Discussion of will and estate plan

Yes, YOU need a will. If you don’t have a will, it can cost your family and friends not only a lot of time and money, but also lots of anxiety and even heartache.

Here are four major (and certainly not the only) reasons wills are one of the most essential estate planning documents that you should most definitely have.

#1 Without a will, probate courts and the Iowa Legislature decide everything about your estate.

If you die without a will, you are leaving it up to the legislature/courts to decide who will receive your property. In some situations, even who will get to raise your children.

#2 Without a will, you cannot choose a guardian for your children.

You read that right. Without this essential estate planning document, the court will choose guardians for your children. One of the most important aspects of a will is that it allows you to designate who will be the guardian for minor children. This can ensure your children are cared for by the person that you want, not who the court chooses for you.

#3 Without a will, the probate court will choose your estate’s executor.

If you die without a will, the probate court is forced to name an executor. The executor of your estate handles tasks like paying your creditors and distributing the rest of your assets to your heirs. Of course, if the probate court has to pick who will be your estate’s executor there is always a possibility that you would not have approved of that person if you had been alive.

However, if you have this ever important document, it will name an executor who will be responsible for carrying out all of your final wishes, pay your bills, and distribute your assets just as you wanted.

Couple sitting on bench talking about wills

#4 Without a will, you can’t give your favorite nonprofits charitable gifts from your estate.

If you die without a will, your estate assets—your house, savings, automobiles, property—will pass to your heirs under Iowa’s statute. This excludes you from the enormous potential to do good by donating charitable gifts to your favorite nonprofits in your will. Testamentary gifts can help ensure causes you care about are supported well into the future.


Do you have a will? Why or why not? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

For Iowans looking for a place to start their estate planning, check out my estate plan questionnaire. It’s free, and provided to you without any obligation. I’m also happy to discuss your individual situation to help determine what estate planning tools are best for you. Reach out via email or phone at any time.

Estate planning is all about strategy—leaving the right assets and inheritances to the right beneficiaries; timely distributions of the estate; and avoiding as many taxes and fees as possible. Another strategic move is deciding whether you and your spouse should use the same lawyer, or whether you should each have your own lawyer.

If you are married, please note you have the option of hiring separate attorneys for your estate planning needs.

Though the goals of most married persons are the same when it comes to wills, trusts, and estate planning, some married individuals (especially individuals who have children from prior marriages) have differing views on the ownership of property and beneficiaries, and naming executors, trustees, and guardians. Likewise, some married individuals have private information they do not wish to share with their spouse — information that may be essential to the estate planning process that would have to be disclosed to the attorney and, therefore, disclosed to the spouse if I am representing both spouses. Additionally, sometimes married individuals have “awkward” questions they wish to ask the attorney — questions they would not be comfortable asking in the presence of their spouse, such as how a divorce might affect their estate plan.

By obtaining separate attorneys, you would be able to: (1) share in confidence any secrets or private information with your attorney that may be important to the estate planning process; (2) ask in confidence whatever questions you may have; and (3) receive completely confidential advice and counsel. If represented jointly, you will be waiving and losing all three of the above rights with respect to your spouse.

If you decide to obtain separate attorneys, this firm would be pleased to represent either one of you separately. If you are married and decide you would like this firm to represent both of you, then complete this Estate Plan Questionnaire form jointly (please do not fill out two separate forms).

Joint Representation

Two brides in white wedding dresses

For many married couples, joint representation is a likely choice. The benefits are obvious; joint representation can be cost-effective and can be more efficient since you can work together on a single Estate Plan Questionnaire in preparation to meet with the estate planning lawyer. Another advantage is that the joint representation somewhat forces open and honest communication between you as a couple as you make decisions on beneficiaries (such as children and grandchildren), executors, and disposition of property.

It’s important for your lawyer to avoid conflicts of interest, so they can uphold and respect your attorney-client privilege. If you choose to have joint representation you may waive the conflict of interest clause so that you may be represented together. Or, of course, you can seek separate legal counsel and not sign such a clause.

This communication is critical if you opt for joint representation. Without it, disaster can strike mid-meeting with the lawyer if couples disagree about which child is most responsible in terms of estate execution or how much of a trust fund each beneficiary should receive at age 18.

