You are listening to an excerpt from Ask the Experts on Talk 860 WWDB AM with weekly guest, LGBTQ legal expert Angela Giampolo.
Today’s estate planning topics are of great importance, not only to the LGBTQ community, but to anyone trying to figure out how to create a will that won’t cause problems for your family after you are gone.
Host Steve O and Angela talk about:
- The definitions of types of property
- The importance of specifying property in your will
- The dangers of using online will creation systems
- How to make plans for pets in your will
- How to pick an executor and why it’s important
- The importance of including cryptocurrency and other digital assets in your will
In this week’s episode of Ask The Experts, Steve O. isn’t afraid to dive deep into the world of estate planning, LGBTQ law, transgender name changes, family law, employment discrimination, and many more! And to guide his line of questioning and answer important questions about pressing concerns is none other than Angela Giampolo, one of the top estate attorneys and experts in Philadelphia.
How would you introduce your firm to somebody who is just hearing of it?
Giampolo Law Group is my firm and I founded it back in 2008. I made sure it was geared towards the LGBTQ community. We do serve everyone, but I saw a pool in the legal service in this industry of the demographic of LGBTQ individuals not being serviced specifically for their unique legal needs. And over the years, those legal needs have changed either for legal reasons, political reasons, whatnot, but Giampolo Law Group has maintained an office in the Gayborhood in the heart of Philadelphia and will for a long time to come.
We are blessed—especially on the coasts, both sides, east coast, west coast—to be near cities that tend to be more progressive politically and more accepting. Cities by nature are more diverse. So if nothing else, you’re just going to walk by more diversity in larger cities. As you go inward into middle America and in some even larger cities in the south, that isn’t so much the case. Not has a Philly gay lawyer that is easily accessible to them that they can just walk in or that they even have a Gayborhood. The fact that we call it Gayborhood is a privilege itself already. I forget where it was not long ago, but I ran into someone and they asked, “Where are you from?” And I said, “Philadelphia.” And their reply was, “Oh, where’s your office in the heart of the neighborhood?”
And politically on the map, it’s called Gayborhood—it’s not just a fun word like Boystown or whatever that we’ve come up with. It’s legally and politically on the map. It’s called the Gayborhood. So if you were to jump into an Uber, it’ll say ‘from the Gayborhood.’ Needless to say, we’re blessed that we have that. But in Fort Worth Texas or Mobile, Al Alabama, or some of these places, not only do you not have access to our legal counsel, but it may not even be safe to be out. My goal is to expand my law firm nationally and have a footprint predominantly in these areas as opposed to just the larger cities where there are already a ton of LGBTQ lawyers.
It’s Okay to Come Out Even If It’s Not Safe
The fine line is helping people in areas where they may not see a lot of people like themselves. Even from an identification perspective, they may not feel like it’s okay to come out. The first battle is spreading love and acceptance and letting people know it is okay to be out and it is okay to authentically be yourself. And then secondly, is it safe to do so, right?
The one-piece that I can help with is the creating of a safe place, right? I can’t meet every single human and help with their self-acceptance and self-love. And whether or not their family accepts them. But what I can impact is the laws in the society they live in, which will ultimately create a safe place for the LGBTQ community nationwide.
What are the two main practices you focus on that aren’t estate planning or family law?
Employment discrimination and transgender legal issues which, generally, could fall under employment discrimination. But we’re also seeing a lot of states nationwide ban transgender youth from being able to play sports. A golfer down in Tennessee sued his school this past week. And under the transgender legal issues, there are also name changes.
So employment discrimination and name changes are the two main practices that I also focus on. Today, we’re going to be talking about estate planning, but we’ll also be talking about adoptions, family law, and employment discrimination—all of the practice areas that impact the LGBTQ community.
Adoption is an important area. It’s the only way that we can form families ultimately. And I love adoptions generally and I always include estate planning into my adoptions because you shouldn’t be bringing or creating a family and bringing another life into this world without having properly planned your wills and estate and whatnot. But I love adoptions because it’s the only time ever in the law where you have lawyers, judges, and clients all happy in a courtroom.
Real Property Versus Tangible Property: What Are Your Options?
When people think of property, they think of real estate ultimately. It’s important to distinguish that there are two types of property. The first one is real property, which is your real estate. And the second one is tangible personal property.
