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Estate Planning

Monday, October 7, 2019

Why You Should Give Your Spouse Power Of Attorney

Married couples will often have legal estate documents prepared together.  Such documents may include a will, leaving all property to the surviving spouse and/or the couple’s children, and a heath care proxy (sometimes known as a living will) to direct the spouse how to handle medical issues if one spouse becomes incapacitated.   However, another estate document may be beneficial for spouses -- a durable power of attorney.  

What is a durable power of attorney?

A durable power of attorney (POA) is a power of attorney given in the event of disability (whether mental or physical) by one spouse and directs the other spouse how to handle certain business or monetary activities detailed in the agreement.  Some instances of disability could include mental illness, physical illness, advanced age, drug use, alcoholism, confinement or disappearance.  

While state law may grant spouses certain rights to act for the other spouse, some activities may or may not be covered.  A power of attorney also helps spouses who may have separate ownership of property by giving the spouse the right to act on behalf of the incapacitated spouse. 

Some examples of business decisions in real estate matters where the well spouse is not a co-owner (perhaps because the real estate was a premarital asset or for other tax reasons) and can act for the incapacitated spouse are:

  • If the incapacitated spouse owns rental property, the other spouse can collect rent
  • To pay real estate taxes for properties that may not in both spouses ownership
  • To handle issues related to any mortgages
  • To take out property insurance

Some other general business related functions a durable power of attorney can include: 

  • To sue on the collect of a debt
  • To file for bankruptcy
  • To write checks and do banking transactions
  • To sell stock or other securities
  • To file tax returns
  • To manage retirement accounts
  • To borrow money
  • To make loans
  • To make charitable donations
  • To hire attorneys, accountants or other professionals

In the event state law did not allow a spouse to do any of the functions described above for its incapacitated spouse, a durable power of attorney signed by the incapacitated spouse before the disability (and notarized for validity) can come in handy in a family emergency. 


Wednesday, May 1, 2019

4 Reasons Everyone Needs an Estate Plan

Many people are under the misconception that estate plans are only necessary for those with substantial wealth. In fact, estate plans are important for everyone who wants to plan for the future. For those unfamiliar with the concept, an estate plan coordinates the distribution of your assets upon your death. Without an estate plan, your estate (assets) will go through the probate system, regardless of how much or how little you have. There are many reasons that everyone needs an estate plan, but the top reasons are:

1. Protecting You and Your Family

Most people associate an estate plan with death, but an estate plan also comes into play if you become incapacitated. Through a proper estate plan, you can designate who will be responsible for making your financial and medical decisions, the authority they will have, and restrictions you would like placed on their power.

2. Distributing Your Assets as You See Fit

Without an estate plan, your estate will go to the probate courts, and your assets will be distributed according to the state’s intestacy laws, which generally prioritize spouses, children and parents. In addition, not having a will or trust in place lends itself to the potential of disputes between surviving family members. The best way to ensure that your beneficiaries receive the inheritance you intend for them is by having a well-conceived estate plan.

3. Reducing Taxes

Whether married or single, having an estate plan can significantly reduce taxes owed upon the transfer of your assets to your heirs.. Without proper planning, any transfers from you to a beneficiary may be subjected to federal and state taxation. Trusts, one of the most well-known, but least understood, estate planning tools, present  excellent opportunities for reducing taxes associated with inheritance.

Through a system of trusts and transfers, you can reduce the overall tax burden associated with the inheritance. For those with substantial assets, more advanced tax planning strategies will be necessary. Regardless of your current wealth, you will likely be able to reduce the taxation of your estate’s assets with the help of an experienced estate planning attorney.

4. Providing for Your Family as You Believe Best

By combining the ability to distribute assets with other estate planning tools such as trusts, you can include conditions for each recipient. This ensures that the money you want to give your nephew for college will actually be used for college, even if that is still 10 or 15 years away.

As noted, estate planning is for everyone – not just the super-wealthy. Whether it’s avoiding a future family dispute, helping a loved one later in life, or reaching any other goals or objectives, having an estate plan is the best way to protect your interests.