Individual Representation

couple holding hands in green space

There are times when it is best for each spouse to seek separate legal counsel. One such time is when there are different interests that are at odds with each other. For example, if one or both people have children from a previous marriage/relationship that will be named as beneficiaries. There can be conflicting interests between stepparents and stepchildren when it comes to the estate. Additionally, if you both have your own individual estate planning lawyer, you may have more freedom to voice individual concerns, without having to audit your opinions in accordance with your partner’s desires.


Have questions? Need more information? A great place to start is by downloading my Estate Plan Questionnaire, or feel free to reach out at any time; my email is Gordon@gordonfischerlawfirm.com and cell phone is 515-371-6077. 

Is your favorite nonprofit up-to-date on requirements for the federal income tax charitable deduction? You want to be able to ensure your donation maximize benefits for both you as a donor and the charity. Consider the following considerations and requirements.

Save $$$ and help your favorite charities even more

I always say, it’s better to give and receive. You can both give and receive by using the federal income tax charitable deduction.

A gift to a qualified charitable organization may entitle you to a charitable contribution deduction against your income tax if you itemize deductions. The out-of-pocket cost of your charitable gift is reduced by your tax savings.

Break it Down: Tax Savings

For a discussion of tax brackets, see my post called bracketology. In short, currently there are seven federal income tax brackets: 10%, 15%, 25%, 28%, 33%, 35% and 39.6%. Because the U.S. has a progressive federal tax system you’re going to fall into one of those brackets.

The charitable deduction can result in significant tax savings. For example, let’s say a donor in the 33% tax bracket gives to her favorite qualified charitable organization a donation of $100. The charity still receives the full gift of $100. But, for the donor the actual out-of-pocket cost of the gift is only $67, and the donor saves $33.

Let’s take this example and apply it to all tax brackets and see the savings which result:

federal income tax deduction table

This is a good deal for you and a good deal for your favorite causes. So why not consider using the charitable deduction?

Well, the charitable deduction requires you to be organized in your giving and maintain records. Generally speaking, the greater the deduction, the more detailed the records you are required to keep.

man carrying stacks of books

Basics of Substantiation of your Charitable Deduction

Here’s a simple explanation of IRS record keeping rules for the charitable deduction:

  • Gifts of less than $250 per donee — you need a cancelled check or receipt
  • $250 or more per donee — you need a timely written acknowledgement from the donee
  • Total deductions for all property exceeds $500 — you need to file IRS Form 8283
  • Deductions exceeding $5,000 per item — you need a qualified appraisal completed by a qualified appraiser

Wait, you ask, is it really that simple? Actually, no, not really. For the sake of your favorite nonprofit, let’s go through these categories and dig deeper.

Substantiation requirements for monetary gifts less than $250

A federal income tax deduction for a charitable contribution in the form of cash, check, or other monetary gift is not allowed unless the donor substantiates the deduction with a bank record or a written communication from the donee showing the name of the donee, the date of the contribution, and the amount of the contribution.

Meaning of “monetary gift”

For this purpose, the term “monetary gift” includes, of course, gifts of cash or by check. But monetary gift also includes gifts by use of:

  • credit card;
  • electronic fund transfer;
  • online payment service;
  • payroll deduction; or
  • transfer of a gift card redeemable for cash.

Meaning of “bank record”

Again, to claim the charitable deduction for any monetary gift, you need a bank record or written communication from the donee (charity). The term “bank record” includes a statement from a financial institution, an electronic fund transfer receipt, a cancelled check, a scanned image of both sides of a cancelled check obtained from a bank website, or a credit card statement.

Meaning of “written communication”

The term “written communication” includes email. Presumably it also includes text messages. The written communication, whether paper or electronic, must show:

  • the name of the donee;
  • the date of the contribution; and
  • the amount of the contribution.

