Naked Commitment

Dateline: Coventry, England in the year 1045, give or take ten years.  Leofric, Earl of Mercia, possesses two distinct reputations.  First, the Earl and his wife continued as generous benefactors to religious houses.   In 1043, Leofric founded and endowed a Benedictine monastery in Coventry on a site of former nunnery.  The Danes destroyed the nunnery during an invasion in 1016 with Leofric determined to restore a religious purpose to the site.  Leofric’s wife “encouraged” him to grant land to the monastery of St. Mary and create an endowment for that monastery.  The power couple donated jewelry and commissioned works of art to be donated to these monasteries and other religious sites.

Second, the Earl possessed a well-earned reputation as a landowner who highly taxed those on his lands under this feudal system.  These taxes satisfied tribute the Earl owed to the King and supported Leofric’s own lifestyle, including the generous donations to monasteries and religious sites.  It is good to be in favor with the King!

In or about 1050, these reputations collided with Leofric insisting that his charitable generosity continue to be funded through his extensive land holdings.  That approach translated to even higher taxes on those who occupied the lands.  In Coventry, the new and excessive taxes hit so hard that residents confronted the choice of satisfying the new, additional tax or have their families go without food.  The Earl made clear that the only choice available would be to pay the taxes.

Enter Leofric’s wife who took pity on the people of Coventry.  The Earl’s wife interceded on behalf of the villagers begging the Earl to abandon the new taxes.  The historical accounts politely suggest that these requests were so frequent and so fervent that they amounted to marital nagging by Leofric’s spouse.  Exasperated, Leofric exclaimed that he would grant his Lady’s request if she would strip naked and ride a horse through the streets of Coventry.  Lady Godiva accepted the challenge.

Lady Godiva stood much to lose in bargaining for the town people.  While recognized in her own right as a Lady of the King’s court, she knew that her status deeply depended on the fortunes of her husband, the Earl.  She could not embarrass or cross Leofric to the point where he would relegate her to some non-relevant status.  Lady Godiva’s own riches and lifestyle were directly tied to the funds raised through taxes.  Her ability to direct charitable offerings to religious orders derived from collecting taxes on the residents of these lands.  Lady Godiva’s own reputation would certainly be an issue among the elite if she were to ride naked through the town.

Yet, Lady Godiva threw caution and her clothes to the wind in an effort to assist those in Coventry.  Lady Godiva, in a nod to her own modesty, issued a proclamation “commanding all Persons to keep within Doors and from their Windows, on pain of Death” during the ride.  She then rode her horse clothed only in her lengthy hair through Coventry and circled the marketplace before returning to the homestead.  Note that historical accounts differ on whether such a proclamation to remain indoors had been issued and whether an audience witnessed the naked parade of one.  Regardless, the Earl relented after Lady Godiva’s ride and eliminated the new tax.

The directive to remain inside during Lady Godiva’s ride ultimately lead to another legend which historians cannot readily accept: Peeping Tom.  The earliest published accounts of Peeping Tom date back to the 17th Century, hundreds of years following the naked journey.  The story of Peeping Tom had been part of the local lore in telling the story in Coventry for hundreds of years.

Peeping Tom, a local tailor in Coventry, could not resist spying on Lady Godiva as she processed through town in all her glory and only her hair.  Legends differ with Tom either killed or blinded for his peeping.  In one iteration, Lady Godiva’s beauty struck Tom blind.  Alternatively, God killed Tom for ignoring the command to remain inside.  God would so act to protect Lady Godiva as Godiva meant “beloved by God”.  In other tellings of the tale, the people of Coventry beat Tom half to death and blinded him for his transgression.  In any event, by 1796, a dictionary defined Peeping Tom as “A nick name for a curious prying fellow.”  

Whichever account of Lady Godiva may be accurate, one item remains certain.  Lady Godiva possessed commitment to her cause.  She bought into the protest at the risk of losing her social status, her spouse, her pride, her wealth, and her future income.  She stood up to the one in power knowing that the consequences could be catastrophic for herself and the people of Coventry.  

