Today we are thrilled to be joined by Merrell Bailey, a seasoned estate attorney, CPA, and MBA, who sheds light on the importance of estate planning and asset protection for everyone, not just the wealthy. In part one of this two-part series, she highlights the importance of having your legal documents in place from early adulthood and talks about the role of asset titling in financial planning. She also discusses the role of an umbrella policy, the nuances of a healthcare surrogate, and the importance of a living will. This episode is a must-listen for anyone looking to deepen their understanding of estate planning and asset protection!
Note: This transcript was produced using AI, so please excuse any typos and inaccuracies…
Marc Killian 00:11
Welcome to another edition of plan wise retire free with Jude Wilson from centrist financial strategies. Once again back here with me to talk investing finance and retirement. And a special episode this week, we have a two parter. Coming up two part episode of the podcast with guest Merrell Bailey. She is a CPA and an English she has an MBA as well. She’s a lawyer and a CPA. And she really specializes in helping folks with their estate planning needs asset protection. And those are some of the topics that we’re going to be covering this week on the podcast. So her and Jude are going to get into some great conversation. So make sure you stick around, check all of that out. As well as don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast on Apple, Google Spotify, whatever podcasting platform you’d like to use. So I’m going to turn it over to Jude. And here we go.
Jude Wilson 01:00
Well, today we’ve got a special podcast, we’ve got my good friend, Merrell Bailey, who is an estate attorney. And we hope to provide a lot of value to our listeners today. And this podcast is going to be broken up into two parts. We’re gonna kind of talk about some issues in the first part of the podcast. And then we’re going to talk about some solutions, some really actionable items that you can walk away with. I am so thrilled today to have my good friend, Meryl Bailey on the podcast. Guys, we’ve known each other for so many years, I won’t say exactly how many years, it’s
Merrell Bailey 01:32
a lot of years.
Jude Wilson 01:35
And we’ve built up a good friendship, and even more importantly, a professional relationship that has led to helping a lot of people and marrow. So I want to thank you so much for coming to the podcast today. I want to give you a few minutes, because I think you do so much better of a job than I do. Telling people a little bit about your story. And what do you do?
Merrell Bailey 01:56
Thanks, shoot, I’m so glad to be here because I am your number one fan. I have an estate planning and Probate and Trust administration practice here in Winter Park, Florida. I’m licensed as a CPA and also an US Attorney, although I only practice as an attorney. But the CPA background comes really in handy very often. And we have a solid middle class practice. We love our clients and we’re happy to help them.
Jude Wilson 02:22
Well, you do a fabulous job. Now I’m a little bias. But we work with a lot of different state attorneys because sometimes our clients come to us and they already have a relationship. But if they don’t have a relationship, we refer to you a lot. We’ve I’ve actually referred some of my family members to you, that’s how much I trust you. And that may be a good thing or a bad thing. But today, I really want to give some value to our podcast listeners and talk about the importance of estate planning. And what I’ve found through talking to prospective clients who’ve who’ve come to us, a lot of times they may have an investment advisor. And they believe that they have a financial plan. And one of the things I tell clients all the time, if you just have an investment statement, you don’t have a financial plan, because the CFP Board actually says there’s five areas that involve a complete holistic financial plan. And estate planning is one of them. But here’s one thing I want you to touch on. It seems to me from talking to so many people over the years that most people believe that estate planning is for the super rich. We’ve got clients that have anywhere from 200,000 to well over multi-millions with us. And even our most affluent clients don’t necessarily believe estate planning is important. Tell me what why do you believe that exist?
Merrell Bailey 03:55
Well, it’s interesting, because we do see that perception a lot. And I think perhaps some of it is because the CPA is a little cynical about attorneys. But attorneys tend to think that they’re important and what they do, and they are and what they do is hard and sometimes it’s not so in particular, to me estate planning is really simply organizational skills. And what I try to do is help people give the people they love the legal authority to help them because it’s so much easier if someone has the proper documents in advance than trying to scramble in a crisis to get anything done. As you know what, that’s why we’re planners, but it’s a little bit of time in advance saves so much time and heartache in arrears and having documents that are helping someone to have the authority to help you if you’re alive but incapacitated, or to have documents that allow for a clear and quick and inexpensive way to transfer title of assets after death. It’s just a kind thing to do for your loved ones.
