate planning technique for the second marriage couple. Frequently, in that case, one spouse is wealthier than the other. If the less wealthy spouse does not have $5,000,000 of assets in his/her own right, then using the less wealthy spouse’s $5,000,000 exemption in full or gift splitting, with the wealthier spouse giving his/her assets to his/her own children can be a very creative technique. In effect, it doubles the amount that can be gifted. When considering this technique, especially if there is a prenuptial agreement or postnuptial agreement in place, care should be taken to protect the estate of the less wealthy spouse who consented to this gift or allowed the use of his/her $5,000,000 exemption.  The possibility that the exemption could decrease later, resulting in additional estate taxes in his/her estate to his/her beneficiaries, should be thought through and discussed.

7.     Should I gift more than the $5,000,000/$10,000,000 exemption and incur the 35% gift  tax?

For many very wealthy individuals, this is a question to consider seriously. The gift/estate tax rate has not been this low in eight decades. The difference between a tax exclusive gift and a tax inclusive bequest is significant at the higher dollar levels, and exploring this (especially if the underlying assets have significant growth potential or discount opportunities) should be an option.

 Solution: Creation of a Family Risk Management Policy Statement:

A solid family risk management policy contains the purpose, principle and procedure for implementation. The purpose of a family risk management policy may be to reduce the risk for family members, both individually and as a whole. Adherence to the policy would go far to protect the family’s human and financial assets and minimize potential liability. The principle of the policy may be to make clear that the responsibility is to identify the areas of high risk and to do whatever possible to mitigate that risk. The procedure of the policy may make it clear that each family member is expected to:

  • Achieve financial literacy with regard to his or her own wealth as well as the wealth of the family enterprise.
  • Draft and have both parties sign a pre-nuptial agreement.
  • Contact their insurance providers annually to review their insurance coverage to ensure that they are current and adequate.
  • Have in place basic estate planning documents: will, revocable trust, health care proxy, power of attorney for financial assets.
  • Participate in the development of an investment policy that is aligned with the family’s shared values.
  • Protect the family’s reputation by learning how each individual’s behavior, both positive and negative, can impact the family’s reputation.

A family risk management policy statement is dynamic. It should be reviewed and adjusted as the risks that families face evolve and change.


Patricia Annino is a sought after speaker and nationally recognized authority on women and estate planning.  She educates and empowers women to value themselves and their contributions in order to ACCOMPLISH GREAT THINGS in the world – and in so doing PROTECT THEMSELVES, those they love, and the organizations they care about.  Annino recently released an updated version of her successful book, Women and Money: A Practical Guide to Estate Planning to include recent changes in the laws that govern how we protect our assets during and beyond our lifetime.  To download Annino’s FREE eBook, Estate Planning 101 visit,

New Risk to Family Cohesiveness: Impact to individual goals and life plans

New Risk to Family Cohesiveness: Impact to individual goals and life plans by the increasing lifespan of baby-boomer generation. Take the Steps Now to Put the Oxygen Over Your Own Face First and Decide Who Will Make Your Health and Financial Decisions If You Are Unable To Do So.

Another risk to family cohesiveness is the impact of increased lifespan to individual goals and life plans. Traditional risks included the illness, death or incapacity of a key family figure. In the family business and in the co-ownership of investment and commercial assets, the new risk is the increased work lifespan of the older generation, which results in the delayed succession of the middle generation. In essence, with the older generation in good physical and mental health and working far longer, the middle generation may in effect be knocked out of position and never get its day in the sun. By the time the older generation decides to move along, the individual goals and life plans of the middle generation may have been passed by; and the baton may be passed to the next generation. This new risk can be mitigated by intentional strategic planning and clear communication among all generations as to what the expectations are for the working lifespan and when the baton should/will pass.

