Articles Posted in Current Affairs

2021 is nearly over, with a new year around the corner. While this is generally a time of celebrating holidays and preparing for the new year, there are some estate planning considerations that should be taken into account before 2021 is over. Although this may not seem like a top priority, there are timing considerations because of proposed legislation that may impact estate plans by 2022. Below are some common items that should be reviewed and discussed with an estate planning attorney by the new year.

Estate and Gift Tax Exemption

While Texas does not have a state estate and gift tax, there is a federal tax. The estate tax is a tax levied on a person’s estate plan and is based on the amount of assets a person is giving to others in their estate plan once they have passed. Currently, estates under $11.7 million are not taxed; however, this amount is set to roll back to a lower level soon. While the current plan is to lower the exemption amount to $5 million in 2026, there are discussions in Congress about speeding up this rollback to the beginning of 2022.

Laws can be quickly passed through Congress, so it is difficult to predict whether this effort to lower the estate tax exemption by 2022 will be successful or not. Because of this, individuals should speak with an estate planning attorney who will advise them on whether their estate is likely to be impacted by this federal tax change—and changes they can make to their estate plan if they are impacted.

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During these unprecedented times, Houston residents have many questions about a potential COVID vaccine and whether it will be covered by Medicare. Medicare is a national health insurance program that provides insurance for Americans 65 or older and some younger individuals with a disability. Similarly, Medicare Advantage is a type of health insurance plan that provides Medicare benefits through a private-sector health insurer, rather than the government. In Texas, over 4 million people rely on Medicare for their health needs. Because of this, it is important to know whether individuals with Medicare will have to pay out of pocket for a COVID vaccine – something many cannot afford – or whether it will be covered by Medicare. Those with questions about what Medicare covers can reach out to a Houston estate planning attorney for assistance.

Good and Bad News About The CARES Act

The CARES Act provides that if a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available, Medicare is required to cover the cost under Part B. Ordinarily, Medicare Part B helps to pay for doctor visits, preventive services, and vaccines such as the flu and pneumonia shots. Additionally, Medicare Advantage plans are required to include the basic coverage offered by Medicare Parts A and B, meaning a COVID-19 vaccine would also be covered for those with Medicare Advantage plans.

7.19.19When Gloria Vanderbilt died at age 95, it was truly the end of an era. Her life included the high society world of old New York and the disco scene at Studio 54. However, her son Anderson Cooper reports that he won’t inherit any money from his mother.

Gloria Vanderbilt’s life in the spotlight began when she was very young. She remained in public view through a long and fascinating life. As a child, she and her trust fund were headlines in an epic divorce. Now that she has passed, speculation has reemerged about what happened to the Vanderbilt money. According to Trust Advisor’s article, “Does A Long Island Landscaper (And Not Anderson Cooper) Inherit Gloria Vanderbilt's Fortune?” the money may be long gone.

It’s reported that she had to sell off a few houses to pay the tax bills. Anything left behind is well-hidden in some estate planning documents. With her family fortune dwindling over time, Vanderbilt’s fashion empire came and went. However, the distributions kept coming to fill the holes.

7.15.19There are definitely advantages to all the perks of fame and fortune that come with being a celebrity. However, aging celebrities are just as vulnerable as regular people, when it comes to elder financial abuse. The major difference is that their stories are reported in the news.

Recent news stories about both the late legendary Marvel comic book creator Stan Lee and ‘60s psychedelic artist Peter Max are sad reminders that elder abuse can happen to anyone, no matter how famous or talented they are. There are a few striking similarities in what happened to Peter Max and Stan Lee, as reported by Next Avenue in the article “Stan Lee and Peter Max: What to Learn From Their Elder Abuse Cases.”

Both of these highly creative and successful men were taken advantage of by people who they trusted and who they were close to. In Stan Lee’s case, Keya Morgan, his former business partner and caretaker, was arrested for elder abuse, false imprisonment and grand theft of an elder dependent adult. The family says Lee was isolated from the family and then moved out of his home. There is now a restraining order against Morgan.

5.10.2016Once again, the value of image and other intangibles will overshadow any other issue with a celebrity estate that is expected to break earnings records.

The countdown on the estate tax liability for Prince's fortune has already begun, but arriving at the final number will not be easy and certainly will not be resolved without significant legal action.

For those involved with Prince's estate, calculating just how big Uncle Sam's bite may be a real challenge. Some say it's next to impossible and might also fuel a lengthy feud between the government and the estate, as more than half the estate's value could be forfeited in taxes.

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