Have you read GFLF’s latest contribution to the Iowa Bar‘s monthly publication, The Iowa Lawyer? The piece, “IRS Form 990: 10 Policies and Procedures Most Iowa Nonprofits Need” covers:

  • how important the annual information filing (Form 990) is for tax-exempt organizations;
  • top policies and procedures highlighted on the form
  • why investing in sound policies and procedures means investing in success
  • deadlines and failure to file for Form 990

While targeted toward the attorneys who subscribe to the magazine, this article provides excellent information for all nonprofit board members, officers, staff, donors, volunteers, and other stake holders. Give the article a read and then get a jump start on top notch compliance well in advance of next year’s due date for the Form 990!

If your nonprofit hasn’t yet adopted all of policies outlined in the article (or they are in dire need of an update), what are you waiting for? Contact Gordon about the 10 for 990 deal (10 essential policies asked about of Form 990) for just $990. The rate includes a consultation, documents drafted to fit the unique needs of your organization, and one full review round. The benefits are numerous and the compliance risk is frankly too great to NOT have these important policies and procedures in place.

The March issue of The Iowa Lawyer magazine is out and I’m happy to say that includes Gordon Fischer Law Firm’s latest piece on how to account for digital assets in estate and business succession planning. Entitled “Down Low on the Download,” the article covers points including an overview of the Digital Assets Act, how digital assets should be considered in lawyers’ succession plans under Iowa Court Rule 39.18, and easy steps all Iowans can take to include digital assets in planning for the future. Click to page 9 to read more.

March Iowa Lawyer

Also in the Iowa State Bar Association’s publication are stories on local rules, a profile on Iowa Legal Aid’s new director, and a cover piece on a Vinton lawyer (who happens to share the Fischer last name) who tragically lost his office to a fire.

If you’re interested in reading GFLF’s previously published articles in past editions, click here to scan through the archives.

Happy Read Across America Day! Coinciding with Dr. Seuss’ birthday, the “holiday” encourages kids to get excited about reading and read more books. Created by the National Educational Association and first celebrated in 1998, the day is marked by reading events at libraries, bookstores, and schools, among other community spots, to celebrate the joy of reading.

While the day was originally intended for school children, I like to celebrate it by taking some time out from legal work and curl up with any one of the good books that have been piling up on my bookshelf begging to be read. As an attorney, reading is a regular part of my work, but unfortunately reading State of Iowa code just isn’t the same experience in the way that a fiction adventure sucks you in or a nonfiction account expands your world. On top of that, I enjoy book clubs (and have tried my fair share of them), but it’s hard to be a steady, regular attendee at a book club! Life happens, work happens, and before you know it, you’re the person pretending to have read the book and adding little to the discussion…

GoFisch Book Club Flyer

That’s why I’m starting the GoFisch book club! Just like Read Across America Day is about getting students excited about reading, I want this club to get Iowans excited about different aspects of charitable giving, estate planning, and nonprofits. The titles chosen will be in some way or another related back to Gordon Fischer Law Firm’s core services, but they’ll be books you would want to read to learn and grow from regardless. Plus, you’ll never have to clean the house in order to host, make treats, or worry about being on time! Sounds good right? (Of course, you’re more than welcome to make treats to eat while you read and share your opinions on the book!)

So, if there are no meetings, how does a digital book club like this work?

Three months of book selections will be listed at all times. So, today the titles for this month, April, and May will be available. (See below.) June’s title will be announced in April and so on. This way you can read ahead, or pick and choose which titles you wish to read.

At the beginning of each month an intro to the book will be posted. All readers are invited to post their own discussion questions in the comments for me and all other readers to consider as we read the book together. At the end of the month I’ll post a follow-up with some discussion questions (including those posed by readers in the comments) and corresponding thoughts; all readers can add to the discussion in the comments. Simple enough. Two posts: one at the beginning of the month introducing the book and one at the end with questions and thoughts. Suggestions for discussion questions and future books are HIGHLY encouraged.

March GoFisch Book Club Pick

What’s the first read to kick the GoFisch book club off? Drumroll please… The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter.

It seems to me that with words like “hygge” all over Instagram, natural materials integrated into interior design, and “lagom” as a philosophic life approach, borrowing life tips for the Scandinavians is all the rage as of the past few years. I don’t see why “death cleaning” would be any different—taking smart, practical steps in preparation for something that will inevitably happen to us all. Without a doubt this book ties in with estate planning as a complementary, future-focused action you may take during life to prepare your loved ones for your death. 