Person writing at desk in notebook

Substantiation of gifts of $250 or more

For any contribution of either cash or property of $250 or more, a donor must receive contemporaneous written acknowledgment from the donee. Two keys here: “contemporaneous” and “written acknowledgement” both have very specific meanings to the IRS in this context

Requirements of written acknowledgment

The written acknowledgment must include:

  1. The date of the gift and the charity’s name and location.
  2. Whether the gift was cash or a description of the noncash gift.
  3. A statement that no goods or services were provided by the organization in return for the contribution, if that was the case.
  4. A description and good faith estimate of the value of goods or services, if any, that an organization provided in return for the contribution.
  5. A statement that goods or services, if any, that an organization provided in return for the contribution consisted entirely of intangible religious benefits, if that was the case.

“Contemporaneous”

For a written acknowledgment to be considered contemporaneous with the contribution, a donor must receive the acknowledgment by the earlier of: the date on which the donor actually files his or her individual federal income tax return for the year of the contribution or the due date (including extensions) of the return.

Noncash Gifts of More than $500

If you make a total of more than $500 worth of noncash gifts in a calendar year, you must file Form 8283, Noncash Charitable Contributions, with your income tax return.

You’ll only have to fill out Section A of Form 8283 if:

  • the gifts are worth less than $5,000, or
  • you’re giving publicly traded securities (even if they’re worth more than $5,000).

Otherwise you’ll be required to fill out Section B of Form 8283 and all that entails.

Noncash gifts of more than $5,000

If you donate property worth more than $5,000 ($10,000 for stock in a closely held business), you’ll need to get an appraisal. The information goes in Section B of Form 8283, Noncash Charitable Contributions.

An appraisal is required whether you donate one big item or several “similar items” that have a total value of more than $5,000. For example, if you give away a hundred valuable old books, and their total value is more than $5,000, you’ll need an appraisal even though you might think you’re really making a lot of small gifts. The rule applies even if you give the items to different charities.

Requirements for “qualified appraisal” and “qualified appraiser”

Again, noncash gifts of more than $5,000 in value, with limited exceptions, require a qualified appraisal completed by a qualified appraiser. The terms “qualified appraisal” and “qualified appraiser” are very specific and have detailed definitions according to the IRS.

Qualified Appraisal

A qualified appraisal is a document which is:

  1. made, signed, and dated by a qualified appraiser in accordance with generally accepted appraisal standards;
  2. timely;
  3. does not involve prohibited appraisal fees; and
  4. includes certain and specific information.

Let’s further examine each of these four requirements:

Qualified Appraiser

Appraiser education and experience requirements

An appraiser is treated as having met the minimum education and experience requirements if s/he is licensed or certified for the type of property being appraised in the state in which the property is located. In Iowa, for a gift of real estate, this means certification by the Iowa Professional Licensing Bureau, Real Estate Appraisers.

Further requirements for a qualified appraiser include that s/he:

  1. regularly performs appraisals for compensation;
  2. demonstrate verifiable education and experience in valuing the type of property subject to the appraisal;
  3. understands s/he may be subject to penalties for aiding and abetting the understatement of tax; and
  4. not have been prohibited from practicing before the IRS at any time during three years preceding the appraisal.

Also, a qualified appraiser must be sufficiently independent. This means a qualified appraiser cannot be any of the following:

  1. the donor;
  2. the donee;
  3. the person from whom the donor acquired the property [with limited exceptions];
  4. any person employed by, or related to, any of the above; and/or
  5. an appraiser who is otherwise qualified, but who has some incentive to overstate the value of the property.

Timing of appraisal

The appraisal must be made not earlier than 60 days prior to the gift and not later than the date the return is due (with extensions).

Prohibited appraisal fees

The appraiser’s fee for a qualified appraisal cannot be based on a percentage of the value of the property, nor can the fee be based on the amount allowed as a charitable deduction.

Specific information required in appraisal

Specific information must be included in an appraisal, including:

  1. a description of the property;
  2. the physical condition of any tangible property;
  3. the date (or expected date) of the gift;
  4. any restrictions relating to the charity’s use or disposition of the property;
  5. the name, address, and taxpayer identification number of the qualified appraiser;
  6. the appraiser’s qualifications, including background, experience, education, certification, and any membership in professional appraisal associations;
  7. a statement that the appraisal was prepared for income tax purposes;
  8. the date (or dates) on which the property was valued;
  9. the appraised FMV on the date (or expected date) of contribution;
  10. the method of valuation used to determine FMV;
  11. the specific basis for the valuation, such as any specific comparable sales transaction; and
  12. an admission if the appraiser is acting as a partner in a partnership, an employee of any person, or an independent contractor engaged by a person, other than the donor, with such a person’s name, address, and taxpayer identification number.

