HOBBIES ARE GOOD FOR YOUR HEALTH

Do you have a hobby? Hobbies can give meaning and purpose to your life in retirement. As Robert Putnam points out in his book, Bowling Alone, it’s easy to discount the importance of hobbies and social engagements. Putnam details the widespread decline in civic engagement, from PTA memberships to neighborhood potlucks and bowling leagues. Over a couple of generations, Americans have misplaced the concept of free time.

SPECIAL PLANS FOR YOUR SPECIAL PEOPLE

Lily is a beautiful, active and full of personality toddler who happens to have Down syndrome. Lily’s parents and I have been friends for years and I have the continuing pleasure of watching Lily and her siblings grow up. While Lily is becoming a physical therapy rock star and hitting all her milestones in a timely fashion, her parents have started planning for the future.

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WHY WE ENJOY OUR HOBBIES

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a hobby as “a pursuit outside one’s regular occupation, engaged in especially for relaxation.” Hobbies include anything from playing a musical instrument to gardening, bird watching or sewing. A hobby is a way of focusing on something you enjoy just for the sake of that enjoyment. It may also be a way to clear your mental palette. You could be stressed out by a situation at work or the challenges of raising children and need an escape.

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Subject to transfer taxes.  Instead, post-2013 Tax Act federal estate tax planning consists of the income taxation of estates, trusts, and beneficiaries.  However, a detailed discussion of these income tax savings mecha- nisms is beyond the scope of this Article.


Kentucky state taxes, such as, Kentucky Inheritance Taxes must also be considered in the new era of estate planning.  The remainder of this Article focuses on the following five specific legal documents:



Most persons have knowledge of the nature and function of a testamentary will.  However, fewer individuals are aware of the nature of living wills.  Living wills allow individuals, while possessing the requisite capacity, to direct in a written document whether to with- hold or withdraw life-extending treatment and/or artificially pro- vided nutrition or hydration only if the patient is permanently unconscious, in a persistent vegetative state, or when death is inevitable per reasonable medical judgment within a few days.  Since health care decisions and, more particularly, end-of-life decisions, must be made in numerous situations other than the three extremely narrow circumstances mentioned above, a person may appoint in a living will surrogate health care decision makers for them.


Health care surrogate decision- makers may also be named in documents, known as advance health care directives, separate and distinct from a living will. While typically identified with health care decisions regarding the physical health of a patient, such directives may and should also cover psychiatric/mental/neurobiological decisions.  For example, many patients do not want electroshock therapy and can communicate this desire in a psychiatric advance directive.


Powers of attorney generally are used to enable a designated person to make financial decisions for an- other person. Typically, a durable power of attorney is used, because such documents are not affected by a subsequent mental and/or physical disability of the principal.  A “springing” power of attorney, i.e., one that comes “springs” into existence only if the principal becomes incapacitated is also often used. Properly drafted and executed powers of attorney prevent the need for naming a guardian and/or custodian to manage the principal’s property upon incapacity.


Each of the aforementioned documents provides security, peace of mind, and a measure of control over health care and financial decisions if someone subsequently loses the capacity to make those decisions.  The documents also prevent lengthy court battles and allow a person to retain dignity even after they lose decision making capacity, by providing them with “autonomous, anticipatory decision-making” concerning some of their most basic, fundamental, and in certain situations, constitutionally protected rights of self-determination.

Very few people plan for how health care and/or financial decisions will be made if they develop a lack of mental capacity to make their own decisions at some future time.  Likewise, although more people have testamentary wills than have advance health care directives and/ or living wills, it would be wise to have an attorney prepare all necessary documents for you. Otherwise, the consequences of failing to engage in advance planning can be very expensive in terms of litigation costs, can result in courts appointing someone who is not familiar with the incapacitated person’s wishes concerning health care and/ or financial decisions, to make decisions for them or to place the person under a guardianship and/or conservatorship.


Some of the most well-known cases from the United States Supreme Court involve situations where family members engage in heated disputes regarding end-of-life decision-making for persons lacking capacity to choose their own treatment. These contentious cases leave family members alienated, in debt to attorneys for costly and protracted litigation, and otherwise dissatisfied. Idyllically, these problems could be avoided in most situations by advance planning.


It should be noted that the aforementioned documents constitute components of an individual’s “estate plan.”  The nature of estate planning changed drastically on January 2, 2013, with the signing of the

ADVANCE PLANNING FOR HEALTHCARE AND FINANCIAL DECISIONS IF MENTAL INCAPACITY OCCURS

American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (“the 2013 Tax Act”).  Prior to the enactment of the 2013 Tax Act, estate planning consisted of the preparation and execution of various documents and the use of certain planning transactions to avoid federal “transfer taxes,” including the:    



These taxes were governed by a very complex set of rules, regulations, court decisions, and other legal authorities, and applied mainly to taxpayers with at least a moderate amount of wealth or much more.  Failure to engage in pre-mortem estate planning for wealthy taxpayers could result in federal excise taxes of more than half the value of a decedent’s estate, greatly reducing their hard-earned wealth.


These convoluted laws still exist, but enactment of the 2013 Tax Act now means that only .28% of Americans (i.e., the wealthiest of the wealthiest) are now

BOBBY E. REYNOLDS

Bobby E. Reynolds has been an attorney in Kentucky for several years.  He practices law in Nicholasville, Kentucky, having previously clerked for a Judge on the United States Court of Appeals and having obtained an LL.M in taxation from the University of Florida College of Law Graduate Tax Program.  Mr. Reynolds also teaches continuing legal education to attorneys in Kentucky.  

more articles by Bobby E. Reynolds