Written by the artist Margareta Magnusson, the book explores the Swedish practice of döstädning, the practice of taking stock and clearing out any unnecessary stuff before others have to do it for you. It’s minimalistic in theory and extremely considerate to your family and friends in practice. At a short and sweet 128 pages, the text is a quick read with a healthy dose of humor and wisdom sprinkled throughout the guide.

Magnusson’s approach also encourages you to begin the sometimes difficult or sensitive conversations around death with family members. Ultimately, the author wants to help her readers take the question “will anyone I know be happier if I save this” and apply it to a process that’s uplifting, rather than depressing or overwhelming.

How you acquire the book is up to you. You could check the book out from your local library, read it on your Kindle or tablet, or buy a nice hardcover addition for your reading nook.

April & May Book Picks

After you get schooled on how to prep for death like a Swede, dive into the following reads:

Calling all Bibliophiles: Make a Book Club Suggestion

What books would you like the GoFisch book club to read beginning in June? Add your book suggestions (along with any discussion questions) to your comments below. You can also share your thoughts on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram with the tag, #GoFischbookclub.

I’ll never forget that night. Several months ago, a simple notification popped up on my Twitter account. Very rarely have five words caused me such joy: “Soledad O’Brien is following you.”

I was social media starstruck!

Sure, I know that this was likely the doing of a digital tool that auto-follows accounts that tweet about certain subjects. Or, maybe it was one of the social media interns who saw my retweets of @soledadobrien and decided to throw me a follow as a fan. Since she follows 447k accounts I have no doubt that the impressive individual herself didn’t actually follow me…but hey, we all like to feel liked and heard even if it’s a digital facade.

To understand why this was such a Big Hairy Audacious Deal (if you got the reference to Jim Collins’ concept, applause!), let me put this into context of my small, “local” Twitter account and Ms. O’Brien’s worldwide acclaim.

A Lonely 440+

My Twitter account has merely around 440 followers (at the time of publication). I put out great content, and it’s growing slowly and surely, but would love for more people to join the party. (In fact, if you’re reading this and haven’t followed @FischerGordon yet, check out all the great info I share on estate planning, nonprofit formation and compliance, and charitable giving on top of Iowa-centric news and all around interesting factoids.) But, let’s be honest I have a long way to go to catch up to the likes of the Big Ben clock that simply tweets “bong” in various quantities and the San Francisco fog, apparently named Karl.

Soledad is Superb

In contrast to my lowly follower count, @soledadobrien has a well-deserved follower count at 809k and counting. For those few of you who are unaware, Soledad O’Brien is a world-famous broadcast journalist renowned for her roles as anchor and correspondent for MSNBC, CNN, HBO, and Al Jazeera America. She has been a tremendously well respected presence in broadcast news since 1991. She has covered so many huge stories I can’t possibly list them all. Countless times she’s been on “best of” lists and she’s won a Peabody Award and four Emmy Awards.

Presently, Ms. O’Brien is the host of Matter of Fact with Soledad O’Brien, a show focusing on politics and socioeconomic concerns produced by her very own multi-platform Starfish Media Group.

Newsworthy Nonpxrofit Policy Special Worthy of O’Brien’s Reporting

I would regularly check to see if Soledad O’Brien ever unfollowed me. Maybe the social media software algorithm wised up or the social media intern was tasked with clearing out the followings of accounts with sub-500 followers. But, my coolest follower (sorry everyone else!) is still there! This fact has, of course, let me to the inevitable conclusion: O’Brien must want me on her show! Why else would she follow an attorney who’s on a mission to maximize charitable giving in Iowa?

Why would she want me on her show at all? I’m biased, but I think the 10 for 990 nonprofit policy special (available through March 15) is certainly newsworthy! While not a political scoop, the 10 for 990 deal could benefit (Iowa) nonprofits working toward the betterment of socioeconomic issues and/or advocating for increased engagement in American democracy.

A journalist of O’Brien’s caliber would need some more details before she ever agreed to have me on as a guest. As such, the 10 for 990 offer provides nonprofits the ten policies discussed on the IRS’ Form 990 for the flat fee of only $990. (IRS Form 990 is the tax form nonprofits must complete once they’ve reached a certain monetary threshold. Just like individuals have to fill out a personal income tax form). The 10 policies asked about on the Form 990 include conflict of interest, document retention and destruction, whistleblower, compensation, fundraising, gift acceptance, financial policies and procedures, and investment.