For example, these AirPods are an heirloom and they must go to my niece and nephew or something. And you plan for them very differently. And with tangible personal property, you can list specific humans. People say that they’ll never fight. So when people come to do their will, and I tell them, “okay, here’s your tangible personal property memorandum, now list out where you want certain things to go.” And they’re like, “I’ll be dead, I don’t care.” And I’m like, “well, as the lawyer who sees a lot of you pass, I’m telling you that everybody after you’re gone looks to me and says, did they leave any more instructions? Did they… and so on.” They ask a lot of questions in regards to the contents of the home, especially paintings on the wall, family, photos, antique collection of stamps or coins or something. And it doesn’t even have to have financial value, it could just have sentimental value. Dad’s varsity jacket, grandpa’s army flag, you name it. Pets are also included. California is the only state that doesn’t deem pets to be personal property and are tangible personal property, but I handle pets differently. Any tangible personal property, listing them on the memorandum and making sure that you list the people that you want those items to go to is very important. We want to make specific requests with real estate.
And then we plan for paying off the mortgage. I don’t know how many times this has happened but someone leaves a house to their family members or someone in particular, and it has a massive mortgage on it and that person can’t afford the mortgage and then has to sell the home. The whole gift is ultimately complicated by the fact that they didn’t plan for the mortgage.
Now, pets are my favorite thing to plan for. We create pet trusts. Ultimately just like if you had a child, no one knows what vet your dog, or cat, or macaw, or African parrot, or turtle goes to, right? That animal lover in your life may not necessarily be the person that you want is the executor of your estate.
So I have it as a completely separate document. And in there, we mention who your vet is and we mention any allergies as well. The same way you would if you were passing on your four-year-old child to someone, right? And we leave money to that person. We know pets that the last years, sometimes 18 months or two years of an animal’s life, are the most expensive.
I have a friend going through it now, and they’re like 5,000 in the last six months. We leave anywhere from 1,000 to 5,000. The most anyone’s ever left is 1,000 and that was for some horses, but you can leave the pet care agent an amount of money to make sure that your pet is cared for properly.
Beware! Avail The Right Online Services
Online services can be super tricky. I had a conversation yesterday with a client and I like him so much. I love his whole family. And they availed to these online services. It wasn’t legal zoom, but another online service. It goes by a woman’s name. And I see so many people use her documents. They’re in Pennsylvania because she founded the software company in California. The family ended up getting a California trust with a Pennsylvania last will testament. California trust accidentally didn’t name a successor trustee. I mean, what I am trying to rectify now is the fact that this woman passed away with four properties and 13 beneficiaries.
It was a complicated estate, even if they had come to me. And yet they tried to use this online system. For some reason, one document is governed by PA and the other documents are governed by California. Maybe they inputted or maybe it was an operator error.
I’m not blaming the system, but ultimately if you’re trying to do something online, something will likely go wrong and this will cost you in the five figures to fix. It would’ve been probably a $5,000 estate plan realistically with the complexity of it all but it’s easily going to be 15,000 to fix. So. 10,000 extra five-figure mistake.
Things to Know Before Choosing an Executor
In choosing your executor, you need to think about the fact that it’s a job. I had a couple come to me the other day and one of them has three sisters. What he was trying to do was to take the three sisters and give them each a role because he didn’t want anyone to feel left out. So he was like, “all right, well, this one is good in health and this one is good… she could be my durable power of attorney, and then I’ll make this one my executor.” And I said, “now, are those people really the best people for those roles, or are you just trying to name each one of your sisters and give them a job because you think they’re going to be hurt or wounded if when you pass?” Sure enough, that was what he was doing.
It’s important for you to remember that being an executor is a full-time job. It’s literally what we do in my office all day, every day. And not only is it a full-time job, but you are appointing them into a fiduciary capacity, which means they and be sued and liable, held liable if they don’t do what’s right in the law ultimately. So it’s not a gift. It’s not like a Christmas present, you’re not doing them a favor, you are literally appointing them in a role, which could get them sued.
So many people are like, “oh, can I make all my brothers co-executors because they’ll all be hurt if they find out that I picked one over the other?” No. I don’t do co anything. I never appoint co-executors. And if you’re absolutely adamant that you want co-executors, then I don’t do the will for you.
Death and divorce change people. So even if you think the two people that you’re choosing would agree on everything and would never fight, it doesn’t matter. I just don’t want to rely on humans having to agree on everything. Just know that in choosing your executor, leave all emotion out of it. If you are going to go with a family member, choose the person that is most organized and legally and financially sound.
