Downs Law Firm, P.C.

Charitable giving

Passing on Assets? Perhaps Some Can Be Given Away

Want to make a big impact? Consider passing on some of your assets through charitable giving. While many people transfer their assets to the next generation, there are many who want to give some, or even all, of their assets away through charitable giving. That can make a big impact, according to MarketWatch in “Giving your money away when you die: 10 questions to ask.” If you haven’t thought about charitable giving or estate planning, these 10 questions should prompt some thought and discussion with family members: Should you give money away now? Don’t give away money or assets you’ll need to pay your living expenses, unless you have what you need for retirement and any bumps that may come up along the way. There are no limits to the gifts you can make to a charity. Do you have the right beneficiaries listed on retirement accounts and life insurance policies? If you want these assets to go to the right person or place, make sure the beneficiary names are correct. Note that there are rules, usually from the financial institution, about who can be a beneficiary—some require it be a person and do not permit the beneficiary to be an organization. Who do you want making end-of-life decisions, and how much intervention do you want to prolong your life? A health care power of attorney and living will are used to express these wishes. Without these documents, your family may not know what you want. Healthcare providers won’t know and will have to make decisions based on law, and not your wishes. Do you have a will? Many Americans do not, and it creates stress, adds costs and creates real problems for their family members. Make an appointment with an estate planning attorney to put your wishes into a will. Are you worried about federal estate taxes? Unless you are in the 1%, your chances of having to pay federal taxes are slim to none. However, if your will was created to address federal estate taxes from back in the days when it was a problem, you may have a strategy that no longer works. This is another reason to meet with your estate planning attorney. Does your state have estate or inheritance taxes? This is more likely to be where your heirs need to come up with the money to pay taxes on your estate. Maryland has a 10% tax for gifts to people who are not close relatives. This would include nieces and nephews. There is no such tax on life insurance proceeds. Your decisions of “Who gets what” can include significant tax consequences. A local estate planning attorney will be able to help you make a plan so that your heirs will have the resources to pay these costs. Should you keep your Roth IRA for an heir? Leaving a Roth IRA for an heir, could be a generous bequest. You may also want to encourage your heirs to start and fund Roth IRAs of their

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Relocating

Take a Fresh Look at Estate Plan If You Relocate

An estate planning attorney in your new state of residence should go over your estate plan. We have noticed a distinct trend: Many people are choosing to leave Maryland and to relocate for retirement and often relocate to a warm, sunny state. The weather an retirement friendly tax environments make this easy to understand. If you decide to relocate, it would be a good idea to have an estate planning attorney review your estate plan, according to TC Palm in “Should new Florida residents update their out-of-state estate planning documents?” An example of why it’s a good idea to have an estate plan review is that in the State of Florida, as long as your will from another state is valid under that state’s law, it will be honored in Florida. That is generally true. However, there may be laws in Florida that could cause some problems with the out-of-state will. That applies to other states as well. Here’s a good example. Let’s say you now own a home–known in Florida as a “homestead”—and your out-of-state will transfers your residence at the time of your death to a trust for the benefit of your spouse and your children. The only person who can receive a homestead in Florida is the spouse. If your will from out-of-state was used, the house would result in a life estate going to the spouse with a vested remainder to your children. This doesn’t achieve the result you wanted: to have the property controlled by a trustee and not your spouse and children. If this was a second marriage, the potential could be a family blow up, even litigation. Even in a first marriage, if the children and their mother differ on what should happen to the family homestead, there would be trouble ahead. Taking that example further: What if your out-of-state will directs the sale of your home in Florida and the distribution of proceeds in equal shares to your children? If you die with creditor claims, you lose the homestead exemption for creditor protection purposes. Your children’s inheritances could then be at risk. More food for thought: if your out-of-state will appoints a non-relative who is a resident of the state where your will was originally executed to serve as your personal representative, they won’t be able to do much in Florida. That’s because they are not eligible to serve as a personal representative under Florida law, which only allows a nonrelative to serve, if they are a Florida resident. Maryland has its own unique rules, including a 10% inheritance tax for assets left to people who do not qualify as close relatives, such as nephews and nieces. Every state has its own laws, and while some issues are fairly consistent from state-to-state, that is not always the case. To take advantage of the laws in your new home state, an plan review should be done. If you decide to relocate it would be a good idea to meet with an estate planning attorney, in

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Aretha Franklin and no planning

The Queen is Gone, and She Didn’t Have an Estate Plan

We all procrastinate about something. The time may never seem right to deal with your inevitable death. Aretha Franklin. the “Queen of Soul” has passed away, leaving an $80 million estate and no estate plan, according to Investment News in “Aretha Franklin estate echoes planning problems of Prince.” Franklin was not married so the estate will pass to her four children. It’s similar to the situation that occurred when Prince died unmarried and without a will in 2016. Had she been married her estate could have passed tax-free to a spouse and there would have been planning opportunities available at that time. Franklin’s four kids will now receive equal shares of her estate.  However, they will have to pay a considerable amount in taxes. She was a resident of Michigan, which does not have an estate tax, so there won’t be a state estate tax. However, the federal government takes 40% of portions of the estate valued over $11.18 million. In other words, a $27.5 million tax bill. Without the benefit of a trust being established by a will, those assets will be taxed again by the federal government at the time that the four heirs pass, when the money moves to her grandchildren. Celebrity estates, like that of Franklin, must undergo a complex valuation process to correctly assign an approximate future value of income. Like Prince, there are image rights and music royalties, and the buzz surrounding her death is likely to inflate its value and the tax that will be levied. While Michigan does not have an estate tax, the state does have a “postmortem right of publicity,” meaning that her heirs have the right to legally protect her image for commercial use. Her postmortem rights of publicity are expected to be extremely high, because of her iconic stature as a musician, songwriter and cultural touchstone. Estates of celebrities and creative artists are required to be valued and the appraisal must be reconciled with a parallel appraisal conducted by the IRS. Remember Michael Jackson’s situation? The estate initially valued his name and image at $2,015, while the IRS valued it at more than $434 million. One of Franklin’s children reportedly has special needs. This could put him in a precarious position. If he inherits a large sum of money, he will no longer be eligible for any government programs. Given the size of his inheritance that will not be a problem. For those with less wealth, however, that is why estate planners encourage the use of special needs trusts. This not only protects the child’s eligibility but protects them from misusing the money or being scammed by unscrupulous individuals. Even if you are not an entertainer with assets that total in the millions, an estate planning attorney can advise you in creating an estate plan that fits your unique circumstances. Reference: Investment News (Aug. 22, 2018) “Aretha Franklin estate echoes planning problems of Prince”

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