Downs Law Firm, P.C.
Downs Law Firm, P.C.
I have a sister, who I have not seen or heard from in 40 years, when she said she hated all of us and never wanted anything to do with us again. She even gave up her 5-year-old son for strangers to adopt and would not let my parents adopt him.
Before gifting a holiday property, an individual or couple (who can gift up to $22.8 million against their lifetime estate-tax exclusion through 2025), should find out whether their children want it.
Fortunately, Perry’s foresight to do proper estate planning, meant that the tragedy was not made worse for his family.
When a remarriage takes place late in life, potential problems can arise over an existing home. It may be hard to broach the subject of death when you are getting married later in life. If you have children from a prior marriage, what will happen with assets and control is a necessary difficult conversation. It’s not always an easy situation when a spouse moves into the home of their spouse when they marry. Would the surviving spouse receive the home when the other dies? Does the home go to children from a previous marriage or previous arrangement? A good estate plan can resolve many potential problems in a remarriage situation, according to the Times Herald-Record, in “How to preserve your home’s value when remarrying.” With poor planning, you might end up with your assets going to your second spouse and then, to his or her own children, leaving your own children empty-handed. A common approach is to leave the surviving spouse the right to use and occupy the residence, with a provision in a trust or a will that the surviving spouse pays taxes and home insurance costs and maintains the house. The right to live in the house can be for a limited number of months or years or until they pass away or enter a care facility. When the surviving spouse dies, or the time limit is reached, he or she leaves the house, the house is sold and the proceeds are divided among the children of the owner’s spouse. Some questions to consider: What if the house needs to be sold? Can the spouse use the proceeds to purchase another house? How long is the usage of time? Who can be there? There are other ways to provide more flexibility to the surviving spouse. If the house is too large or expensive to maintain, he or she may be given the right to use and occupy a substituted property, which may be purchased with the proceeds from the owner spouses’ home. Another arrangement allows the owner spouse’s home to be sold with the surviving spouse using the income from the proceeds of the sale of the house to pay for a rental. When the surviving spouse dies (or when the term expires), the children of the first spouse inherit what is left. A few important things to consider: how well the surviving spouse will be able to maintain the house, either for financial or physical reasons. If the surviving spouse is not taking care of the house and it falls into disrepair, the children may have to file an eviction proceeding. If the trust or will does not specifically instruct the surviving spouse to pay for home maintenance, the children of the owner spouse would be responsible for those costs, and depending on how long the surviving spouse lives, that could be a large burden for a long period of time. This situation requires thoughtful planning, with many “what if’s” to be asked. An experienced estate planning
There are many kinds of trusts. They aren’t just for the wealthy. Our practice has featured the preparation of wills and trusts exclusively since 1995. In the intervening years, we have prepared thousands of each such plans, and now work extensively implementing them after a client has died. Our caseload is now about 45% administration of wills and/or trust. We are often asked by clients which is better. That depends on many factors. But Trusts seem like a much better choice often, after the time comes to use the planning. If maintained and funded, a trust can be more cost effective, private and easier to administer. On the other hand, I know many attorneys who scoff at the notion of using a trust for people who are not millionaires. Probate, they often assure, is not so bad. And is a trust necessary? Everyone needs an estate plan. However, everyone should also at least consider a trust, according to The New York Times in “Life After Death? Here’s Why You Should Have a Trust.”It turns out that many people who are not wealthy, can also benefit from having a trust. There are many different kinds of trusts which serve different purposes. One is a revocable trust, which the owner can change. They are considered by many to be the “work horse” of modern estate planning. A revocable trust can avoid the need for a public probate court proceeding after the person dies, saving time and keeping money from being immediately available to heirs and executors alike. Trusts are also useful for times when people become incapacitated and need someone else to take care of their finances. Because many more people are living longer and the number of people with dementia is increasing, there are more situations where trusts are useful to the family and caregivers. A will is different than a trust and is a public document. The probate process requires a disclosure of assets, bank and other financial accounts and the names of beneficiaries. That information remains private with a revocable trust. Other considerations regarding trusts: You should have any type of trust set up by an estate and trust attorney. A house, real property, bank or investment accounts can be placed into a trust. A revocable trust does not always end at the death of the original owner. However, just how long it may last, depends upon the laws of your state. People also use trusts to protect their assets from others or to assure the long-term care of someone who is disabled. You can have a professional manager, family member or friend as a trustee or co-trustee of a trust. Sometimes having a licensed professional who has federal reporting requirements can provide an extra layer of protection. An estate planning attorney can advise you on creating an estate plan that fits your unique circumstances and may include taking a close look at trusts. Reference: The New York Times (March 22, 2018) “Life After Death? Here’s Why You Should