If Ms. O’Brien were to ever interview me on this truly fantastic deal, I would share the benefits of having a qualified attorney craft these important policies and explain the collective responsibilities of nonprofit boards.

Even if you’re not an award-winning journalist turned CEO, I would love to talk to you about this policy special. Because Form 990 is typically due in May, now is the perfect time to get ahead on compliance. Nonprofit executives, board members, and even engaged volunteers should contact me via email or phone (515-371-6077) to learn how this could fit in with your organization’s goals.

Did you miss the most recent edition of my monthly newsletter, GoFisch? It “swam” (punny, get it?) into inboxes on Valentine’s Day and fittingly featured how estate planning is a way of saying “I love you.” While Valentine’s Day has come and gone, every day is a great day to show your friends and family you care, so give the highlighted posts about different aspects of estate planning (like final disposition of remains and testamentary trusts) a read.

This GoFisch edition also included:

  • An exciting policy special for nonprofit organizations running through March 15. Read more about the 10 For 990 deal here.
  • A love-inspired curated Spotify playlist to play while you work through your estate plan.
  • Iowa-based nonprofit & philanthropy news.
  • Must-read GoFisch blog post highlights.

Like what you read? Don’t forget to subscribe to GoFisch and tell your friends! You can also scan through previous editions of the newsletter here.

happy new year fireworks

Happy New Year! It’s 2018 and if you’re like me, “Auld Lang Syne” was playing merrily in the background as a cup of cheer was raised and confetti fluttered on New Year’s Eve. The title and main chorus of song ubiquitous with the holiday roughly translates to “for old times’ sake.” On that note I’ve spent some quality time (like the song eludes to) reminiscing about the year that’s gone by. I’ve reviewed what Gordon Fischer Law Firm tackled in 2017, but more importantly I’m looking ahead to where we want to go, how to get there, and how to improve along the way. I have a few “resolutions” I want to share…resolutions we actually intend to keep! These goals will work to further advance the mission of the firm “to promote and maximize charitable giving in Iowa.”

At Gordon Fischer Law Firm we fully intend to:

  • Post even more regular content on the GoFisch blog to make it ever easier for both donors and donees to effectuate charitable giving to/for their favorite causes.
  • Continue growing the monthly GoFisch newsletter (have you subscribed?).
  • Additionally, I would like to produce a regular specific newsletter for professional advisors (accountants, financial advisors, insurance agents, and fellow lawyers) with smart planning information to be able to further help Iowans.
  • Present an all-day seminar (for continued education credits) targeted to both nonprofit leaders and professional advisors to discuss all aspects of charitable giving and facilitate beneficial networking.
  • Continue demystifying estate planning for all Iowans—complete with basic forms to help that process along.

Tomorrow I’ll highlight aspects of estate planning and charitable giving you can (and should) incorporate into your goals for 2018. Do you already have such goals in mind? A few examples could be to stop making excuses to avoid estate planning, finally establish that living trust, or consult with a professional about a retained life estate. Don’t hesitate to contact me to discuss. Together we’ll likely be able to set a plan in place for you to achieve your goals (or resolutions) to truly make 2018 your best year yet.

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.

Sure, reading about succession planning for attorneys mandated by Iowa Court Rule 39.18 isn’t the most exciting news of the day, but it is certainly is important which is why you should scroll to page 8 of this month’s edition of The Iowa Lawyer. If you’re not an attorney, fear not. The article covers actions that are wise for all business owners and independent professional advisors to consider in their business succession planning. For example the advice that: “Having a detailed supplemental plan should bring you peace of mind, and also peace of mind to your family and your firm’s employees. A supplemental plan can show your clients you care to the utmost about their well-being.”

This article is the third in a series of four for the Iowa State Bar Association publication. You can find info on the first article, here and the second, on the eight simple steps for a successful business succession, here.

Click here or on the image below to read “Supplemental plan: Practical application of Iowa Court Rule 39.18.”

The Iowa Lawyer magazine cover November 2017

Questions? Comments? Feel the urge to get started on your much needed business succession plan? Feel free to contact me any time to discuss. I offer a one-hour free consultation, without any obligation. I can be reached any time at my email, gordon@gordonfischerlawfirm.com, or by phone at 515-371-6077.