It strikes me that today, especially in this day of the 24 hour news cycle and immediate reporting of anything we can call “news”, we have many protests on almost any issue.  But Lady Godiva’s commitment appears absent.  We protest so that the voices are heard on the news cycle for today and then almost forgotten. 

Take, for example, the Kid Rock Bud Light protests from earlier this year.  Please note, I take no position on either side of the Bud Light protests.  I am not a fan of Bud Light simply because I do not like the taste of the beer.  I otherwise find nothing wrong with Bud Light.  I also have no problem with Kid Rock.  I do not own Kid Rock albums or CDs, but have no issue with his music.  I further understand that Bud Light wants and needs to market to all potential beer drinkers as part of its business model in our capitalistic system.  I appreciate that these marketing decisions may not sit well with some of the existing Bud Light consumers and they may rightfully protest.  No judgments.  No positions.  No questions.  No dog in the hunt for me.  

My point relates to commitment in any protest.  Quite vocally and splashed all over social media, Kid Rock famously fought a case of Bud Light.  The Kid took aim with his semi-automatic assault rifle at a case of unarmed Bud Light. The semi-automatic won, hands down, with the case of Bud Light blown away beyond recognition.  Take that Anheusser-Busch.  Kid Rock used that incident to bring voice to the protest against Bud Light’s marketing decisions which alienated Bud Light drinkers.  No more Bud Light at concerts, tailgate parties, floating around the lake or at backyard barbecues!

Except . . .  Kid Rock forgot about something.  Two months after the video of the battle between Kid Rock and the case of Bud Light went viral and Kid Rock declared that Bud Light is beer non-grata, the media dutifully travelled to Kid Rock’s Nashville bar.  Entering Kid Rock’s Big Ass Honky Tonk Rock ’n Roll Steakhouse, reporters were greeted with two bottles of Bud Light on the bar.  The reporters inquired if Bud Light was still being served at Kid Rock’s bar.  The bartender confirmed that Bud Light was never taken off the menu or offerings.  In fact, the bartender pointed out the two Bud Lights sitting on the bar.  The barkeep further confirmed that patrons still regularly ordered Bud Light.  Oops.

Apparently, Kid Rock drew the line for his own protest at his wallet.  His bar still served the very offending beer and Kid Rock still made money off those sales.  Kid Rock demonstrated commitment by taking down the case of Bud Light and then voicing opposition from his platform.  But Kid Rock’s commitment did not equate with the naked commitment of Lady Godiva.  Kid Rock placed his own potential income in a position superior to the underlying protest.  His commitment possessed limits and he would not risk it all as did Lady Godiva.

Do not misunderstand, Kid Rock pushed the protest against Bud Light father down the road.  It could be claimed that Kid Rock’s efforts gave oxygen to the fire against Bud Light.  Bud Light’s sales have taken a hit.  The protest worked, in part, due to Kid Rock and his actions.  However, Kid Rock cannot legitimately claim to have been “all in” with his commitment so limited protecting his own interests.

I do not suggest that Kid Rock should ride his Harley buck naked down Broadway outside his Nashville bar to bring further attention to this protest.  Hopefully, none of us wish that approach.  When a protester, especially a high profile person, stages such a public demonstration as protest, then commitment must be genuine and across the board.  You need naked commitment as with Lady Godiva.  Kid Rock did not achieve that level with still looking out for himself.

In Estate Planning, it is often difficult for clients to achieve naked commitment when evaluating who should serve in agency positions in the plan.  I have candid and sometimes challenging discussions with clients to recognize who would best protect their interests if and when they can no longer act for themselves.  After discussing how one child cannot handle financial affairs and evaluating trust protections necessary for that child for any distribution, the same parents then want to name that child as their Attorney in Fact under their financial powers of attorney.  I scratch my head and ask why the parents want this financially irresponsible child to handle their financial affairs.  I receive response that the child is the oldest and that the oldest child should have this responsibility.  I gently suggest that others may be better suited, even if not the eldest.