I’d say about 50% of my clients appoint the law firm. They appoint Angela D. Giampolo Law Group as their attorney or they appoint an agent of Giampolo Law Group in case they get hit by a bus. Because again, ultimately, it’s what we do all day, every day. You pay 90% of the time and the executor hires a lawyer to prevent them from potentially getting sued because they are legally liable and they don’t want to do anything wrong.
I explain all of this to my client who is choosing the person. Then not often enough but sometimes, the person they’re choosing wishes to have a meeting with me to discuss what they’re accepting as a role. But when the couple is married, then I’m speaking to both of them at the same time, and they’re accepting it for one another right then and there. With single people, every once in a while, the person they’re appointing asks to speak with me.
In choosing your executor, don’t think you’re doing them any favors. Be as emotionless as possible and know that your executor is likely going to go out and hire a lawyer to do it anyway. So you could save on estate fees because the lawyer gets the legal fee and then the executor gets a commission. You can reduce the number of costs associated by just choosing your attorney.
The Modern Times: How Cryptocurrency Ties into Estate Planning
I am in the midst of putting together an entire webinar on estate planning for cryptocurrencies because it is mainstream. It is here to stay, it is not tangible like this phone is, and people have a lot of wealth tied into cryptocurrency. But they don’t know how to plan for it and lawyers don’t know how to plan for it.
There are very few estate planning attorneys that are keeping abreast of the laws as they are changing. But ultimately, if you were to meet your sudden demise tomorrow and you have a cryptocurrency and no one knows the keys and the secret keys, and you don’t have them written down, or you don’t have some way to let someone know how to access your cryptocurrency, which is basically in a vault, then it’s gone forever.
There is no customer service that we can call like Wells Fargo or ACON. It’s the Ether—it’s out there. At Bitcoin, there will only ever be 21 million Bitcoins in particular. Bitcoin is the major cryptocurrency in the world but there are 13,000 different cryptocurrencies. With Bitcoin itself, there will only ever be 21 in the Bitcoin mind. And as of today, one-third has already been lost.
A little over 20% of Bitcoin is just lost and can never be recovered and it will never be recovered. 13% of Americans invested in cryptocurrency this year. And as a comparison, that doesn’t sound like a lot, but only 24% invested in the stock market. So if 24% invest in the stock market and 13% in cryptocurrency, then that means it’s approaching mainstream adaptability very quickly.
Why Should People Retain You?
I’m awesome. Because at Giampolo Law Group, and that’s me, that’s Maddie, my staff, my Chihuahua—we love our clients. Every year, I have a client appreciation event, I send out Christmas cards. Basically, when you retain us, you retain us for life. We do your estate planning and many more. Then God forbid you get divorced, or if someone in your family dies, or if you grow the family by adoption, but we’re here for you.
One of my gay clients was recently discriminated against at work. I became the personal family lawyer and there’s not much I don’t know about my clients. And so that’s why I suggest that people reach out to us is our service is legal services, but we’re in the business of taking care of our clients.
Anything Else We Should Be Looking Forward to?
My website is giampololaw.com and my phone number is 215-645-2415. And we have an upcoming podcast called Out Boss Talk. Basically, I talk to bosses in there. I talk to bosses in their respective industries and the audience is geared towards LGBTQ entrepreneurs. When it is available, I will let everybody know. We’re finalizing season one as we speak, but it’s called Out Boss Talk and it’s geared towards LGBTQ business owners. We also talk to bosses that represent respective industries.
Where There’s A Will, There’s A Way!
Giampolo Law Group is so passionate about estate planning; they went so far as to trademark ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way.’ A properly structured trust will avoid putting your loved ones through the expensive lengthy and emotionally draining court probate process. Most important, you can prevent some or all of your assets from being subject to estate law upon your death, allowing more of your hate to be enjoyed by your loved ones. The marriage equality ruling drastically changed the legal landscape for LGBTQ couples, and Giampolo Law Group is experienced with what those changes mean for estate planning. Giampolo Law Group can help you establish or reorganize your estate plan to address your concerns while accounting for the complexities and state and federal laws. The attorneys at Giampolo Law Group are experienced in assisting clients with estate planning, specifically in preparing or revising wills, trusts, and other ancillary documents such as powers of attorney and hospital visitation forms. Contact Giampolo Law Group today for a complimentary consultation, 215-398-6579. Remember, where there’s a will, there’s a way.