Strategies to Mitigate the Risk of Increased Lifespan to the Ability to Control Your Own Health and Affairs and the Risk to Next Generation’s Life Plans:

1. Understand that estate planning is much more than what happens when you die; in an increasingly aging population that is living longer disability or incapacity planning is essential. Make sure you have in place the legal mechanisms so that you can be taken care of in the way you desire. It is important we all remember what the flight attendant says every time you board a plane- if the cabin pressure changes and the oxygen mask falls down put that mask over your own face first –it is only when you do put the mask over your own face that you will have the strength to protect others. In other words, protect yourself first.

2. Make sure the documents that will protect you if you are unable to care for yourself (Health Care Proxy and Durable Power of Attorney) are up to date and the way you want them.

A Health Care Proxy is a document in which you give the authority to an agent to make medical care decisions if he/she becomes unable to make them. The document can authorize everything, including minor and routine medical involvement, and can give the agent access to all your medical records. It can authorize someone to supervise your care if you are incapacitated, to consent to have you undergo certain types of treatment or to have them withdraw from treatment; to make hospital or nursing care arrangements; and to employ or discharge caregivers.   It can also empower the agent to make such major decisions as whether or not to terminate your life.

Under federal law, only one person at a time can be named as health care agent, but a Health Care Proxy can name a succession of people as alternatives.  This is done so that someone else can take over if, for instance, both spouses are in the same car crash, and neither one of them is in a condition to make medical decisions.  A copy of the Health Care Proxy should be given to your primary care physician and becomes part of the medical record.

As with a financial Durable Power of Attorney, in the health care area, couples usually designate each other to make medical care decisions and list their children as successor agents.  The health care agent must be someone they trust, who shares your value system, who is willing to perform the task and who has a clear understanding of what your preferences are.

It is prudent to update this document regularly, and, when it is updated, to make sure that the most recent contact information for those who have been designated to make health care decisions (including all telephone numbers and cell phone numbers) are current. If the Health Care Proxy was executed prior to The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (known as HIPPA) then the document must be updated. Under HIPPA, if you do not expressly waive your right to privacy in writing, hospitals and physicians do not have the legal right to speak with the health care agent or to release medical information to that person.

Choose a Health Care Agent. This important person may have different titles in different states (such as “health care agent,” “health proxy,” “patient advocate,”  “attorney-in-fact,” “health care representative,” or “health surrogate”), but the responsibilities are the same.  The official requirements for health care agents also vary from state to state, but most states simply specify that the person must be an adult (over 18) and must be someone who does not work for your health care provider or for an adult care facility in which you are residing.

It is good to designate both a health care agent and a successor agent (choice #1 and choice # 2), in case you need help at a time when the agent you have chosen is not available.  You should decide which child to choose, and if you have  no spouse or children, which friend or relative to choose.

In order for you to choose a health care agent wisely, it is helpful to establish a basis for evaluating potential candidates. That evaluation should include the following criteria:

1) Religious beliefs:  Since the concept of withholding artificial life supports runs contrary to the teachings of several religions – most notably the Catholic Church – it is helpful to find a health care agent who shares your  religious beliefs and your position on right-to-die issues.

2) Willingness to take on this task.

3)  Strength to act on your wishes and speak out on your behalf (even if faced with doctors, institutions, or family members who disagree).

4) Communication:  The agent is comfortable talking to you about sensitive issues and capable of listening to and absorbing what it is that you want.

5)  Separation:  This is a person who can differentiate between his/her feelings and yours and be able to do what you want done.

6)  Proximity: This is someone who either lives close or could travel quickly to be there when needed.

7)  Availability:  This person is likely to be accessible and capable of performing tasks well into the future.

8)  Personal Understanding:  He/she knows you well enough to intuit what is important to your.

9)  Negotiation skills:  He/she can mediate conflicts between family members, friends, and medical personnel.

Figuring Out What You Want: The following questions are designed to help you know yourself and to form a basis for discussion with the person you choose to execute your health care power of attorney.