Commitment to a child is not a bad thing, but Estate Planning demands naked commitment.  Honest, candid and complete analysis of strengths and weaknesses of those who will serve as your agents must be mandatory to protect your interests and ensure that your wishes are followed.  Commitment light will not do.  Lady Godiva commitment is needed.

Cryptocurrency, Or . . . Keeping Up With the Jetsons

We can readily envision George Jetson paying for his flying car with cryptocurrency.  Whether George favors Bitcoin, Ethereum, Dogecoin or other cryptocurrencies, digital money transferred over the internet still strikes some as futuristic.  The reality is that cryptocurrencies are now well-entrenched in our economic system both as internet money and as investment vehicles even with recent questions about the longer-term viability of cryptocurrency.

But, be careful!  Cryptocurrencies are by and large unregulated.  While that dynamic may be part of the attraction to users, it also means that laws and regulations have yet to catch up with cryptocurrencies.  Without such oversight, risk follows in areas such as estate planning for cryptocurrency.

Cryptocurrency is still considered property rather than a currency.  Yet, it cannot be treated as just another asset in your estate plan.  For example, if you leave Bitcoins to your children, they cannot access them absent reaching your digital wallets with the associated 64-digit private keys.  There is nowhere to turn to “reset passwords” or create new logon accounts.  If you die without properly providing this information to others, the Bitcoins would quite literally be lost just as if you lost a jacket or pair of eyeglasses.  The Bitcoins carry slightly more value.

One part of the cure is to use your estate plan to provide for disclosure of cryptocurrency assets and provide a secure manner to transfer the private keys and necessary data to trustees and beneficiaries.  The information can be part of the estate plan or provide clear guidance as to how to access the information.  This information must be kept up to date as well.  We can build in solutions to meet your practices and needs.

If you want to join the George Jetson crowd, you need to incorporate passing on this special asset in your estate plan.  Contact Michael Geiger at Geiger Law for assistance with cryptocurrencies and all your estate planning needs.

Divorce Finalized.  Now What?  Plan for Your Future! Part 2: Incapacity Planning.

New potential clients routinely and casually advise that their estate plan prepared during a prior marriage has never been updated.  When I let them know that the ex-spouse may still hold the power to make decisions on their behalf, including life and death medical decisions, they quickly understand the need to revisit their estate plan.  Either as part of, or immediately after divorce, careful consideration of any estate plan needs to be a high priority.  If no estate plan exists, it is then time to invest in one.

Any meaningful estate plan includes so much more than a will.  You should use an estate plan to address potential needs during your life as well as plan for when you pass.  Your estate plan, in addition to a will or trust structure, at a minimum, should include the following:



General Durable Power of Attorney

If you become incapacitated, a designated representative(s) can manage your business affairs per your specific instructions.

Advanced Health Care Power of Attorney  

If you become incapacitated, a designated representative(s) can make medical decisions, including life-sustaining choices, on your behalf per your specific instructions.

Living Will

Expression of end of life medical choices.

HIPPA Authorizations

Allows listed individuals access to your medical information if you are not able to authorize such access.

These documents serve as your protection if you are not able to express your wishes during your life.  Once established, there is no need to go to court.  There is no delay.  And, make certain that these documents reflect your choice of those to act as your agents (and most probably not your ex-spouse!) if ever called upon. 

To learn more about comprehensive estate plans, contact Michael Geiger at Geiger Law.  Michael’s direct line is (901) 219-5549.

Divorce Finalized. Now What? Plan for Your Future! Part 1:  Resources Exist for You.

The divorce process itself is traumatic.  But what about the time when the dust begins to settle on that process and you begin to find your own new normal and your new comfort zone?  It may assist to take stock of where you are and better define (or plan) for any new direction.  The unknown and unknowable future may be frightening.  However, you need not address the challenges on your own.

