When we think of estate planning, we often think about preparing our accounts and property to go to our loved ones in a tax-efficient way, protected from probate, disgruntled heirs, beneficiaries’ creditors, divorcing spouses, bankruptcy, and the poor spending habits of children or other beneficiaries. We rarely consider preparing for receiving an inheritance of our own.
Believe it or not, there are some essential things you must consider when you anticipate receiving an inheritance. Understanding these issues can be crucial to protect that inheritance from unnecessary taxes and outside threats like creditors, divorcing spouses, and bankruptcy.
The first way to properly prepare to receive an inheritance is to discover what you will be inheriting. Is it real estate, a 401(k), or an individual retirement account (IRA)? Perhaps it is publicly traded stock, an interest in a family business, or just simply cash from a savings account or life insurance policy.
Whatever it is, there are steps you can take today to plan to receive and manage it properly. For example, if you will receive a large IRA account from a parent, do you understand the new rules associated with inherited IRAs as implemented by the SECURE Act passed in late 2019? If not, you should educate yourself now on how to maximize the tax benefits available under the law regarding required distributions. Without an understanding of these often complicated rules, you could make an irreversible mistake and withdraw all of the IRA funds at one time, thereby substantially increasing your tax liability in the year of withdrawal. There are a variety of nuances to these rules that a tax adviser or attorney can help you understand and navigate properly.
Likewise, if you are receiving rental property as a part of your inheritance, you should consider the business of being a landlord and if you even have an interest in continuing to operate such a venture. If not, you may want to prepare to find a buyer for the property who can offer you a fair price as soon as possible. Or, at the very least, look into hiring a property management company to take over as soon as you inherit the property.
If your loved one has completed trust planning that includes establishing an irrevocable trust for you, such trusts frequently include important features that are generally referred to as powers of appointment. A power of appointment in a trust is a right, often given to the beneficiary of the trust, to gift trust property to someone else or, in some cases, to yourself. These powers are often limited to making gifts to only certain classes of people (such as the descendants of the trust makers), or they may be limited to making gifts only at death (a testamentary power of appointment) or during life (a lifetime power of appointment). Some trusts include both types of powers. These can be powerful planning tools that have been given to you through trust documents. Failure to recognize the existence of these powers can lead to unintended consequences, or at the very least, crucial missed asset protection and tax-planning opportunities.
If you know that you have been granted a power of appointment, you should attempt to obtain a copy of the relevant trust documents to carefully review and determine the nature of these powers. An experienced estate planning attorney can help you with this task. With this information, your professional advisers can properly advise you on the planning opportunities and tax consequences of the powers of appointment that may be available to you.
A common mistake made by married individuals who receive an inheritance is to commingle that inheritance with the property of both spouses. How can this be a mistake? An example may best illustrate the point:
Imagine Robin receives a cash inheritance from her deceased father of $300,000 and she and her spouse Morgan decide to use the inheritance to buy a vacation cabin in the mountains. When purchasing the property, the title company assumes that because they are a married couple, they want to take title to the property as joint tenants with rights of survivorship and the deed gets prepared and recorded accordingly. Further imagine that over the years, they furnish the property together, maintain it, and enjoy many family vacations there. One night, however, Morgan has a little too much to drink at a bar, gets behind the wheel, and causes a deadly accident that results not just in a DUI, but also in a wrongful death lawsuit. Because Morgan’s name is on the title to the property as a joint owner, Robin and Morgan discover that the family cabin is an asset that can be used to satisfy the lawsuit judgment against Morgan. As a result, they are forced to sell the cabin and use half of the proceeds to satisfy the judgment.
This unfortunate circumstance can be the result of Robin’s failure to keep her inheritance as separate property. By commingling her property with Morgan, she made it much easier for the judgment creditor in the lawsuit to reach what otherwise would have been considered Robin’s separate inheritance property.