1)  The Pleasures of Health:  How essential are these capabilities to your happiness?  (I.e. are they, Vital, Important, Mildly Important, Not important)


*Enjoying the outdoors

*Eating, tasting



*Attending religious services

*Listening to Music

*Watching television

*Avoiding pain and discomfort

*Being with loved ones


*Being self-sufficient

2)  Fear Factors:  What are your biggest concerns about the end of your life?

3)  Spirituality:  How much of your comfort and support comes from religion?  From personal prayer?  From interaction with clergy?

4)  End of life: If you had the power to decide, what would the last day of your life be like?  Where would you be?  With whom?  What would you be doing?  What would your final words be?

5) Assistance Preferences Worksheet:  It is useful to discuss with your health care agent (and family members as well) the types of assistance you might want, should you need help, and to revisit this issue from time to time, because your preferences could very well change. Looking at each of the different scenarios spelled out below, think through what your preferences would be by asking yourself the following questions:

a) Would I still want to live at home?

b) Would I want caregivers hired to help me out in my home?

c) Would I want to be taken to a rehab or assisted living center?

d) Would I want family members to care for me?

e)  Would I want to live with one of my children?

f)  Would I want one of my children or a relative to live with me?

g) Would I want my health care agent to make these decisions for me?

h)  Would my answers differ if my spouse were still living at home?

-If you were unable to drive a car ___

-If you were unable to climb stairs ___

-If physical problems prevented you from being able to dress yourself ___

-If you had to use a wheelchair because you were no longer able to walk ___

-If you were unable to leave your home ___

-If your vision were seriously impaired ____

-If your hearing were seriously impaired ___

-If you needed kidney dialysis ___

-If you needed chemotherapy ____

-If you were in physical discomfort most of the time ___

-If you could no longer control you bladder ___

-If you could no longer control your bowels ___

-If you could not think clearly ___

The more you take the time now not only to think through who you wish to choose as a Health Care Proxy, but also how who would want various future scenarios to be addressed by that person, the more likely your wishes will be honored in the future.

Make sure (especially if you are in a second marriage) that you have coordinated the person chosen as your Health Care Agent with the person named as your Trustee and/or your Attorney in fact under a Durable Power of Attorney so that the decisions about your medical care and how to pay for it are coordinated.

What challenges are you facing in your estate individual goals and life plan?  Share your stores in the comment section below.

Patricia Annino is a sought after speaker and nationally recognized authority on women and estate planning.  She educates and empowers women to value themselves and their contributions in order to ACCOMPLISH GREAT THINGS in the world – and in so doing PROTECT THEMSELVES, those they love, and the organizations they care about.  Annino recently released an updated version of her successful book, Women and Money: A Practical Guide to Estate Planning to include recent changes in the laws that govern how we protect our assets during and beyond our lifetime.  To download Annino’s FREE eBook, Estate Planning 101 visit,

Four Estate Planning Myths: Forget About Estate Taxes

Why Estate Planning is Important for All Clients

Many of our clients rely on the common myth that “estate planning is only for people who are richer than we are” to prevent them from taking that first step towards planning. That is not true. Putting an estate plan in place is important no matter what your client’s net worth is.

Why is that so many of us and our clients work our entire lives to make sure that we are secure and that our families are well provided for, and yet put so little thought into what would happen if we become disabled or die? Even Houdini could not escape death. It is normal to want to avoid dealing with the prospect of disability or death, but at the same time it is vital that we push forward and take the necessary steps to safeguard what we have accomplished during our lives.

Four Reasons Why Your Clients Should Act Now

Here are four reasons to encourage your clients (no matter how rich or how poor) to put their affairs in order now:

Reason 1: Estate Planning Is Not Just to Protect Your Client’s Family When They Die; It Is to Protect Your Clients While They Are Alive.

Estate planning today is far more than a Will. It addresses what happens if your clients become disabled or incapacitated. By showing your client how to put appropriate legal documents, such as a durable power of attorney and a living trust, in place with necessary safeguards, the estate planning process enables them to select who should be in charge of their assets if they are alive but lose the ability to handle their own financial affairs.