In addition to any network of family and friends, you can and should turn to others who can assist in various parts of your life.  If not done, establish a relationship with a financial advisor or wealth management professional.  Having your own accountant at this time will assist you.  Secure the services of an insurance broker who understands your new risk profile.  These types of professionals can assist to ensure that your assets such as bank accounts, 401(k) plans, pension plans, and insurance policies properly identify new beneficiaries and stakeholders as needed.

And think about your estate, most especially if you already have an existing estate plan in place.  Once a divorce is finalized, an existing estate plan is usually outdated, or worse, contrary to your new circumstances, desires and goals. 

Any estate planning documents you created during your marriage most probably included your now ex-spouse as a beneficiary or designated the ex-spouse as the person authorized to make medical or business decisions on your behalf.  You need to determine your desired new structure to manage your affairs.  Planning ahead will prevent costly and time consuming delays if you are ever incapacitated.  More importantly, your instructions, desires and wishes will be clearly spelled out for all.  

The stress and challenges of new circumstances brought on with divorce cannot be avoided.  They nonetheless can be managed.  Part of these new beginnings should include proper estate planning to meet your new conditions.  Geiger Law can assist.  Contact Michael Geiger at (901) 219-5549 or [email protected].

94 Cents Sends A Message

Living Trusts and Wills provide methods to share feelings about those in your life.  For some, the message is not always positive.  A few examples illustrate the messaging flexibility in estate plans.  First is the category of “silence speaks volumes”.  A Living Trust or Will may make absolutely no mention of someone who believed that inclusion in the estate would be a given.  That person is left to wonder, perhaps for all their remaining time, if there had been some mistake or oversight.  Second is express disinheritance.  The Living Trust or Will can name someone and then explicitly state that the person is disinherited and shall receive nothing under any circumstances.  Third is the nominal gift or bequest.  Most clients using this technique want to leave $1 as inheritance.  The message is clear: I know you are there and $1 states your value to me.  No further explanation.  Ouch.

Then there is 94 cents.  A client determined that 94 cents provides the maximum number of coins to be left to someone and this client felt that coins were worthless.  The client worried that if $1 were left, it could be used to buy a lottery ticket – and the ticket could be a winner.  Or, the $1 could be a tip for a barista in a coffee shop with the coffee shop folks then believing that the tipper was a stand-up guy.  Or, the $1 could be carried around as a prop in a story to explain the miserly or petty nature of the deceased.  The $1 could not be used against the deceased – 94 cents it is!

I recommend stripping away the vitriol and use gifts in a manner to encourage positive behavior.  Leave grievances behind.  But, if you are compelled to leave 94 cents to that someone so very special, I can assist.  If you have not done so, contact Michael Geiger at Geiger Law for all your estate planning needs.

Unexpected Encounters

I admit that I am not a big social media participant.  I worry not about the number of my “friends”.  I “follow” others only if I personally know them.  I do not tweet (or X-tweet now).  I do not check my social media accounts hourly, daily, or many times even weekly.

Despite this lack of attention, a recent post from an actual friend caught my eye.  The entire post consisted of: “I am looking for a Roy Orbison article.”  That’s it.  Nothing more.  No context.  No reference to an article about Roy Orbison’s life, music, career, or otherwise.  Responses to this post by others included comments about Roy Orbison’s unique voice, hit songs, and his musical abilities, but no one inquired about the nature of the article sought by my friend.