Monday, April 1, 2019

Selling Your Business

The majority of businesses in the United States are small businesses. To understand the impact that small business has, consider the fact that small business generates nearly 60% of all new jobs within the United States. Amazon, Walmart, and other big companies often stand out with their massive revenues and employment numbers, but at the end of the day, the primary drivers behind the economy are small business.

If you have a family business or personal business that you’ve built up, you are likely one of these economic drivers. For many families and individuals, the business becomes an identity. Family businesses in particular are susceptible to acting as an identity for that family. Thus, for many small business owners planning for retirement, the question of what to do with the small business is a major stressor. For a family business, the transfer of control and ownership from one generation to the next can be incredibly complicated and strenuous. If it’s not a family business, then the question is primarily how to effectuate the sale and estate planning repercussions. The following sections will give an overview of general considerations for family-owned businesses and then general concerns relating to the sale of a business.


Read more . . .


Friday, March 1, 2019

Removing a Trustee

Trustees are responsible for administering a trust for the benefit of the beneficiaries. In some instances, multiple trustees may administer a trust as co-trustees. Occasionally, issues arise causing the beneficiaries of a trust or the co-trustees to pursue removal of a trustee. These issues could be general unhappiness with trust accounting or failure of the trustee or co-trustee to provide information when requested. In short, the grantor (creator) of the trust, co-trustees, the trust beneficiaries,  and the  probate court have the ability to remove a trustee

Reasons a Trustee Can Be Removed

The reasons for removal of a trustee depend upon the trust documents and applicable state law. Generally, a trustee can be removed for:


Read more . . .


Friday, February 1, 2019

An Overview of Retirement Plan Options

Retirement planning is essential given ever-increasing life expectancies in the United States. Unfortunately, many Americans fail to save adequate amounts to make it through retirement. Often, individuals believe that they will be fine on Social Security. However, Social Security is only designed to compensate for 40% of your income; Social Security is designed to be an income supplement rather than a sole income source. To make matters worse, workers tend to overestimate how late into their life they will be able to work. Inadequate savings and an inability to work produce an exceptionally stressful retirement. Remember, it’s never too late to start saving.

401(k) Plans

401(k) plans are employer-sponsored retirement plans that offer tax advantages to investing. When investing through a 401(k) plan, you will declare how much of your paycheck you would like to contribute to the 401(k). The employer will then contribute the designated amount before taxes to your 401(k) account. The contributions made to your 401(k) account are non-taxable meaning that your taxable income is decreased by the amount contributed. As of 2018, the maximum amount that a taxpayer can contribute to a 401(k) account is $18,500. The tax advantages of the 401(k) plan mean that if the taxpayer earns $80,000 annually in salary and contributes $10,000 to his or her 401(k) plan, then the taxpayer’s taxable income for that year would be decreased to $70,000. When the taxpayer begins to withdraw from the 401(k) account, those withdrawals will be treated as taxable income.

However, money contributed to a 401(k) plan may not be withdrawn before the age of 59.5 without incurring a penalty unless certain exceptions apply. Unfortunately, not all employers offer 401(k) plans. If your employer doesn’t offer a 401(k) program, make sure to take advantage of other retirement plan options such as a Traditional IRA or a Roth IRA.


Read more . . .


Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Who Benefits from an IRA Inheritance Trust?

Trying to unravel all the ins and outs of the estate planning process can make your head spin. Most people associate wills with estate planning, but there are so many more legal tools that can be put in place to help plan for the future health and financial well being of you and your family. An IRA inheritance trust is one such valuable legal tool that may be beneficial to you and your loved ones. Find out of an IRA inheritance trust should become part of your estate plan.

The majority of the time, the money held in an IRA account will be distributed to the person you list on the beneficiary designation form. This is one of the forms you will fill out when you open or amend an IRA account. Not many people are actually aware that you do not necessarily have to name an individual as the account beneficiary. You may list a trust as the beneficiary. This trust is what is referred to as an IRA inheritance trust.

When considering whether or not to utilize an IRA inheritance trust, you really need to think about who would benefit from establishing such a trust. This means considering who would be the designated beneficiary of the IRA proceeds. An IRA inheritance trust can be very beneficial if you are considering designating an IRA beneficiary who may:


Read more . . .


