2018 newsletter cover

The December edition of GoFisch is live! Give GoFisch a read for:

  • Link to the top four most popular blog posts of 2017
  • A review of the firm’s successes in 2017 & a look ahead at 2018
  • Tips for setting charitable giving goals
  • Last minute year-end fundraising tips
  • News on how the new tax bill could affect Iowa nonprofits

Like what you read? Don’t forget to subscribe.

Iowa Court Rule 39.18

I regularly help and encourage my clients to complete business succession planning. So, I was immensely interested in fully understanding and helping to explain the Iowa Court Rule 39.18 which mandates some aspects of practice succession planning for active Iowa lawyers. I wrote extensively on the subject in a four-part series for The Iowa Lawyer (you can find links to all the articles here). But, with the deadline for compliance fast approaching, it is useful to have just the basic. The ISBA recently published my rundown of nothing but the essentials in The Iowa Lawyer Weeklyand for convenience I’m publishing it here as well.

This short article directly informs every Iowa private practitioner precisely what s/he needs to know about new Iowa Court Rule 39.18. Under the Iowa Court Rule 39.18, Iowa-licensed lawyers must take steps to prepare for their own disability or death. New questions that are related to Rule 39.18 compliance will be included on the Iowa Client Security Commission 2018 Client Security Reports to be filed via the Iowa Office of Professional Regulation between Dec. 26, 2018 and March 10, 2018 without penalty.

Two Tiers

Iowa Court Rule 39.18 is divided into two tiers; the first tier is mandatory; the second tier is optional. The second, optional tier is very helpful, and I’d urge every Iowa layer to seriously look at implementing it. Considering that I write this in mid-December, however, it may be wise for Iowa lawyers to make certain they are in full compliance with the mandatory provisions, and give the optional provisions more full and careful consideration in 2018. Since this article is about just the basics, I’m just going to discuss only the mandatory provisions of Iowa Court Rule 39.18.


Choose Designee and Custodian

Every Iowa attorney in private practice must choose and identify both a designated representative and a custodian. The term designee representative(s) is defined, while the term custodian is not. The designated representative (hereinafter “designee”) must be either an:

  1. active Iowa attorney in good standing;
  2. Iowa law firm that includes Iowa attorneys in good standing (including the attorney’s own firm); or
  3. qualified attorney-servicing association.

A “qualified attorney-servicing association” is a bar association, all or part of whose members are admitted to practice law in the state of Iowa; a company authorized to sell attorneys professional liability insurance in Iowa; or an Iowa bank with trust powers issued by the Iowa Division of Banking.

(Important note: Earlier this month The Iowa State Bar Association Board of Governors authorized The ISBA to serve as a qualified attorney servicing association.) Again, the term “custodian” in not defined. The custodian can be anyone – a fellow lawyer, friend, spouse, administrative assistant, whomever.

Clients Lists and Client Files

Additionally, every Iowa attorney in private practice is responsible for the following: (1) maintaining a current list of active clients in a location accessible by the designee; (2) identifying the custodian to the designee; and (3) identifying the locations of the client list, electronic and paper files, records, passwords, and any other security protocols required to access the electronic files and records for the custodian and, ultimately, for the designee.


Businessman taking notes and planning in a meeting

Death or Disability

Iowa Court Rule 39.18 kicks into action only in two extreme circumstances: your death or your disability (a disability so severe you can no longer practice law, whether temporarily or permanently). Upon your death or disability, your designee is given broad authority, including the right to review client files (whether paper or electronic or both), notify each client of your death or disability, serve as a successor signatory for any client trust accounts, prepare final trust accountings for clients, make trust account disbursements, properly dispose of inactive files, and arrange for storage of files and trust account records. Also, the designee is authorized to access passwords and other security protocols required to access electronic files and records. Finally, as a “catch all” provision, the designee may determine whether there is need for other immediate action to protect the interests of clients.

Read More About Iowa Court Rule 39.18

If you would like to read deeper beyond these basics, click to the September through December 2017 issues of The Iowa Lawyer from the online archives to read our four-part series. In the series, all the elements (mandatory and supplementary) of Iowa Court Rule 39.18 are reviewed and explained in detail.

There is also a list of additional resources that can be found here. If you’re an active lawyer in Iowa help your fellow counselors out and share this piece with them so they will be prepared not only for the Iowa Client Security Commission 2018 Client Security Reports, but in the off chance of unexpected death or a disability. If you have any questions as you set your plans in place contact me by email or phone (515-371-6077).

The December/January issue of The Iowa Lawyer magazine is out! Click here and scroll to page 13 to read the final piece in my four-part series on the practical application of Iowa’s new succession planning rule for lawyers and law firms. “Giving for good: Practical application of Iowa Court Rule 39.18” covers how the rule may well significantly increase charitable giving by Iowa attorneys through both business succession planning and personal estate planning.

Iowa Court Rule December Article

While the series is targeted toward Iowa lawyers, the advice throughout can be applicable to individuals in need of personal estate planning as well as business owners in need of business succession plan. Click on the following links to read the past articles related to the Rule.

  1. September issue: overview of Iowa’s new succession planning rule and the importance of personal estate planning as well
  2. October issue: 8 simple steps for a successful business succession
  3. November issue: benefits of a supplemental plan

This month’s Iowa State Bar Association publication also includes features on: issues and roles of startups and in-house counsel; Larry Johnson Jr., the new State Public Defender; cover story on intellectual property lawyer, Brandon Clark; periodic cost-of living adjustments for indigent defense compensation; data on the realities of attracting young attorneys to the state’s small towns; and the Kids First Law Center, among other great pieces.