Without more, I will rise to the challenge.  Here is a Blog article about Roy Orbison for my friend Dave.  With minimum digging, Roy Orbison’s life offers a tapestry of riches for any writer.  Roy’s gift of a guitar from his father at age 6 and confirmation that he would pursue a life in music by age 7 could be a good article.  Roy’s early Texas influences including Country music star Lefty Fazzell, who later served as the namesake for Roy’s character as Lefty Wilbury, could be grist for a good story.  Orbison’s personal tragedies of loss of his wife and two of his children in horrible accidents remains prime canon fodder for any tail.  Hanging out with Elvis, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash for three years at Sun Studios, including Elvis loaning Roy his purple Cadillac to impress Roy’s date, represents writer’s gold.

Instead, our story about Roy Orbison begins in the pubs and wedding halls in northwest England in the late 1950s.  Sixteen year old guitarist John Lennon plays with the Quarrymen when fifteen year old Paul McCartney joins the band for a few numbers during each gig.  Paul’s guitar playing improves to the point where he gets a solo on “Guitar Boogie”.  However, the fifteen year old proved too nervous to perform well on stage on his solo forcing the band to reach out for fellow fifteen yer old guitarist George Harrison to join them.  The core of the Beatles became cast by late 1957.

The Quarrymen played local parties, wedding receptions and at pubs in Liverpool and Manchester during 1958 and 1959.  Trying to gain traction, they also performed as Johnny and the Moon Dogs, the Silver Beetles, and the Silver Beats at this time.  John Lennon and bassist Stuart Sutcliffe coined the term “Beatles” by combining the Silver Beetles and Silver Beats.

During this period, the band, under whatever name they used, could not keep a drummer.  Paul McCartney even played drums for a few shows considering himself pretty good at it.  Apparently, the rest of the band disagreed with a search continuing for a drummer.  In August 1960, the band’s manager and booking agent, Allen Williams, convinced the band to travel to Hamburg, Germany to play for a while as Williams previously had success with sending other bands abroad.  One problem:  the band still lacked a drummer.  Williams recruited drummer Pete Best from a different band and sent him along to Hamburg as the Beatles’ new drummer.

Between 1960 and 1962, the Beatles split their time between Liverpool and Hamburg.  John Lennon credits the young German audiences with pushing the band’s development.  The Germans demanded that these bands play lengthy sets and play loud.  That dynamic forced Lennon-McCartney to create more music to feed the demand.  As Lennon put it: “We really had to hammer.”

Of course, the Beatles big break came in January 1962 when record store owner Brian Epstein “discovered” the Beatles in Liverpool signing them to a five year management contract.  1962 became the year of change for the Beatles.  In April, bass player Stuart Sutcliffe died suddenly of a brain hemorrhage.  In June, the band got a shot at recording, being teamed up with producer George Martin.  The Beatles recorded various singles including “Love Me Do” and “PS I Love You”.  In August, Martin let Epstein know that drummer Pete Best was holding back the band.  Epstein immediately fired Pete Best thereby relegating him to an answer to trivia questions for generations to come.  Epstein turned to the son of a local confectioner, Ringo Starr as the new drummer.  August 1962 – the Beatles as we know them.

January 1963, the Beatles release “Please Please Me” which shot up to No. 1 on the U.K. charts.  The Beatles followed a string of Top Ten hits in the U.K. during 1963 and became a touring sensation in Great Britain.

While the Beatles evolved and started to find their groove, back in the States, in 1960, Roy Orbison — you remember Roy Orbison — this article is about Roy Orbison — wrote and pitched “Only the Lonely” to Elvis Presley and the Everly Brothers.  After they each rejected the song, Orbison recorded it himself.  “Only the Lonely” charted out as No. 2 in the U.S. and No. 1 in the U.K. and Australia.  Between 1960 and 1963, Roy Orbison pumped out a series of hits including “Running Scared”, “Crying”, and “Dream Baby” which each raced up the charts in the U.S. and the U.K.  “Pretty Woman” was added to the mix.  By 1963, Roy Orbison was established both in the States and across the pond.