Appraiser’s dated signature and declaration

Again, a qualified appraisal must be signed and dated by the appraiser.  Also, there must be a written declaration from the appraiser she is aware of the penalties for substantial or gross valuation

The charitable deduction can result in significant tax savings. But, substantiation rules, as you’ve seen, can be complicated. Also, all Iowans are unique, so be sure to contact the appropriate tax professional for personal advice and counsel.

All of this can be, well, a lot. Don’t hesitate to contact me for nonprofit staff and board training on charitable giving basics! Whether you’re on the board of directors, are a nonprofit employee, or are a dedicated volunteer, your favorite nonprofit MUST have these rules down cold, and be able to communicate with donors about them. Contact me now to schedule training on charitable giving basics for your board and staff.

Fancy estate planning pen on notebook

Estate planning documents express your wishes in the event of your disability or death. However, estate planning documents must follow certain formalities to be legally enforceable. If your estate planning documents lack these formalities, they may not be enforceable, which could be disastrous for your loved ones and beneficiaries.

Iowa Requirements

Keep in mind estate planning requirements vary state by state. Let’s look at a Last Will and Testament, just one of six “must have” estate planning documents every Iowan needs. For a will to be valid in Iowa, it must comply with these requirements:

  • Maker (testator) must be at least 18 years of age or married;
  • Maker must be of “sound mind”;
  • Will must be written;
  • Will must be signed by maker in presence of at least two competent witnesses, at least 16 years of age, who also sign in presence of maker and each other; and,
  • Maker must tell the witnesses it is his or her will.

Formalities Matter

Man in suit at computer

It is important to have a reputable legal professional handle your estate planning. If you don’t, you risk missing one or more legal formalities, which might make your entire estate plan worthless. For this reason, avoid creating a will, or for that matter any estate planning documents, through an online service.

Starting an estate plan may seem like a daunting chore, but it doesn’t have to be. The easiest place to start is with my free, no obligation Estate Plan Questionnaire. Of course, you may always reach out to me at any time with any questions or concerns.

Blue journal on desk

Estate planning can be a huge relief for you and your loved ones. A quality estate plan means a sense of security that your family and other important people in your life will be provided for at the time of your death.

You’ve worked hard for what you have, but the saying is all too true: you cannot take it with you when you die. So, you may as well pass along your assets through an airtight estate plan to people you care about, as opposed to the government.

To that point, there are important, not-so-obvious benefits of an estate plan, such as avoidance of specific taxes and fees.

 

Person holding phone at table

Here are several ways to get the best benefits out of your estate planning:

Federal estate tax 

The federal estate tax applies to high net worth individuals; for 2018 the estate tax exemption is $11.2 million/individual (up from $5.49 million in 2017 due to the new tax law). What does that mean exactly? It means that any one individual could leave up to that amount to heirs and pay no federal estate tax. For married couples, the limit is $22.4 million. These are important rates to know because estate taxes can be as high as 40 percent. (Which is pretty harsh!) The good news is that smart estate planning strategies exist to legally avoid the federal estate tax.

Customized estate planning

Without a customized estate plan, you and your estate may end up paying more in the long run in professional fees, court costs, and taxes. A customized estate plan is essentially a thorough plan that takes these potential future charges into consideration. It includes elements such as a managed distributions, which can help alleviate much of the tax burden on your beneficiaries.

A customized, smart, up-to-date estate plan can mean your estate avoids court costs almost entirely. Optimally you want to avoid the worst case scenario (aka litigation) with certain estate planning provisions.

 

Professional fees can include costs for services provided by accountants and lawyers. Using a flat rate with an attorney will be much more straightforward and to your long-term economic advantage. Why? Paying someone on the front end means less work and hassle down the road when your family is coping with your passing.