If you would like to discuss any questions or concerns related to personal estate planning or a succession plan for your business (including law firms), don’t hesitate to contact me.

5 giving packages

It’s been said, “You should be giving while you are living, so you’re knowing where it’s going.” Giving now allows you more say over how your gifts are handled, and you’ll get to experience the joy that comes with helping the causes you care for most. Gifts to charities made during your lifetime also provide significant tax advantages. Here are five pro tips to stretch your charitable dollar.

Pro tip #1: Don’t give cash.

Sure, it’s easiest to give by cash or check. But, cash gifts are not tax-wise gifts…almost any other asset is a smarter, tax-wise gift than cash! As you’ll see throughout this short article, it makes much more tax sense to give other, less obvious assets.



Pro tip #2:  Use the federal income tax charitable deduction.

I once read a Forbes article where the journalist said she cringes at church, when the collection plate goes around. The reason? The columnist worries churchgoers who toss in cash aren’t keeping records, and so are losing money by not claiming the federal income tax charitable deduction.

I don’t go that far, I don’t cringe in church, but I do think we should all keep records of our charitable gifts. What information you have to keep, and may need to provide to the IRS, depends on the size of your gift.

Pro tip #3: Use appreciated assets.

Gifts of long-term capital assets can receive a double federal tax benefit. Long-term capital assets may include items such as stock, real estate, and farmland, or even artwork, or collections like stamps or coins. The first tax benefit was just discussed; donors can receive an immediate federal income tax charitable deduction, equal to the fair market value of the long-term capital asset. Second, assuming the donor owned the asset for more than one year, the donor can avoid long-term capital gain taxes which would have otherwise been owed if the asset was sold instead of donated.


Pop quiz!

Let’s look at a concrete example to make sure the first three pro tips are clear. Pat owns farmland and she want to give one acre. Let’s assume one acre has a fair market value of $1,000. She wants to use the farmland to help her favorite causes. Which would be better for Pat — to sell the farmland and donate the cash, or give the farmland directly to her favorite charities? Assume the farmland was originally purchased at $200 (basis), Pat’s income tax rate is 37%, and her capital gains tax rate is 20%.

donate farmland over cash table

NOTE: Above table is for illustrative purposes only. Only your own financial or tax advisor can advise in these matters.

Pat receives a double benefit; she gets a federal income tax charitable deduction equal to the fair market value of the asset, AND avoids paying capital gains tax.

Pro tip #4: Make gifts which are eligible for the Endow Iowa Tax Credit

Through the Endow Iowa Tax Credit Program, donors can receive a 25% state tax credit for gifts made during lifetime. Endow Iowa has three requirements to qualify. The first two requirements are simple, but the third requirement can be tougher to meet.

  1. The gift must be given to, and receipted by, a community foundation. Opening a fund at your local community foundation is easy.
  2. The gift must be made to an Iowa charity. If it’s a national charity, and not a statewide or local organization, you simply need to check if they have an Iowa arm, and many do. In other words, to get the Endow Iowa tax credit, you couldn’t give to Girl Scouts of America, while you could give to Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa. To get the Endow Iowa tax credit, you couldn’t give to National Public Radio, but you could give to Iowa Public Radio.
  3. This third requirement is a bit more difficult than the first two. The Endow Iowa Tax Credit Program was designed to encourage endowments. Endowment means a permanent fund—something that will go on forever. So, to get the Endow Iowa tax credit, there is a limit on spending; you can only give out a maximum of 5% per year. This may, or may not, square with your charitable goals. Yet, for a tax credit of 25% off your gift, it’s something to seriously consider.

Endow Iowa Tax Credits are capped. The Iowa Legislature sets aside a pool of money for Endow Iowa, and it’s available on a first-come, first-served basis. Submitting an application at the beginning of the tax year is advised, as tax credits often run out toward year’s end. However, you can submit your application to be placed on the wait list for the next year’s tax credits.

Endow Iowa also has a cap for individuals and couples. Tax credits of 25% of the gifted amount are limited to $300,000 in tax credits per individual for a gift of $1.2 million, or $600,000 in tax credits per couple for a gift of $2.4 million (if both are Iowa taxpayers).

giving compass hand

Pro tip #5: Combine Pro Tips #1-4 for dramatic tax savings.

Combine the first four pro tips! If you combine the first four pro tips, you can achieve dramatic tax savings. Let’s look again at the case of Pat and her donation of a long-term capital gain asset (her farmland) with the addition of the Endow Iowa Tax Credit. Check out Pat’s tax savings:

Endow Iowa tax credit table

NOTE: Above table is for illustrative purposes only. Only your own financial or tax advisor can advise in these matters.

Pat gave her favorite charity $1,000 in the form of a long-term capital gain asset. After Pat combines the federal income tax charitable deduction, the capital gains tax savings, and the Endow Iowa Tax Credit, the out-of-pocket cost of that gift of $1,000 is less than $250. Because her gift was endowed, it will be invested by the local community foundation and presumably will grow. It will continue benefiting the charities Pat cares about, forever…talk about a legacy!

Let’s Talk

Remember, all individuals, families, businesses, and farms are unique and therefore have unique tax and legal issues. This article is presented for informational purposes only, not as tax advice or legal advice for an individual’s situation. If you would like to discuss how you can help the causes you’re passionate about, while also making smart tax decisions, don’t hesitate to reach out via email or phone (515-371-6077).