Articles Tagged with Family Trust

10.24.16We’ve been so inundated with the idea of tax-free investment accounts that the taxable investment account’s role in retirement planning is underutilized and overlooked.

If you’re like most Americans, you’ve got at least one and maybe a few retirement accounts. You like the tax benefits that come from having IRA's, 401k's, 403b's, 457b's and defined benefit plans. You know you’ll have to pay income taxes when you start taking distributions from them, except for the Roth accounts, but seeing those accounts grow makes you feel good. And if you have a Roth, you like knowing that even if you aren’t getting a deduction now, distributions will be tax free. But there are other kinds of investment accounts for retirement planning.

As Physician’s Money Digest says in “10 Reasons You Need a Taxable Investment Account,” taxable retirement accounts are ignored because we’re so focused on IRS-approved retirement accounts. But you might think about supplementing your savings with a taxable retirement account. This can be a regular, old-school investment portfolio that’s not linked to any government regulations and that you’re building for retirement.

B&w couple pic 5.5.2016People think that Medicaid will solve all financial problems if they or a spouse will need expensive medical care late in life. It's not that simple.

Concerns about outliving assets or having all their wealth spent on nursing home care has led many Houstonians in different economic brackets to take steps to qualify for Medicaid as part of their estate planning. But Medicaid was not designed to be the first source for health care costs.

Remember that your income and assets have to be at a very low level to qualify for Medicaid. This program isn't a right or an entitlement—even if your tax dollars paid for it. Medicaid provides assistance for ongoing living needs and services provided by home care or, in advanced cases, at a nursing facility.

Piggy bankuilding a nest egg is an important goal for Americans, yet most Americans lag behind in their retirement planning goals.  Many families are still recovering from economic downturns, and saving is a struggle, even for people who are over 50 and know they should do more. There are certain tax breaks and, if you are lucky enough to work for a great company, employer contributions that can help grow your retirement savings in 2016.

US News explains how to take full advantage of the 401(k) and individual retirement account perks you're eligible for in 2016 in "How to Maximize Your Retirement Accounts in 2016."

Max out your 401(k). You can contribute up to $18,000 to your 401(k) plan in 2016, which means saving $1,500 per month. Income tax isn't due on this money until it is withdrawn from the account.

Money treeUtilizing intrafamily loans and trusts is one way that wealthy families can maximize their estate planning strategies.  A recent issue of Barron’s features, “How Family Loans and Trusts Can Create Big Wins,”  and outlines the specifics on intrafamily loans as an estate planning tool. The note has a fixed value, no matter how big the underlying asset grows.

With low interest rates, families with taxable estates can benefit from structured trusts and intrafamily loans. Not that these intrafamily loans have their own rates and rules – the rates on intrafamily loans allow parents to lend their children cash at rates far lower than a comparable commercial loan. Plus, they can be part of a broader wealth-transfer strategy.

For instance, an aging millionaire can fund a trust for his children’s benefit with a $100,000 gift. He then loans it $900,000 at the allowable 1.82 percent interest rate for five years, which the trust invests. The trust makes regular payments on the loan and then repays the principal in full at the term’s end. Any investment gains over that extremely low interest rate are tax-free in the trust for the next generation – it’s all legal and great planning.

Hand with cashEstate taxes are seen by some as instruments of public policy, an attempt to fight economic inequality by diminishing the ability of wealthy families to aggregate vast amounts of wealth. Others see estate taxes as a “death tax” that penalizes those who are financially successful. Whatever your opinion, estate tax rates are still quite high compared to other taxes. This creates an incentive to plan in advance and use sophisticated methods to reduce estates taxes.

Thirteen different brackets might make you think that estate tax planning is all about college basketball! According to a Fox Business article, “2015 Estate Tax Rates: How Much Will You Pay?” the rate structure for the estate tax has remained virtually unchanged since 2013, even with these numerous brackets. See the chart below for a birds-eye-view of the 13 different brackets:

Amount of Taxable Estate

Tax Bracket





















$750,001-$1 million


Over $1 million


Source: IRS

Before you do any number crunching, remember that the federal government has an estate tax exemption for all estates more than $5.43 million (in 2015). The “lifetime exemption amount” is the cut-off mark for how much wealth each person can pass to their heirs without owing any estate tax.

The article explains that the exemption is different than a standard deduction. What you do is look at all your taxable estate assets and knock out the first $5.43 million. If you have more than that, the estate tax will be at the maximum rate of 40 percent on the portion of the estate that’s above the $5.43 million threshold.  For instance, if your estate is $5.44 million, then your estate's tax liability would be $4,000 — which is 40 percent of the $10,000 above the $5.43 million threshold.