Allocating charitable contributions 

This is my favorite strategy for avoiding a large brunt of taxes and fees. Mutually beneficial for both nonprofit organizations and estate beneficiaries, charitable contributions are a way to secure a lasting legacy, make a tangible community difference on the way out, and secure helpful tax deductions.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to estate planning, and a legal professional can help you identify financial advantages and benefits. (Yet another reason why you need a reputable attorney to craft your estate plan.)

Have questions? Need more information?

Click here to download my free, no-obligation Estate Plan Questionnaire or feel free to reach out any time. You can contact me by email at Gordon@gordonfischerlawfirm.com or give me a call at 515-371-6077.

College student in graduation robes

If your child went to college this year you likely helped them acquire dorm essentials, review their class schedule, and file all the necessary paperwork for enrollment, student loans, financial aid, and the like. Give yourself a pat on the back; as a parent you should feel great that the small human you raised is beginning to charter the course for a successful, fulfilling life!

However, there are likely two important documents you (and your college student) didn’t have on the college prep list: power of attorney for healthcare and financial power of attorney.

I encourage every Iowan to have these essential documents a part of their quality estate plan. However, college students are in a unique position since many don’t yet have the need for a full estate plan if they don’t have children, pets, substantial financial assets, real estate, at the time they head off for their undergraduate education. But, even if a college student doesn’t have a need for an entire estate plan, they still need these power of attorney documents. Let’s review both.

Power of Attorney for Healthcare

A power of attorney for healthcare designates someone to handle your healthcare decisions for you if you become unable to make those decisions for yourself. This essentially gives another person the power to make decisions on your behalf. For example, if you don’t want to be kept alive with machines, you can clearly outline that in your power of attorney for healthcare. Keep in mind that power of attorney for healthcare isn’t just about end-of-life decisions—it can cover any medical situation. So, in a worst case scenario, if your (adult) child were to have some sort of debilitating accident and were deemed by a medical professional unable to make healthcare decisions for themselves, then a trusted adult (such as you, the parent) could make such decisions in the best interest of their health.

Power of Attorney for Finances

The power of attorney for finances is similar to the power of attorney for healthcare; your designated agent has the power to make decisions and act on your behalf when it comes to your finances. This gives the selected agent the authority to pay bills, settle debts, sell property, or anything else that needs to be done if you become incapacitated and unable to do this yourself.

While college students may not have many financial assets, their bank accounts, credit cards and apartment leases in their name should all be taken into consideration and accounted for. Additionally, a financial power of attorney can cover digital assets including online accounts for their school, banking, email, and social media, among others. Without passing along the necessary digital information and instructions to digital accounts, parents if they’re the authorized representative, can face major headaches on issues such paying bills, accessing bank records, shutting down social media profiles, and the like she says.

Course of Action: Avoid Court

Having power of attorney documents in place also prevents someone, like you as a parent, from having to go to court to get permission to act as the student’s proxy. Avoiding court at all costs (pun intended) is a wise plan as it’s both time consuming and expensive.

Does State Residency Matter?

A power of attorney that’s validly executed in the state in which an individual has full-time residency is usually honored across the U.S. But, what if your child is enrolled at a school out-of-state? Not a problem. Simply have your in-state attorney contact a recommended attorney in the state where the school is located to confirm the power of attorney document would be valid in that state and if not, recommend provisions to ensure it would be.

College student tossing cap into air

Why Now?

When your child is a minor (under age 18) you need certain legal documents such as nomination of guardianship. Once your child turns 18 (AKA becomes a legal adult) they are no longer under your immediate care as their guardian you as their parent are no longer responsible for making their healthcare decisions. Yet, all of us need someone we trust to make decisions in our best interest, which is why adults (even college students and young professionals) need power of attorney documents established.

How to get Started? Have a conversation.

As a parent you cannot force your college student to sign a power of attorney, but you may be one of the best people to discuss the topic. While a topic that includes debilitating injuries and the prospect of death is not a pleasant one for anyone involved, it’s nonetheless important. As a trusted adult you can explain how these documents could make a vital difference in some health and financial related situations. A good place to start in the conversation is explain what the documents are and how they can be used to execute their personal wishes.


I’m always happy to help more Iowans (at any age) get the necessary estate planning documents they need. Contact me by phone or via email at gordon@gordonfischerlawfirm.com and we can get started.