Monday, December 3, 2018

The Basics of Powers of Attorney

A power of attorney is an estate planning document that has a variety of uses. There are several types of these documents available, and each one performs a slightly different function. One or more of these plans may be a good idea to include as part of your estate plan.

What is a Power of Attorney?

A power of attorney gives another person permission and authority to make decisions regarding various aspects of your life if you can’t make those decisions yourself or if you just want to hand over control to a friend or loved one for any other reason.

A power of attorney gives someone else, who does not have to be an attorney, the ability to make decisions for you. You are essentially authorizing this other person to act on your behalf either generally or if certain conditions are met.

You must complete a document to give this power to someone else. This document may need to be notarized or go through another type of authentication process.


Read more . . .


Thursday, November 1, 2018

Using Your Will to Dictate How to Pay Off Debts

Most people realize that they can use their last will and testament to set out who should receive particular assets or income. However, few people understand that they can also describe how they would like specific debts paid off in their will as well. Unfortunately, many of your debts do not just disappear when you pass away; they are often passed on to your loved ones to address.

Thankfully, some careful planning and forethought now can help your family and friends deal with these issues much more efficiently in the future, cutting down on confusion and stress.  


Read more . . .


Monday, October 1, 2018

4 Common Will Contests

A will contest or will challenge questions whether the will is valid or whether specific terms are really what the testator intended. In some will contests, the entire will could be determined invalid. In other situations, only portions of the will may be disregarded.

While there can be any number of validity challenges, will contest typically center around just a few common problems.

1. Lack of Testamentary Capacity

To create a will, you must be of sound mind. That means that the testator must have the mental capacity to understand what he or she is doing. The same requirement exists if the will is being modified or revoked as well.

Being of “sound mind” requires that the testator know what property he or she owns and understands the effects of creating and finalizing the will. This standard is relatively low. However, it can be a real challenge for someone who is suffering from the beginning stages of dementia or has another health issue.


Read more . . .


Monday, September 3, 2018

Can a Living Trust Replace a Will?

Wills and trusts can be extremely complicated, especially when they relate to one another or feed off of each other. You can certainly have both tools as part of your estate  plan. Depending on your unique financial circumstances and personal preferences, it may make sense only to have a will. Moreover, there are some things that a will cannot do that a trust can, and vice versa. Are there ever situations where a trust can completely replace a will? Probably not.

Why Would I Want a Trust Instead of a Will?

The main reason that people prefer trusts instead of wills is that trusts  do not have to be probated, which can be an expensive and time-consuming process. It can also be difficult for your loved ones in some situations. A probated will is also a matter of public record, which may not be desirable for some people. For these and  and other reasons, some individuals choose to use an estate planning tool that will avoid the probate process -- a living trust.

In some situations, using a trust can also reduce or eliminate estate taxes, and a trust is especially  helpful if you own real property in several states. Placing all of that property into the trust allows your loved ones to avoid opening probate in each of those states..


Read more . . .


Wednesday, August 1, 2018

What is an Estate Tax? Is it the same as an Inheritance Tax?

While the terms "estate tax" and "inheritance tax" are often used interchangeably, they are not synonymous. Let's try to clarify the difference.

Estate Tax

Estate tax is based on the net value of the deceased owner's property.  An estate tax is applied to these assets when they are transferred to the beneficiary. It is important to remember that an estate tax doesn't have anything to do with the beneficiary or that person's resources.

Federal estate tax only affects individuals who die with more than $5.45[s1]  million in assets and individuals with such large estates can leave that amount to their beneficiaries without being subjected to a  tax liability. Ninety-nine percent of the population will not owe federal estate tax upon their death.

In most circumstances, no federal estate tax is levied against spouses. As of the Supreme Court's recent ruling, this includes gay married couples as well as heterosexual couples. Federal estate taxes can, however, be charged if the spouse who is the beneficiary is not a citizen of the U.S. In such cases, though, a personal estate tax exemption can be used.  Even where remaining spouses have no liability for federal estate tax, they may be charged with state taxes in some states, taxes which cannot be avoided unless the couple relocates.


Read more . . .


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