Most couples’ homes are their biggest asset, for example. Unfortunately, that asset will be frozen if one of them becomes disabled or incapacitated. If a husband and wife own their home jointly with a right of survivorship at the death of the first spouse the ownership of that home will pass to the surviving spouse. If instead, one of them becomes disabled or incapacitated and is unable to handle his or her financial affairs, then the house is frozen, since both signatures are required to transfer, sell, mortgage or deed the home. At death, a retirement planning asset is paid to the named beneficiary — normally the spouse. If instead, the plan-holder becomes disabled or incapacitated, that retirement plan is frozen, as only the plan-holder has the ability, during his or her lifetime, to make decisions concerning investments, hardship withdrawals and emergency loans.

The same thing is true for a single person. If your client becomes incapacitated and all of their assets are in their name alone, they will be frozen. If, however the couple had executed durable powers of attorney by which they gave each other the authority to handle those transactions then should one spouse become disabled or incapacitated the other spouse would have the legal authority to handle the transaction.

Reason 2: Estate Planning Should Begin When Your Clients Are Young.

Once your clients reach the age of majority, even if they do not have any assets, they should execute a healthcare proxy or healthcare durable power of attorney. In that document your clients may designate one person (and successors) to make their medical care decisions if they are unable to do so. They can change the document any time during their lifetime.

No doubt Terry Schiavo had no idea that at her young age she would experience serious medical issues. Because she had not expressed her intent in writing, Florida state law named her husband as her agent. Perhaps her parents would have had some comfort if they knew that she had selected him to make those decisions herself.

Designating a healthcare agent is equally critical in a second-marriage situation. Otherwise, if, for example the wife gets sick, both the adult child and the new spouse might end up vying for the right to make healthcare decisions for her. It is not fair to put them in that position, i.e., forced to negotiate in the middle of a crisis. The person who should make that decision is your client, and they should make it now.

If your clients are in a relationship with someone but they are not married, that person has no legal standing to make your client’s medical care decisions for you, or, in some states, even to visit you in the hospital. Executing a healthcare proxy or healthcare durable power of attorney can grant the person the legal authority to visit your client and to make those decisions.

It is important that your client write down the phone number of the healthcare agent in the document. After all, if they are in an accident, and it is a life-threatening situation, the healthcare professionals will want to call and discuss the situation immediately with the named agent.

It is also important to tell their healthcare agent that they have named him or her as their proxy. Make sure your client gives a copy of the document to their primary care physician and keeps a copy of it with their passport when traveling.

Reason 3: Nominating a Guardian to Protect Your Client’s Children.

If your clients have minor children, no matter what their net worth, they need an estate plan so they can choose the person who will make decisions concerning their children’s care, upbringing and education when they are not around to do so themselves. If your clients do not take the time to designate who should serve as their children’s guardian, they could be leaving that important decision to a stranger, probably a judge.

This is a decision your client not only wants to make themselves, but one they want to think through carefully. Raising someone else’s children is a tremendous responsibility and the choice of who should serve in that capacity takes time.  Your clients need a guardian who shares their value system, religious beliefs and attitude towards education. Ideally the guardian should also share your client’s money value system — what it is ok to spend money, and what it is not.

Making parental decisions is very subjective. We all have our own ideas on whether or not it is appropriate to send a child to private school, summer camp, vacations, purchase an automobile for him or her, put a down payment on a child’s home or pay for post-graduate education. Sitting down annually and writing a letter to the person your client’s has selected is a wise idea. The letter can be maintained with your client’s legal documents and replaced annually. That way, they can offer the guardian a guide to their child’s personality, such as what to watch out for and what to protect.

When choosing a guardian, if your client names a couple, such as their sister and brother-in-law, for example, then they must weigh the pros and cons. The “pro” side is since both will have the legal responsibility as guardians to make decisions, they will both feel involved actively in your child’s upbringing. If there is a medical emergency on the school playground, either one of them can act. Either one of them can attend school conferences. The “con” side is that if they divorce, your client’s child or children could be involved in a custody battle, or if one of them dies, the other, as legal guardian, has standing in custody matters.

