Back in 1987, Congress recognized March as Women's History Month to celebrate the incredible contributions of women in American history across various fields. From building a strong and prosperous nation to being the backbone of their families, women have been unstoppable. Yet, in the midst of caring for others, women often neglect their own financial and estate planning. It's high time for women to prioritize themselves by crafting a solid plan that caters to their future needs, which may differ from those of their male counterparts and dependents.
Longer life expectancies. According to Social Security Administration data, in 2021, women had an average life expectancy of 79.5 years compared to 74.2 years for men. As a result, it is important for women to create an estate plan that accounts for additional years of living expenses during retirement, healthcare costs, and possibly long-term care costs. As women age, there may be a greater possibility that they could become incapacitated and need someone to act on their behalf to make financial and healthcare decisions. Documents such as financial and healthcare powers of attorney and living wills authorize a person they trust to make decisions or take action for them if they are not able to act for themselves. Some women may not only own their own assets but also inherit wealth from both their parents and a spouse who dies before them, and if so, they need a financial and estate plan to optimally preserve and transfer this wealth. Because women may outlive their spouses, they also may be responsible for administering their spouse’s estate or become the sole surviving trustee of a joint trust. These duties may be difficult for a woman who is experiencing health issues that often occur at an advanced age, and this possibility should be addressed in their estate planning. For example, a woman concerned that she will be unable to handle administering her trust at an advanced age can name a co-trustee or successor trustee to administer it if she is no longer able to do so.
Lower earnings. According to U.S. Census Bureau data, women continue to earn less than men, and the pay gap widens as they age. In addition, because some women have shorter employment histories due to time off to raise children or care for aging parents, they may have less saved for retirement. As a result, it is important for them to take steps to protect their money and property from lawsuits or creditors’ claims. For example, a woman could transfer her money and property to an irrevocable trust. Because she is no longer the legal owner of the property, a creditor cannot reach it to satisfy claims against her so long as the trust is properly drafted to include appropriate distribution standards and administrative and other provisions. The woman may be a discretionary beneficiary of the trust, and the trustee may distribute the funds she needs for living expenses. Additionally, because they have less money and property during their retirement, women need to have a solid plan in place to make sure that they are able to financially provide for their loved ones upon their death and that unnecessary costs and expenses are minimized to the extent possible.
Care for loved ones. Many women are caregivers for minor children, adult children with special needs, or aging parents. As a result, they are often concerned about who will care for their loved ones if they are no longer able to do so. If a spouse or sibling is not available to provide care, they need to make sure that another family member or trusted individual can be the caregiver (sometimes called a guardian of the person) for their loved one. The same individual—or someone else—can serve as the guardian of the loved one’s estate (sometimes called a conservator or guardian of the estate) to manage the inheritance for their benefit. In the case of a child with special needs, if no family member is able to take on the responsibility of their care, a group home or assisted living facility may be the best choice. A special needs trust may need to be established to ensure that funds are available for the child’s care but do not decrease the amount of government benefits they are eligible to receive.
You have accomplished a lot in your life! Celebrate your accomplishments and contributions during Women’s History Month by contacting us to set up an appointment to create an estate plan that provides for your own future needs and those of the people you love. You deserve the peace of mind that comes with knowing your future is secure.
In October 2022, singer and songwriter Jerry Lee Lewis passed away. He left behind a rock legacy, a big family, and an estate valued in the multi-millions.
We often follow the lives of celebrities and dream of having their lavish lifestyles. Even so, famous folks experience many similar estate planning challenges just like the rest of us. This includes implementing the optimal tax strategy, as well as distributing assets to loved ones when deceased.
Lewis’s passing has prompted many to look back fondly at his music career. Aside from that though, it begs the question: what will shake out with his sizable estate? Let’s play “what if” in the following estate planning scenarios and see which lessons can be learned for celebrities and regular folks alike:
Jerry Lee Lewis lived a long life, passing at the old age of 87. Like other rock icons of the last century (Elvis, Johnny Cash), Lewis’s lifestyle put hard miles on him. Even though he engaged in substance abuse and experienced health problems, he outlived other leading rockers and was deemed “the last man standing from the dawn of rock and roll” by New York Magazine.
You likely have heard his greatest hit, “Great Balls of Fire”, but Lewis had a variety of other hits that earned him four Grammy wins. Lewis was inducted into both the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Country Music Hall of Fame. His music career spanned for an astounding seven decades, and he produced over forty albums.
At his death, Lewis left behind his seventh wife, Judith Coglan Lewis, and four of the six surviving children from his marriages. In the years preceding his death, a feud ensued between Lewis and his daughter, Phoebe, and her husband, Ezekiel Loftin. Lewis sued the Phoebe and her husband in 2017 for taking advantage of his financial status. Charges were later dropped.