There are several provisions that just about all employee handbooks should include. Let’s simply cover the top five. There are certainly numerous other important provisions to include in an employee handbook, but these five are critical and provide important protections for employers (both nonprofit and for-profit).

The employee handbook should make it clear it is NOT a contract. The employee handbook needs a “disclaimer.”

Under Iowa law it’s critically important to point out that the employee handbook is just that–a handbook–and not an employment contract. And, the employee handbook should not make any promises about continued employment. Consider using language similar to this:

I understand and agree that nothing in the Employee Handbook creates, or is intended to create, a promise or representation of continued employment and that employment at [Nonprofit/Company] is employment at will, which may be terminated at the will of either [Nonprofit/Company] or myself. Furthermore, I acknowledge that this handbook is neither a contract of employment nor a legal document.

The employee handbook should make clear it trumps other, older policies and provisions. The employee handbook needs a “superseding” provision.

The employee handbook should make clear that it includes the most up-to-date guidance on company policies. Wording like this may be helpful:

This handbook and the policies and procedures contained herein supersede any and all prior practices, oral, or written representations, or statements regarding the terms and conditions of my employment with [Nonprofit/Company]. By distributing this handbook, [Nonprofit/Company] expressly revokes any and all previous policies and procedures that are inconsistent with those contained herein.

The employee handbook should make clear it is subject to change. It needs “wiggle room” language.

 

Paperwork on table

The policies in the handbook may well be subject to change. Of course, new issues arise, and you may need to make revisions. Consider using something like the following:

I understand that, except for employment-at-will status, any and all policies and practices may be changed at any time by [Nonprofit/Company], and [Nonprofit/Company] reserves the right to change my hours, wages, and working conditions at any time. All such changes will be communicated through official notices, and I understand that revised information may supersede, modify, or eliminate existing policies.

The employee handbook should make clear that employees are “at will.”

The employee handbook must be unambiguous about employees’ at will status:

Your employment is not for any specific time and may be terminated at will with or without cause and without prior notice by [Nonprofit/Company].

The employee handbook should contain an acknowledgement page.

 

Paper and computer

It is important the employee handbook includes an acknowledgment page that the employee signs and returns. The acknowledgement page should state that the employee understands it is his or her responsibility to read and follow the policies. The acknowledgement page should also be able to be separated from the handbook, so that it can be signed by the employee and saved in the employee’s personnel file. Wording like this might be helpful:

I have received the handbook, and I understand that it is my responsibility to read and comply with the policies contained in this handbook and any revisions made to it.

________________________________________
Employee’s Signature

________________________________________
Employee’s Name (Print)

____________________
Date

TO BE PLACED IN EMPLOYEE’S PERSONNEL FILE


Does your employee handbook contain these five provisions? Why or why not? I’d love to hear from you. Give me a call at 515-371-6077 or email me at gordon@gordonfischerlawfirm.com.

Financials in book

What is a financial power of attorney?

A financial power of attorney is a legal document that designates someone to handle your financial decisions on your behalf.

What happens if I don’t have a financial power of attorney?

If you do not have a power of attorney and you were to become incapacitated, any financial decisions would need to be made by a court-appointed conservator. At a court’s direction, the conservator would handle your financial assets. It’s a quite expensive and time consuming process, especially compared to the relative simplicity of executing a power of attorney.

After I die, can my agent continue to operate under my financial power of attorney?

A common misperception is that your agent will be able to use this power after your death. At your death, any power of the agent is automatically revoked and it will be necessary to switch management to the representative appointed through probate.

Laptop with finance info on it

Who should I choose to serve as an agent?

The agent you choose will be managing your finances, so it is critically important to choose someone trustworthy; someone who will not abuse or exploit this power; someone who will listen to your wishes, goals, and objectives, as included in the document or otherwise communicated; and, someone who will look out for your best interests.

You also have the option of designating a successor agent who can take over if the original agent is unable or unwilling to serve. This is highly recommended.

Who should receive a copy of my financial power of attorney?

The person named as agent and any person named as a successor agent should receive a copy. It would also be wise to share a copy with your financial institution(s), such as your bank or credit union.

Can I revoke the financial power of attorney?