Reason 4: If Your Clients Don’t Have an Estate Plan, Massachusetts, As the State in Which They Are Domiciled Will Write One for Them.

The laws of the state in which your clients live will dictate who receives any asset that is in their name alone. Many spouses are surprised to learn that in Massachusetts (and every other state) they do not automatically receive all of their deceased spouse’s assets. Any asset that is in your client’s spouse’s name will be split between them and their children.


It is an absolute must for you as the trusted advisor to raise the issue of estate planning now with your clients so that your clients can control the direction of their estate and ensure that their children, their own health and assets are taken care of in the way they would like it to be and not rest on others’ judgments.

Patricia Annino is a sought after speaker and nationally recognized authority on women and estate planning.  She educates and empowers women to value themselves and their contributions in order to ACCOMPLISH GREAT THINGS in the world – and in so doing PROTECT THEMSELVES, those they love, and the organizations they care about.  Annino recently announced the release of an updated version of her successful book, Women and Money: A Practical Guide to Estate Planning to include recent changes in the laws that govern how we protect our assets during and beyond our lifetime.  Annino’s book is an exhortation, resource and trusted companion for women in all facets of life.  To purchase the book visit: or for more about Annino, visit:



Will We Ever Be Able to Take the Time to Enjoy the Fruits of Our Labor?

You have watched your husband work hard for years. You have done everything you were supposed to do. You have raised your children. You have been a steady, consistent support to him and his role in the business. You think the time has finally come to buy that condo in Palm Beach or take that trip to Paris. Your husband, however, cannot switch his focus from working long enough to talk about it, let alone to commit to it.

If this situation sounds familiar, it doesn’t mean that you have to wait around; unable to make any kinds of plans because of your husband’s need to stay planted in the business. Here’s what you can do:

Plan A: State Your Case

You can tell your husband that you understand that he lives and breathes the business because that is who he is, but you still want to spend time with him and share your life with him. You can point out your concern that by the time he is ready to devote less time to the business (including overseeing the new decorations on the fourth floor bathroom) one of you may be too old and/or too sick to go anywhere or enjoy yourselves. Express what makes you happy and fulfilled. If you want to spend time in a condo in Palm Beach, whether it be sitting on the beach, joining a bridge club or doing some decorating yourself, let him know that you want to go there, even if it means being by yourself some of the time, and that whatever time he can spend there would be wonderful.

Stating your case to your husband may threaten him, but it may also help him acknowledge his mortality. The thought that he might only have ten or fifteen years left may prompt him to ask himself questions, such as, “What is it all about?” “What have I been doing with my life?” “Am I truly happy and fulfilled?” “What matters to me?” Most likely he will realize that what he cares about more than anything is his family and that part of the reason he has worked all these years is his sense of responsibility to them. At this point in his life, the best way to serve them may no longer be by continuing to work hard every single day, if by doing so, his wife, children, and grandchildren don’t see him or spend time with him the way they want to.

Plan B: Do It Anyway

If your husband doesn’t respond to conversations about what you want for yourself and your relationship with him; if he still cannot tear himself away from the business to spend quality time with you, you can go anyway. If it is something you want, need, have earned and deserve, think about taking the trip to Paris or renting a condo in Palm Beach, even if it means going without him. It is not that you want to create a crisis in your family; you are looking for a way to get your needs met.

By being proactive and not assuming that it’s all up to your husband, you are once again setting limits. In the same way you told him that you weren’t moving to Podunk when he doubted his capacity to succeed in the business, or when you informed him that you were cooking differently because you both need to improve your diets, you can let him know that you are researching condos in Palm Beach. It is another way of saying you are moving on.

If you are daunted by the prospect of behaving so assertively, recall who you were when you first got married. By and large, successful men marry strong, independent women because they don’t want to worry about them and the business. The two of you probably started out on an equal footing. Over time, as you took on the role of wife/mother/care taker, your sense of autonomy may have dissipated. If you say to your husband, “Hey, the heck with you. Guess what? I’m going to Palm Beach,” it will remind him of the person he originally married. He will remember how much fun the two of you once had, and he will want to have it again.