An estate planning attorney can help you with some ways to reduce or even eliminate your estate tax liability. This can include gifts during your lifetime to reduce your estate assets at your death. The law says that you can give an individual up to $14,000 annually without having to pay any gift tax. If you give more than that amount, you'll start using up your lifetime exemption. You don’t want that!

There are also many more-complicated methods of giving money to potential heirs during your lifetime that can reduce your eventual estate tax bill. Talk with your estate planning attorney about these more complex strategies and leave more money for your heirs and less for taxes.

For additional information on estate tax planning and elder law topics in Houston, please click here to visit my website.

Reference: Fox Business (July 16, 2015) “2015 Estate Tax Rates: How Much Will You Pay?”


SurpriseThe Internal Revenue Service has won a settlement of $388 million from the estate of Detroit Pistons owner Bill Davidson. According to the IRS, the estate owned more than $2 billion in additional taxes. To gain some perspective:  in 2013, the US Treasury took in a total of $12.7 billion in estate tax revenue. Davidson, who made his fortune in glass and auto products, was best known to the public as the team owner of the Pistons, the W.N.B.A.'s Detroit Shock and the N.H.L. Tampa Bay Lightning.

In an article that appeared in Forbes, "IRS Grabs $388 Million From Billionaire Davidson Estate," the case against Davidson's estate is explained in detail. Two years ago, Davidson's estate filed a matter with the U.S. tax court that challenged the agency's assessment of additional taxes. They claimed that the estate owed $187 million in gift taxes, $152 million in estate taxes, and $49 million in generation-skipping taxes, plus a $133,000 gift tax penalty bill.

Two problems factored into to these deficiencies. The IRS claims that the Davidson estate undervalued some corporate stock and improperly valued the self-cancelling installment notes (SCINs). The IRS said that the estate also underestimated the value of privately held stock held in trust for Davidson's children and grandchildren.

Red-car-vehicle-vintage-mediumAt some point, everyone needs to consider estate planning. It’s time to create an up-to-date estate plan when you experience one of these life events.

Think estate planning isn’t for you? Think again! And it’s not just a one-time deal; changes in your life should result in changes to your plan, so be ready to make some updates.

The Richland Source notes in a recent article, titled “Do you need an estate plan?”, that it’s time to create an up-to-date estate plan when you have one of these life events:

Clock facesSo how do you know if your estate plan is out-of-date?  If your will or trust predates these four key “freshness dates,” it may be time to visit your attorney for a review.

Estate plans are not meant to be a one-time deal. If life changes – or the law changes – you need to update your plan accordingly.

The website recently posted a very informative article, titled “Why Your Will May Be Out of Date,” which states that although your estate planning documents are still valid, they may no longer work the way you originally thought they would.

Savings money stackActually the trusts are Crummey trusts named after one D. Clifford Crummey who won a decision in the Ninth Circuit in 1968, when I was just a high school lad.  Israel and Erna Mikel were just in Tax Court showing how powerful the Crummey power can be as they used it to shelter over $1.4 million in transfers to their family trust from gift taxes.  An arbitration clause that called for the use of a religious court caused the IRS to challenge the validity of the exclusions, but the Tax Court ruled in the taxpayer’s favor.

Trusts can have pretty funny names. Take the Crummey trust for example – doesn’t sound very good, does it? Who wants a “crumby” trust? Let’s explore this tool further.

A recent Forbes article, titled “Religious Arbitration Clause Does Not Hurt Million Plus Gift Tax Exclusion,” reminds us that there’s an annual exclusion from gift tax. Reminder: every year you can give the annual exclusion amount ($14,000 this year) to as many people as you want without any gift taxes or disturbing the unified credit against transfer taxes. However, to qualify for the exclusion, the gift has to be of a “present interest”.

3538871771_3a3cbb1eb8_zFew people get excited about doing estate planning, even though they might recognize the importance of leaving a legacy for their children and grandchildren. If you want to be smart about making gifts to your loved ones, though, there are some things you should consider before just writing a check.

When leaving a legacy to your Houston heirs, you want to do it the right way. It’s always best to consult with the pros on important estate planning matters.

A recent article from The Motley Fool, titled “Thinking of Gifting an Inheritance to Your Grandchildren? Keep These 3 Things in Mind,” asks some of their experts for estate planning tips. Here are some of their answers:

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