Articles Posted in Estate law

2.7.20This time of the year is a great time to revisit your estate plan, so you can ensure your legacy is protected for years to come.”

Many of us set New Year’s resolutions to improve our quality of life. While it’s often a goal to exercise more or eat more healthily, you can also resolve to improve your financial well-being. It’s a great time to review your estate plan to make sure your legacy is protected.

The Tennessean’s recent article entitled “Five estate-planning steps to take in the new year” gives us some common updates for your estate planning.

5.13.2016Recent change in tax laws have many people rethinking their estate plans. Also, changes in the normal course of life make it a good idea for persons with estates that range from small to large to review wills, trusts, powers of attorney and beneficiary designations of insurance, IRAs, and other interests to achieve the most beneficial tax advantages.

In the beginning of January 2013, Congress made permanent the ability of a person to acquire his or her deceased spouse’s unused estate tax exemption through portability, and approved the larger estate and gift tax exemption of $5.45 million (for 2016) per person adjusted every year for inflation. For a married couple the exemption is potentially double that amount, or $10.9 million (for 2016). We believe that it is important for you to know that you may have an alternative to simplify your current trust structure without paying any estate tax, and in fact, for your beneficiaries to pay less income tax.

You may have an “AB Trust” or “ABC Trust,” or a Family Trust that creates a Decedent’s Trust (also referred to as a “Bypass Trust”) and a Survivor’s Trust on the death of the first of you or your spouse. The recent legislation makes it useful to examine whether such trusts should be changed to simplify their operation. The trust could be simplified by eliminating the need to create new trusts if one spouse passes away survived by the other. Simplification of a trust would result in several benefits:

Money in chestNew rules and enforcement guidelines may render certain artwork not only illegal to export or import, but also unsalable within the United States.  Houston is a very international city and residents have traveled the world, returning with valuable artwork.

Valuing artwork is never an easy task. It gets all the more tricky with antiques composed of protected materials which cannot be legally sold, particularly ivory. How do you value a priceless yet worthless object?

The problem of valuation is not a new one, but it has taken some serious turns as of late. There is a helpful guide to the whole ordeal in a recent WealthManagement article titled “Zero Fair Market Value for Antiques?

Signing documentFinally your will is finished, and you can sleep soundly knowing that your heirs will receive the assets that you intend. Right? Not necessarily.

If you've got a will, you may feel like you are all set when it comes to your estate plans. But does your will have a say in all matters? Not exactly. Be sure to keep track of all of your accounts and your beneficiary designation forms or else your estate might swiftly break apart and into the wrong hands.

This is one of those topics we have to repeat every so often so that each beneficiary designation you sign (or don’t) will stick with you as the important document that it is. A new echo came in the voice of Yahoo News in a recent article titled “How Your Ex-Spouse Could Inherit Most of Your Money.

Wills-trusts-and-estates-coveredI think it’s important for people to understand the consequences of inattention to legal matters and of not involving an attorney. “Penny wise and pound foolish” can be a particularly compelling adage when dealing with legal matters.

More often than not, when an estate plan fails and litigation follows it is because the estate plan was not a good plan at all. Legal mistakes and cut-corners are liabilities not worth keeping on the books, as a growing body of case law goes to show. Do not let a legal mistake haunt your estate, your assets or your family after you are gone.

When it comes to estate planning, the liability of legal mistakes and cut-corners has a special kind of edge to it since it is so often the family or your partners who end up feeling the burden or even winding up in litigation. What do these cases look like and what terrible mistakes have been made?

Savings money stackHere are a few easy approaches that can reduce or avoid taxes, and are also effective wealth transfer techniques.

Gifting makes up one of the pillars of estate planning. Strategic gifting can mean all the difference between a plan for family wealth that works and a plan that doesn’t. Forbes recently offered a helpful list of strategies in an article titled “5 Family Gifting Strategies.” This article brings some important techniques front and center.


Breaking the bankWorried about your adult children blowing through their inheritance? Two strategies can help holders of individual retirement accounts curb an heir’s impulse to “cash out.”

You may have many assets to leave behind for your heirs. However, an IRA is unique enough to be easily squandered in taxes, as MarketWatch noted in a recent article appropriately titled “Protect your heirs from an IRA tax trap.

IRAs are some of the most common high-value assets. That noted, because they are such unique accounts, there are some equally unique rules regarding inherited IRAs that are either amenable to diligent financial planning or a short-term high of a cash-out.

3538871771_3a3cbb1eb8_z“I don’t believe in inheriting money,” CNN host Anderson Cooper recently told Howard Stern on Stern’s radio show. Added Cooper, a son of designer and heiress Gloria Vanderbilt: “I think it’s an initiative sucker. I think it’s a curse.”

American attitudes toward inheritance seem to be shifting, partly by fiscal necessity in the wake of a global financial recession and partly a shift in values or beliefs.

Forbes explored the difficult and interesting subject a short time ago in the article titled “What Kind Of Inheritance Do You Owe Your Kids?

Family letter blocks“This time it’s not about the beginning of life or how babies are made. It’s about the end of life — yours — and the many issues and decisions that will confront you and your children.”

Back when the kids were kids, it seemed like the “birds and the bees” talk was tricky. However, according to a recent article in The Washington Post, the “aging talk” is far more difficult to grasp. Why is that?

Be sure to read (and share) this article titled “Having ‘the other talk’ with your kids — not storks, but aging.

MP900382668Under the President’s plan, in 2018 the tax would revert to the rates that were in effect in 2009.

Budget buzz is spreading across Capitol Hill. For example, did you know that President Obama's proposed budget is seeking a reduction of the estate tax exemption back to $3.5 million?

Just when taxpayers and estate planning attorneys thought the estate tax exemption level had become settled law (except for inflation increases), President Obama would like to throw a monkey wrench into estate plans past, present and future. In addition, he would like to double down on some traditional estate planning techniques, too.

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