In the end he will most likely follow you. How many weekends will he remain alone, working and working? He will get lonely. He will think, “I’m coming home to an empty house, while my wife is enjoying herself without me. What am I doing here?” And once he takes the plunge and buys the condo, it will be an asset he won’t want to waste. Once he shows up for a weekend, he’ll think, “What’s so bad about this?” And with today’s technology, he can stay in touch with his business through his blackberry. He can be obsessive and crazy if he wants to, but at least he is with you.

Patricia Annino is a sought after speaker and nationally recognized authority on women and estate planning.  She educates and empowers women to value themselves and their contributions in order to ACCOMPLISH GREAT THINGS in the world – and in so doing PROTECT THEMSELVES, those they love, and the organizations they care about.  For more visit:


Cracking the Code: Resist the Urge to Splurge

Many women who are starting off tend to spend money as soon as they earn it. They are working hard, and they want the trappings that go along with it-good clothes, good vacations, and good handbags.

I know. I fell right into that trap. When I started working, I worked very, very hard-long hours. My pay was good, but, quite frankly, not great. And every weekend my best friend and I would take a long walk to a luxury mall and spend a lot of our paychecks on clothes and accessories. We felt good when we did it, and we felt we deserved it.

It took a long time to break that habit and even longer to pay off all that credit card debt. I wish I had been more disciplined and understood the power of compounding much earlier than I did.

If you get into debt (credit card or any other kind) the interest and penalties you pay will end up being far more than what you originally borrowed. If you invest wisely, the interest, dividends and growth in that investment that you earn will be far more than what you originally invested.

If instead of investing you borrow money and do not pay it back, or you borrow money for no good reason, then you are doubling your problems by both adding to the amount you have to pay back and by losing the financial growth that would have occurred if you had prudently invested those funds.

I took a major step forward when I began to be paid significant bonuses and broke those bonuses down into categories-spend, splurge and invest. I found it very helpful to have a portion that always went to splurge, and I have to admit that even today there is a part of the reward for a job well done that still makes me spend some on splurge.

As I have gotten older, I have added the category of philanthropy, so now when there is a significant bonus, the categories are, spend, splurge, invest and give.

Patricia Annino is a nationally recognized authority on women and estate planning.  She educates and empowers women to value themselves and their contributions in order to ACCOMPLISH GREAT THINGS in the world – and in so doing PROTECT THEMSELVES, those they love, and the organizations they care about.  For more visit:

Do I Have Enough Money?

Estate planning is designed to help you create enough wealth to keep you and your loved ones financially secure. In an effort to empower you to plan your estate wisely, let’s start with some steps you can take now. 

Gather the Facts 

To plan you must know what the facts are. Gather your financial information and compile it two different ways. First, put together a listing of your assets-list each asset, how it is titled (in your name, jointly, in your husband’s name, in a trust) and its approximate value. Include in your list:

  • Real estate
  • Investments
  • Retirement plan
  • Annuities
  • I.R.A.s
  • Business interests
  • Valuable artwork and personal effects
  • Life insurance

Now list any debt-such as:

  • Mortgage
  • home equity loan
  • installment loans

Second, put together a list of your income:

  • Your salary
  • Your spouse’s salary
  • Investment income (whether you use it in your lifestyle or your reinvest it)
  • Passive income (from rental real estate or other investments)

Next list your expenses:

  • Mortgage
  •  Rent
  • real estate taxes
  • utilities
  • insurance 

Your lifestyle expenses:

  • travel
  • entertainment
  • style
  • beauty

Your anticipated expenses, such as:

  • tuition
  • long term care needs

Take the time now to prepare a complete list. If you have any challenges or need additional information please feel free to comment below.

Check back next week for my post, Understand the Facts.  This will help you analyze the facts you have gathered.