Commingling inherited property can also lead to a similar result if Robin and Morgan ultimately divorce and the family court judge has to determine how to divide the marital property. Failing to keep the inherited property separate during marriage can often lead to that property being divided between spouses at divorce.
A fourth way for you to prepare to inherit property is by using an inheritor's trust. This is a special type of trust that can be established by the individual who will be leaving an inheritance to you. An inheritor's trust is designed to receive the inheritance that you would otherwise receive directly. It must be carefully designed and implemented to work properly, and an experienced estate planning attorney should most certainly be used in the effort. A properly drafted inheritor's trust includes the following key elements:
An inheritor's trust includes the following benefits:
An inheritor's trust can be a powerful tool to use when you anticipate receiving a large inheritance and would like to make sure that the inheritance is protected from certain tax consequences or threats from creditors.
If you would like to learn more about any of these concepts, give us a call. We would love to discuss these ideas in greater depth with you so we can help you build and protect your wealth more effectively.
Creating a comprehensive estate plan is one of the most important things you can do to protect the future of your loved ones. An appropriate plan allows you to remain in control of your finances, including how they are distributed, while sparing your loved ones from the frustration and expense of managing your affairs after your death.
An estate plan can include any number of tools for managing and protecting your assets, including life insurance policies. In fact, the importance of life insurance in estate planning should never be overlooked.
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The role of Life insurance is extremely important when considering your estate plan. We would like to highlight three commonly asked questions about the tax implications, and provide the answers to them here.
I have been made aware of the fact that I am the beneficiary of a life insurance policy, and I'm concerned about the tax implications. Will I be required to report the receipt of the proceeds when I file my income tax return?
This is a frequently asked question, and the answer is probably going to be a welcome one. In general proceeds received from a life insurance policy are not going to be looked at as taxable income by the Internal Revenue Service.
I own a number of insurance policies, and my estate is quite valuable. Will the value of the insurance policy proceeds count as part of my taxable estate for estate tax purposes?
Unfortunately the answer to this question is yes. At the present time the estate tax exclusion is $5.25 million, and the maximum rate is 40%. If the sum total of your assets is in excess of $5.25 million, including your life insurance policy proceeds, the estate tax may indeed be a factor.
Can anything be done to remove these policies from my taxable estate?
Yes, it would be possible to place the policies into an irrevocable life insurance trust. However, to satisfy IRS regulations you must live for at least three years after transferring the policies into the trust for the assets to be effectively removed from your estate. There are ways to avoid the three-year wait, but they must be addressed by a qualified estate planning lawyer.
Each estate plan is as individual as the person who creates the plan. Having said that, one of the most common components to an estate plan is life insurance. Whether or not you should include life insurance as part of your estate plan will depend on a number of factors; however, there are some things you should take into account when making the decision.
Your age and health. Life insurance is less expensive to purchase when you are younger and healthy, meaning you should be able to lock in the best rates. This is also when most people need life insurance for wealth and income replacement -- before they have other estate assets that can be passed down in the event of death.
Know what kind you are buying. Life insurance falls into two basic types -- term and insurance with cash value such as whole life or universal life. Term insurance only provides a death benefit while insurance with a cash value component potentially earns cash value, as the term implies.
Know your objective. If you only want to provide a financial safety net to your family, sticking with term insurance is likely your best bet. Talk to a financial advisor if you are considering whole life insurance. It can be a complicated investment strategy, but there are benefits that are not available to term policy holders.
Decide how much you need. This can change over the years. If you are young and single, you may only need enough to cover debts and your funeral. As you age, you should factor in what it will cost to raise your children if you die before they reach the level of maturity when they will be able to fend for themselves.
Shop around. Just as with other types of insurance policies the policy rates can vary widely. Take your time and compare rates before you commit. You should also be certain you are dealing with a company that is secure, so look at their rating with AM Best or Standard and Poors.