Jude Wilson 05:07
I couldn’t agree with you more. And the thing that I think is extremely important is to make sure that people understand that you don’t necessarily have to be super rich that in, you’d like to say, and I won’t steal your thunder, you like to say even at 18, certain documents are unnecessary. What do you what do you usually tell your clients about the 18 year old? Well,
Merrell Bailey 05:31
I joke that on the way to their birthday party before before they get to the restaurant drive by our office, because the minute someone turns age 18 in Florida, or the age of majority in whatever state, all of a sudden, they are now their own little private Idaho, right that no one has the authority to handle their affairs. And as a parent, you are taken aback by that, because you say, Well, yesterday, there were 17 and 364 days, you’re old. And now they’re 18 years and one day old. And I can’t talk to the doctor, and I can’t talk to the police. And I can’t talk to whomever my child needs me to talk to? And the answer is no. Legally, you don’t really have that right. And it but it’s not just 18 year olds, you think as a married couples that you have the automatic right to handle the affairs of your spouse, and you don’t when it was so interesting to me, we have a large part of our practice is same sex couples. And when same sex couples couldn’t get married, they knew they had to have documents. And then I realized when they were allowed to get married, they thought they didn’t need to have for example, a general durable power of attorney. And I would say no, you just because you’re married there, you don’t have the automatic right to handle your adult spouse’s affairs. You think as an adult, with your elderly parents, you have the automatic right to help them because you’re an adult, and they’re elderly and need help. No, not unless they have a general doctor, attorney. So you think all of these things that you can automatically step in and assist someone, and legally, you don’t have that authority. So the first everybody should have a general door, we’ll have attorney.
Jude Wilson 07:12
That’s excellent. And I don’t think most people know that. Particularly in our firm, we have three niches that we we work with best, we have people that we affectionately call Henry’s high earners, not rich yet. And they’re generally younger individuals, they’re in their late 30s, maybe early 40s. But they’re making significant amount of dollars. We have people that about 10 to 15 years out from retirement, and now they’re super hyperfocus, that my runway is short, and I need to make sure that I have everything in place for my retirement. And then we have a group of people who are just about to retire or have recently retired. And what I find fascinating is, all three groups need some sort of estate planning and asset protection. So some people haven’t heard of asset protection. Can you explain the difference between asset protection and estate planning?
Merrell Bailey 08:12
Sure, when I meet with clients, so it’s it’s interesting. Again, as an estate planning attorney, I have to ask the most impertinent questions I need to know, you know, every account you own, and how is it titled and how much are your worth? And and how many children do you have? And are they really your children? Are they you know, half? I have to know all of these things? And what I’m looking for a couple of different things, I’m looking to see, do they have a taxable estate? Or do they not? That’s like one of my first things and right now most people don’t have a taxable estate. And what I mean by that is at their death, will their wealth be subject to the federal estate tax, because Florida does not have its own estate tax. And right now, each human in the United States has almost $13 million, you can die and leave for free. So again, most people aren’t worth more than $13 million individually. So there’s very few taxable states right now. So I look to see for that I then look to see how things are titled and how they will they transfer title. And then I look to see what is their natural state of asset protection. And what I mean by that is a series of small choices can make the difference between if you have a car accident, can someone take your bank account? Or can they only go after your insurance or what could someone take? Could they take your business? A series of small changes to the way you own things can make the difference between yes, they can take your assets or no they’re going to be stuck with insurance. So I look to see how things are titled and what we can do and what small changes can we make to get them higher levels of asset protection planning and it starts with Do you have a good car policy? Do you have a good homeowner’s, Paul? I’ll see because most people are sued by slips and falls at the house or a car accident. And then I want everybody to have an umbrella policy and I don’t sell any of these things. I don’t have a dog in that fight. I just want to help protect the clients. Well,
Jude Wilson 10:13
you know you that’s the other reason why we get along. So well, you set me up for my next question. I love it. One of the things that I like to do with clients is I like to tell stories, because I think stories resonate. Sometimes when we talk about these concepts. The concept may not hit them as hard as seeing a real life example. And one of the examples that I give is the famous wrestler Hulk Hogan. Hulk Hogan had retired from wrestling. He was filming a reality TV show with his family, son and daughter, his son was named Nick, Nick actually wanted to become a racecar driver, and Hulk Hogan was supporting him in that endeavor. But as 17 year olds do, sometimes they don’t make the best decisions. And Nick was out drinking and got in the car accident while his best friend was in the car. And unfortunately, the his best friend became a paraplegic and ensued. And then, of course, Nick is 17. So probably doesn’t have much in the way of assets. But the parents of Nick’s friend sued Hulk Hogan, and I don’t think it’s any coincidence that soon after that lawsuit was settled, Hulk Hogan went back to professional wrestling for a while because he probably had some payments that he needed to make. In that situation, what could have been done to prevent him having to go back to work?
Merrell Bailey 11:38
Well, I suggest to my clients, that from the day your child gets the permit until the till the child turns 18, you’re, you’re a hostage. And so I want you to have really good insurance. And I want you to have a really big umbrella policy. And then on the child’s 18th birthday, on the way to the office on the way to the birthday party, I want you to transfer title of the car, that child drives the most into the name of that child. If the car is in the child’s name, and your name is not on it, then generally your assets are not up for grabs. And you can usually keep your child on the same on your insurance policy, I don’t mind that they can go after your insurance policy, I just don’t want them to go after your bank accounts. And if the child is driving a car that the child’s is on in the child’s name, then you’re not party to the lawsuit. But I don’t just leave it for young kids, I, I want the daily driver in the name of the person who drives it. So I don’t want both spouses on the name of the car, I don’t want like, your elderly mother needs a new car and you go by it, I don’t want your name on it with your mother. Because it’ll be easy to transfer title after a death if both names are on it, it is so easy to transfer title after death of a car, that I just want every car in one name of the person who naturally drives it the most.
