ŽIf you have disabled or special needs children or grandchildren you might want to contact Ahead with Horses, which provides recreational and educational activities with horses, at 818-767-6373.

Ž 2012 Medicare premiums for the Advantage plan are scheduled to be cut 4% while other plans contemplate increases of 10%, according to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

There will be a 3.3% increase in social security benefits starting in January.

Until the end of 2012, the estate tax exemption is $5 million per person and $10 million per couple. What happens then is anybody’s guess.

The Treasury Department has announced it will phase out paper checks by March, 2013, for public benefits, including social security.

If you have an internet account, make sure that you have either written the password(s) and codes in your estate planning documents or given them to someone you trust. As more and more activity is done online, this is increasingly important.

The CBC news reports that “a new study shows the rates of sexually transmitted infections are rising rapidly in people over 50 who are popping erectile dysfunction drugs”. Who knew?

Quotables: “Confidence is what you have before you understand the problem” (Woody Allen, quoted in The Week).Ž

Books: I strongly suggest the Ron Chernow biography of George Washington; it is very readable and objective about both his strengths and faults.

Beware of non-attorneys who draft legal documents for you cheaply so you can “save money by avoiding attorneys”. Over the years I have come across several cases where such services did anything but save my clients money.

As always, I remind you that if I have done a trust for you, you should contact me every five years or when there is a major life event. Also, if you take your house out of the trust to refinance your mortgage, be sure the house is put back into the trust when the refinance is completed. And, ALWAYS be on the lookout for identity theft. Guard your personal information zealously.

If you do not have a HIPAA release form attached to your Advance Health Care Directive or Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, you should contact me to get a HIPAA release form.

As usual, this year I planted 13 more trees to offset the carbon footprint of my office and family, for a total of 65 trees to date. This office also donates to KPCC public radio KCET, the Natural Resources Defense Counsel, the Sierra Club, the American Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Doctors Without Borders and FINCA (which makes micro loans). I do this with a broader interpretation of “estate” to include not just the money I leave behind but trying to leave the world and environment a little bit better, too.


1) I will be offering basic income tax preparation services in 2012. I will charge you 25% less than your former preparer when you give me copies of the final bill and your 2010 taxes.

2) I will be providing basic investment advice. My goal is to protect your money rather than shoot for the stars. Every day there is a new dilemma (Greece, Italy, Spain, the U.S. deficit commission, continuing unemployment and layoffs), and these could potentially have dire effects on the stock and bond markets.

3) My Spanish speaking wife, Yvonne, will be helping me with Spanish speaking clients. I can now provide trust, probate, conservatorship or other assistance in Spanish. Yvonne is also available to provide caregiver services by separate arrangement (telephone: 818-613-9251).

If you have a legal problem outside of my areas of practice, (wills and trusts, trust administration, conservatorships, probate, social security disability, basic investment advice, basic tax preparation), please feel free to call for a referral to another attorney who can possibly assist you.

And finally, I wish each of you a healthy and happy holiday season!

Brian Sheppard