The IRA may be liquidated quickly. An inherited IRA can provide a lot of security. However, it can also become a problem, if it is not handled correctly, according to CNBC in “Leaving an IRA to a loved one? How to avoid a tax bomb.” You can structure the distribution, so your children or grandchildren receive the best benefits. Naming a trust as an IRA beneficiary is a good way to protect large IRAs, since it provides some means of control. By naming a trust, you can protect heirs who are minors, vulnerable to creditors, not able to handle large sums of money or disabled. Trusts only need $12,750 of taxable income in 2019 to be subject to the top tax rate of 37%. If you don’t structure the trust right, you could accelerate the liquidation of the IRA at warp speed. Most people think of their spouse, when it comes to naming a beneficiary for an IRA. If your spouse doesn’t needs the funds, you should consider providing for the next generation, who will live in a world of “You’re on your own” retirement planning. IRA Trusts can also provide asset protection for beneficiaries who inherit them. Except for spousal rollovers, inherited IRAs are within the grasp of a beneficiary’s creditor, unless protected within a trust. What are the pitfalls? Not all IRA custodians allow you to list a trust on the beneficiary form. The tax code has very specific conditions, when trusts are the beneficiaries of retirement accounts. Be very careful with what you do with charities as beneficiaries. IRAs can be great tools for charitable giving, but must be handled with great care to avoid tax problems. If you fail to follow the rules, your heirs could face huge tax bills. For a trust to be viable as a designated beneficiary, it must meet a four-step test: It must be valid under your state’s laws. It must be an irrevocable trust, or one that will become irrevocable upon your death. Beneficiaries must be identifiable from the trust document. The IRA custodian or trust administrator must have received a copy of the trust by October 31 of the year after the death of the IRA’s owner. The beneficiaries must be people, not charities and not your estate. If your beneficiaries are not people, then your IRA may not have a designated beneficiary. In that case, your heirs can’t stretch the IRA by taking required minimum distribution,s based on the longer life expectancy of a child or a grandchild. Worse—if your trust fails to meet the test, it is subject to the same rules as if there was no designated beneficiary at all. That means it’ll be depleted faster than you may have wished. If you die before you start taking RMDs (70½) then the IRA must be distributed within five years after death. If you die after you start taking RMDs, then distributions pay out over what would have been your life expectancy. An estate planning attorney can advise
“Put not your trust in money, put your money in trust”, per Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. is embraced by estate planning lawyers and shows that trusts are not a passing fad. Everyone needs an estate plan, and when you understand what a trust does, your plan should probably include one, at least conditionally. According to The New York Times in “Life After Death? Here’s Why You Should Have a Trust.” It turns out that many people who are not wealthy can also benefit from having a trust. I consider a trust essentially a box to manage assets. There are many different kinds of trusts which serve different purposes and can be effective now or at death. One is a revocable trust, which the owner can change. They are considered by many to be the “work horse” of modern estate planning. A revocable trust can avoid the need for a public probate court proceeding after the person dies, saving time and keeping money from being immediately available to heirs and executors alike. Such a trust is created and holds assets during your lifetime. Other considerations regarding revocable trusts: You should have any type of trust set up by an estate and trust attorney. A house, real property, bank or investment accounts can be placed into a trust. A revocable trust does not always end at the death of the original owner. However, just how long it may last, depends upon the laws of your state. People also use trusts to protect their assets from others or to assure the long-term care of someone who is disabled. You can have a professional manager, family member or friend as a trustee or co-trustee of a trust. Sometimes having a licensed professional who has federal reporting requirements can provide an extra layer of protection. They are not a public record, unlike your will. Trusts are also useful for times when people become incapacitated and need someone else to take care of their finances. Because many more people are living longer and the number of people with dementia is increasing, there are more situations where trusts are useful to the family and caregivers. A trust can also be created in your Last Will and Testament. We rarely create a will without a trust. A trust created in a will is a “Testamentary Trusts” because it is within your Last Will and Testament, but it can manage assets in much the same way as a revocable trust would. The difference is mechanical: the Testamentary Trust receives asset often through a probate process, because wills work through probate. A Testamentary Trust can be a designated beneficiary of life insurance, retirement plans and annuities. Care should be taken in drafting and when doing so because of issues like stretching out IRA withdrawals. An estate planning attorney can advise you on creating an estate plan that fits your unique circumstances and may include taking a close look at trusts. Reference: The New York Times (March 22, 2018) “Life After Death? Here’s
For a young family, when is the right time to put together an estate plan? Right before you die is the correct, but not realistic, answer. Estate planning is especially important for families with young children, and to be updated to pass on assets in later years, according to the Lodi News Sentinel in “Planning for what comes last.” Think of an estate plan as a gift for the next generation, as is making funeral plans in advance. I used to avoid doctor visits, until a friend pointed out, the visit is not just for me, but the whole family. Doing what you should is for them. You can’t assume that your adult children will know what you want for your funeral and you don’t want them to have to make decisions during a time of great sadness. These are gifts, that parents who love their children can give: taking care of the business side of their lives and their deaths, so that a difficult time is manageable. Once you have worked with an estate planning attorney to prepare all the necessary documents and made funeral plans, the next step is to share that information with your heirs. It’s not an easy conversation to have. Most of us tend to keep that side of our lives private from our kids, no matter how old we become. However, sharing this information can keep families from fighting in the future. It is not easy to know how much different members of the family can handle and who can be trusted with what information while you are living. There are times when people who appear completely selfless suddenly become greedy when an inheritance is being probated. It’s hard to anticipate this. However, there are several things that you can do now to make it easier for those you love. Have a will and if appropriate, a trust, created with an estate planning attorney. Don’t neglect a power of attorney for health and for finances. Make funeral plans and tell your family about those plans. Make an end-of-life plan. Don’t leave it to others to make these difficult decisions, if you know what you want to have done. Plan for your pets, in case they outlive you. Protect your digital assets by obtaining the correct information for all your social platforms, so your loved ones are empowered to access and close accounts after your death. An estate planning attorney can advise you in creating an estate plan that fits your unique circumstances. Reference: Lodi News-Sentinel (July 1, 2018) “Planning for what comes last”
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”