Jude Wilson 13:04
And that makes so much sense. So one of the things we talk to our clients about, we try to name things and give them funny names so people can remember, we talk about financial termite in our firm. These are risks that clients may not know that they’re facing, they’re behind a wall, they don’t see them. And so we try to address or at least educate people about those. And one of the simplest things like, like you said, is is just increasing your umbrella policy, because the insurance company, most of the time will default to a very small umbrella policy when you buy your house. And it’s really up to you or your financial planner or state attorney to look at your net worth and say, Hey, I may need a bigger policy. I may need more coverage than this. So one of my other stories that I tell quite often is the Terri Schiavo case, and most people know about that story. But can you briefly tell a little bit about that story and what could have prevented it from being the tragedy that it turned out to be?
Merrell Bailey 14:09
Well, I think the case with Terry Chavo is much like again, another example is Bobbi Kristina Brown. I talk about both of them a lot. So Terry shaido was married. She was 25 years old when I believe she was 25 years old. When she had some type of medical event, her husband came home and found her on the floor in a medical crisis. And that became this 10 year long crisis for the whole family. So when someone is incapacitated, and they are unresponsive, and you don’t know whether or not they’re going to get better. So there’s a document called a health care surrogate and the health care surrogate the person you’re naming has the authority to make informed consent medical care decisions to get you better because you’re gonna it well, so of course, initially they were making decisions to see whether or not Terry was ever going to recover. And then at some point, if at least two physicians say, there is no hope that person is ever going to recover, and they’re on some type of artificial life support, then we kick over to a living will, which is the document that allows you to basically pull the plug by removing whatever the life support is, and allowing the patient to die a natural death. So the first thing with the Terri Schiavo case was, you know, is she going to get better, she’s only 25, she was apparently healthy before then there was a very good chance she’s going to get better. So they did all sorts of medical treatment until medical science was exhausted. And now they’ve got a patient in a bed, who is not on a breathing machine, not on dialysis, but she had lost the ability to swallow and chew and eat. So she was being fed by a feeding tube. So the first thing is, is she going to get better and it took a while to figure out, they didn’t think she was going to recover. The second issue was had she ever made any evidence in her life while she you know, while she before she got sick, had she ever said anything about I don’t want to live like that, if I ever got in that position, pulled the plug, because she didn’t have anything in writing that said, to pull the plug at which she would have had, she had had a living will. So that was one of the arguments with the court. The other another argument was, who’s in charge, her mother said, the husband wants to pull the plug on her, because he wants to get on with his life. And I want my baby. And so give me I’ll keep her live forever, while I’m alive, because I think God’s gonna come down and save her. And we should keep her alive until he gets here. And so the mother said, I want custody of her, I want to be in charge. And the husband said, No, I want to stay in charge. I’m a husband. And I know she doesn’t want to live like this. So there was that argument. And then there was the final one of the final arguments was Is she on life support that can be taken away? a breathing tube is clearly life support. Dialysis, clearly is life support. The life support that Terri shaver was getting was a feeding tube. And the husband said the tube is the life support, take it away, and she’ll die a natural death. And the mother said, Oh, no, that’s just feeding water. That’s not life support. But the tragedy to all of this was, and I note like, I am so aware of both sides. I mean, it was just a terrible situation to be in. And they both thought they were doing the right thing. So the definition of right. But my concern is this was a very public issue. And we had people that had never met her a pining on what they should what the family should do. The governor of the state of Florida, if you recall, at the time got involved, and he was saying what they should do. And there was a fear that he was going to send state troopers to standby our vets. I mean, it was, it was a very big issue. I think these kinds of things should be private family matters. I do not think that the discussion should leave the bedside, I do not think it should leave the family and the medical professionals and with the proper documents, it won’t.
Jude Wilson 18:12
Yeah, again, this is so important. And when we go through a process with our clients, we’re talking to them about these things that we’re uncovering the risks that they do see, and the risks that they don’t see. Now, of course, we’re not attorneys, so we can only make them aware of these risks, and then refer them out to someone like you. Wow, this first episode was great. Remember, this is a two part episode. And in this next episode, we’re going to talk about some possible solutions. Now, these are not recommendations. These are things that you should consider. So I welcome you back to listen to the second episode.
Marc Killian 18:53
That concludes part one of our two part series with Meryl Bailey talking with us about estate planning needs as well as asset protection. And of course, if you’ve got some questions or concerns again, you can visit her online at your caring law firm.com That’s your caring law firm.com And if you’d like to learn about how estate planning is essential to your financial plan, don’t forget to reach out to the team by emailing them. You can call or email at info at SunTrust fs.com. That’s info at SunTrust fs.com or call 800-779-4592. So make sure you subscribe to the podcast. We’ll be back with part two here in the next couple of weeks. So we will see you next time here on playing wise retire free with Jude Wilson.
The preceding program is sponsored by Jude Wilson, who is solely responsible for its content