Know when to terminate or convert. Life insurance is rarely the best way to invest your money, but when it comes time to collect, your loved ones will find that you have provided well for them. Review your financial portfolio and your needs on a regular basis not only with your financial adviser, but your attorney, as well. You may find that you no longer need to include a life insurance policy for wealth or income replacement, but it could be useful in your estate plan as protection from estate taxes, expenses of administration, or other financial burdens of which you may not be aware.
The voice behind the famous song I Will Always Love You, was found dead of unknown causes in the bathtub of her hotel room just hours before the Grammy Awards. The untimely death of the 48-year old singer/actress comes after a decade of personal troubles including drug and alcohol addiction as well as the end of her highly publicized relationship with Bobby Brown. Just hours after her death, sales of anything “Whitney Houston” started to soar. The ultimate value of her estate has yet to be determined; however, it is clear that, as has been the case with other artists, her death may cause her popularity, and therefore her wealth, to increase substantially. The death of the once darling of both the screen and the radio reminds us all of how important it is to create an estate plan.
People often make the mistake of thinking that creating an estate plan is not necessary unless you have a substantial estate at the time. What many people don’t realize, however, is that the value of your estate can soar at any time. Unfortunately, as the untimely death of Houston reminds us, death can also strike at any time. The seed you plant today, whether it is an investment, life insurance, law suit or fledgling business, could be worth a small fortune tomorrow. Those “seeds” will become part of your estate upon your death. Even if they are not worth a substantial amount at the time of your death, they may continue to grow after your death. Deciding who will receive those assets, therefore, becomes important. The only way to ensure that your assets will be handled in the manner you intend is to create a comprehensive estate plan today.
Life insurance is a very important and useful element that is included in most estate plans. The most common use for life insurance is as an income replacement vehicle, and it is vital for people who have family members relying on their income. Even if you are relatively young, there are no guarantees and the well-being of your family is at risk if you do not have adequate coverage.
In addition to its value as an income replacement vehicle, life insurance is used in estate planning for other purposes as well, and one of these is to balance inheritances. We will explain what this means by way of example.
Assume that you are the owner of a successful small business, and the value of the business is by far your most significant asset. You have two children, a son named Doug and a daughter named Deborah, and you want to leave them equal inheritances. Doug works in the business, loves the job, and has expressed his desire to assume ownership upon your passing. Deborah has never worked in the business and has no particular interest in it.
A solution for scenarios like this would be to utilize life insurance to balance the inheritances. You take out a life insurance policy on your own life in an amount that is equal to the estimated value of the business, and you make your daughter Deborah the beneficiary. When you ultimately pass on, each of your children will receive an inheritance of similar value.
Enabling the balancing of inheritances is just one of the ways that life insurance can play a role in your estate plan beyond serving as a vehicle of income replacement. To learn more about this and comprehensive estate planning in general, simply arrange for a consultation with an experienced estate planning attorney.
The details of our lives are constantly evolving. So in a very real sense estate planning is an ongoing process rather than a single event. A plan that makes sense for you today may not be appropriate five, ten, or twenty years from now. There are many strategies that can be utilized in a well drafted estate plan depending on the specifics of your situation. When you prepare an estate plan you should do so recognizing that you should revisit it over time.
Life insurance is one such tool in an estate planners tool box that may have very usefull apllications depending on your circumstances. When you are still in your working years it is likely that your family depends on your income to maintain their standard of living. If you consider where they would be if that income was suddenly absent, you can immediately see the value of life insurance as an income replacement vehicle. Life insurance coverage should be reviewed periodically as your income increases and the needs of your family change.
Life insurance has some other very useful applications in addition to its value as an income replacement vehicle. It can be used to balance an estate in cases when certain real property or a business interest is left to one beneficiary. It is also commonly used as part of a business succession strategy where the business will take out insurance policies on owners in amounts equal to their respective ownership in the business. Upon the death of an owner insurance benefits are then used to buy out that partner's share and the funds are distributed to a designated beneficiary of the deceased owner. Life insurance may also be important to create liquidity at death to pay expenses so that the sale of assets is nor forced in order to pay expenses such as federal estate tax.