With their own freshly minted No. 1 songs now in hand in 1963, the Beatles planned a U.K. tour with Duane Eddy billed as the top performer.  Eddy was pulled from the tour with Roy Orbison asked to take on the top billing spot to tour with this new group, the Beatles.  Orbison arrived in England having never heard of the Beatles or their songs.  Roy and the Beatles met for the first time backstage before their first scheduled performance.

Orbison asked “What’s a Beatle, anyway?”  John Lennon tapped him on the shoulder and responded “I am”.  This interaction began the unlikely friendship between Roy Orbison and the Beatles.

The Beatles and Orbison discussed the order of performance for the show with Orbison stating that he would gladly play first and give “top billing” to the up and coming Beatles.  The Beatles watched in awe as Orbison, dressed in his trademark performance black clothes, strode to the center of the stage with his guitar and simply played and sang.  He did not move from the center stage position.  He did not dance around.  He just performed.  This approach was the antithesis from what the Beatles learned in Hamburg which demanded high energy and high volume songs.  After the tour, the Beatles remained amazed that Roy Orbison so captivated the crowd while simply standing still in one spot on the stage.

The audience roared with applause for Roy Orbison.  Orbison played encore after encore with the crowd chanting “We want Roy” every time he exited the stage.  After the fourteenth encore, John Lennon and George Harrison grabbed Orbison by the shoulders and told him that they would not let him go back out for a fifteenth encore as the Beatles had to get on the stage.  

During this tour, before one show, Orbison lost his black framed glasses.  He grabbed his dark prescription sunglasses, also set in large black frames, for his set and realized he liked using the sunglasses better with the spotlights.  Thereafter, Roy always performed with his dark sunglasses regardless of venue.

Bruce Springsteen inducted Roy Orbison into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.  In tribute, Springsteen concluded his speech as follows:  “I wanted a record with words like Bob Dylan that sounded like Phil Spector – but, most of all, I wanted to sing like Roy Orbison.  Now, everyone knows that no one sings like Roy Orbison.”  We all knew the incredible range of Roy Orbison’s voice.  Now we can better appreciate how Roy Orbison and George Harrison so easily teamed up in the Traveling Wilburys in the late 1980s.

I have learned with Estate Planning clients that everyone has their own story with unique and unexpected interactions during the journey of their lives.  Perhaps we do not have chart topping musical hits or perhaps we do not meet the Beatles.  Yet, these interactions and relationships remain important to us.  Some clients wish to utilize their estate plans to recognize special events or relationships in their lives.  Clients may memorialize such events with a modest distribution or donation to a deserving cause in the name of a special person.  The Will or Living Trust could simply include a statement of the importance of the underlying event.  For these clients, when we prepare to sign the myriad of documents in their Estate Plan, without failure inquire if these token or special gestures are properly included in their documents.  Events along the journey for each of us matter as does an article about Roy Orbison for my friend Dave.

Back to School!

It’s Back to School time, even for college students.  Perhaps your own college student does not know where your washer and dryer are located in your house.  Your own college student would not know how to unload a dishwasher which has always, magically, unloaded itself.  Yet, college students are adults in the eyes of the law even though their parents know otherwise.

As adults, they need their own basic estate plan documents such as a Health Care Power of Attorney, HIPPA Authorization, and Business Affairs Power of Attorney.  The Health Care Power of Attorney allows those so authorized to make medical decisions on behalf of the person who is now incapacitated.  The Business Affairs Power of Attorney similarly permits the designated Attorney in Fact to manage business decisions for the incapacitated person, including insurance and banking decisions.  

The HIPPA Authorization may prove invaluable.  If your college student ends up receiving medical care, but is not in a position to advise who should receive medical information about the condition, the hospital or medical provider are precluded from releasing information to others – even Mom and Dad, absent a court order.  

Without these basic documents, Mom and Dad may be left entirely in the dark left to worry and wonder.  Or, Mom and Dad can arrange to secure these type of protections for their children while they are away at school – even if being “away” is attending the University of Memphis.  Attorney Michael Geiger can help with these needs and also address your own estate plan.