Yes, you may revoke the document, at any time. You can also amend the document (change it, revise it, etc.) at anytime.


Financial power of attorney is one of the six main documents which comprise Iowans’ estate plans. To get started on establishing your financial power of attorney contact me by phone at 515-371-6077 or email.

healthcare power of attorney

What is a healthcare POA?

A healthcare power of attorney (“POA”) is a legal instrument that allows you to select the person that you want to make healthcare decisions for you if and when you become unable to make them for yourself. The person you choose is your agent/representative for purposes of healthcare decision-making.

What types of healthcare decisions can be covered by a healthcare POA?

healthcare power of attorney hands

A healthcare POA can govern any kind of decision that is related to your health that you want to address. A healthcare POA may include decisions related to organ donation, hospitalization, treatment in a nursing home, home health care, psychiatric treatment, and more.

For example, if you don’t want to be kept alive with machines, you can make this clear in your POA for healthcare. But keep in mind your POA for healthcare isn’t just about end-of-life decisions – again, it can cover any medical situation.

When would I use a healthcare POA?

A healthcare POA is used when you become unable to make healthcare decisions for yourself. Your agent will then be able to make decisions for you based on the information you provided in your healthcare POA. Equally important, your agent will be access your medical records, communicate with your healthcare providers, and so on.

What happens if I don’t have a healthcare POA?

doctors in operating room

If don’t have a healthcare POA, and you should become disabled to the point where you are unable to make healthcare decisions for yourself, your doctor(s) will ask your family and friends what to do.

You might disagree with the decision your family makes, or your family members may not be able to agree on how to handle your medical care.

Ultimately, if your loved ones can’t agree on a course of action, they would have to go to an Iowa Court and have a conservator/guardian appointed for you. It may, or may not, be someone you would have chosen. Further, the conservator/guardian may make decisions you wouldn’t have made.

This is all very complicated, time consuming, and expensive, especially compared with the convenience of simply having a healthcare POA in place. A healthcare POA gives you control over how decisions are made for you, and the agent you choose will carry out your wishes.

Is there a “one-size-fits-all” POA for healthcare?

No! All Iowans are special and unique and have special and unique issues and concerns. Consequently, this article is presented for informational purposes only, not as legal advice. Consult your lawyer for personal advice.

Do I need other estate planning documents in addition to a healthcare POA?

Yes, definitely! There are six “must have” estate planning documents most Iowans need; healthcare POA is just one of those documents.


Do you have a healthcare POA? Do you have an overall estate plan? Why or why not? Want to get started on crafting your healthcare POA (and other essential estate planning documents) let’s talk. Email me anytime at gordon@gordonfischerlawfirm.com or give me a call at 515-371-6077.

Dandelion blowing in wind

If a charitable contribution is made to a foreign organization, the donor generally cannot deduct the contribution for income tax purposes. Exceptions may apply in very limited situations; specifically, the U.S. has tax treaties with Canada, Israel, and Mexico. Generally, though, if the donee is a foreign charitable organization an income tax deduction is unavailable. Interestingly enough, both the estate and gift tax charitable deductions are available for gifts to foreign charitable organizations.

So, assume Jill Donor wants to help Charity X, which is organized and operated in Paris, France. If Donor made the gift during lifetime then no income tax deduction would be allowed because gifts to foreign charities normally are not deductible for federal income tax purposes. Note, however, that the lifetime gift removes the asset from Jill’s estate, so the gift would have the same effect as a charitable bequest from Donor’s will.

Woman looking out from balcony in Paris

It is important to know where the charity is organized and operated. If the organization is operated organized in a foreign nation – such as our example charity organized and operated in Paris, France – donations to such organizations are not eligible for the federal income tax deduction. This is true regardless if donations to a similar organization in the U.S.–such as a similar organization organized and operated in Paris, Texas–would be eligible.

A donor in doubt about a deduction can seek information from the charity, of course. And, a donor can search for the charity using the IRS’ “Select Check” online search tool.

Of course, if concerned about deductibility, a potential donor should also seek advice from a professional advisor. I’m happy to help, so don’t hesitate to reach out via email (gordon@gordonfischerlawfirm.com) or by phone (515-371-6077) if you’re considering making a donation to a foreign-based charity.