Lewis had his fair share of financial missteps, filing for bankruptcy in 1988. The filing included more than $3 million in debts. This came from over $2 million in IRS dues, unpaid medical bills, and tens of thousands in attorney fees. Still, his net worth at the time of his death was estimated to be in the range of $10 million and $15.4 million.
As professional estate planning attorneys, we evaluate the life and legacy of Jerry Lee Lewis through the perspective of our field of expertise. While his tumultuous and fast-paced lifestyle may not align with our personal experiences, we recognize the valuable insight it provides in regards to common estate planning issues. In this discourse, we will address several issues related to Lewis's estate that are particularly noteworthy.
Based on what we know about Lewis’s relationship with his daughter, Phoebe, it is likely that he will remove her from any consideration to receive a portion of his assets. Mississippi law permits individuals to disinherit beneficiaries under a legitimate basis. However, it is worth noting that Phoebe has established her own career in the music industry and has done quite well for herself, potentially rendering any inheritance unnecessary.
The distribution of assets for his remaining children is yet to be determined. While most parents opt for equal distribution of assets among their children, the unique circumstances of the Lewis family dynamic require analysis of what is equal versus what is fair.
We can take lessons away from the Lewis family and apply them to our own situation. Each child has financial needs unique to their lives. While some are able to obtain financial freedom, others may struggle. A family’s financial picture can change for better or for worse between the birth of children as well. For instance, a younger child might enjoy a slightly more affluent lifestyle than the older siblings, simply because their parents have worked their way to a better career milestone and are making more money now than they were. This is why dividing assets equally within an estate plan is not always the fairest method for all parties.
Will He Transfer Assets to His Surviving Spouse?
Lewis was married a staggering seven times, and each came with their own controversies. His seventh wife was by his bedside upon his death. Will he distribute assets to her?
In the case that Lewis did not have a will in place, intestate law would take effect. This would automatically make his spouse the primary beneficiary. It’s not a far off scenario – about two thirds of American adults fail to compose a will. Rock icons can fall into this category if they fail to do some basic estate planning before death.
In the case that Lewis did have a will, he still could have left his entire estate, or a portion, to the surviving wife. If he just left a portion, those assets could be given to her as a lump sum, or distributed over time under the management of the estate’s trustee.
Lewis also would have had options deciding the type of trust set up. The pros and cons of these different types are as follows:
Even though death and taxes are certain in life, estate taxes may not fall into this category. It all depends on the breadth of the estate at Lewis’s death, and the amount of the lifetime exemption used.
The lifetime gift and estate tax exemption denotes the maximum amount of wealth that an individual can pass on to their heirs without incurring estate taxes. Such transfers can take place either as gifts throughout a person's lifetime or at the time of their death.
In 2022, the federal lifetime gift and estate tax exemption threshold was $12.06 million, rising to $12.92 million in 2023. Based on the conservative estimate of Lewis's net worth, the value of his estate is lower than the 2022 lifetime exemption limit. Therefore, in the absence of any previous use of his exemption during his lifetime, he may not require workarounds for estate taxes if his spouse does not posses substantial personal assets. It is worth noting that for couples, the exemption amount doubles to $25.84 million in 2023.
Mississippi does not impose an estate tax, so Lewis's estate does not need to worry about such a tax being levied. However, if Lewis had passed away in a state that imposes an estate tax, or if he had owned property in such a state, then his estate might have been subject to an additional tax due to his death. The exemption amount and tax rate for each state's estate tax are determined by that state.
In the case that Lewis's spouse does possesses assets and wealth that surpass the individual gift and estate tax exemption limit, it may behoove her to ask for the deceased spousal unused exclusion (DSUE) amount. The DSUE provision, aimed at helping the surviving spouse, allows the unused exemption amount of the deceased spouse to be transferred to the surviving spouse in case the former did not use up the entire exemption amount. In simpler terms, Lewis's wife would be eligible to receive a DSUE amount of $2.06 million, calculated based on the 2022 exemption of $12.06 million and Lewis's estimated estate value of $10 million.
Based on the 2022 exemption of $12.06 million and an estimated estate value of $10 million, Lewis's wife would be eligible for a DSUE amount of $2.06 million.
It is impossible to know for sure how Jerry Lee Lewis chose to allocate his wealth. His wife and children may be as uninformed as the general public, and there could be unexpected elements in his estate plan that have yet to surface.
The Lewis family requested that instead of sending flowers for his funeral, contributions be made in his name to either the Arthritis Foundation or MusiCares. It raises the question whether Lewis may have chosen to allocate a significant portion of his estate to these or other charitable organizations instead of his family.
Only time will tell how it’ll play out. We may not even get the full story if he left his estate to charity, since it’s common for charity information to stay private.
Ironing out an estate plan is not exclusive to rock-and-roll icons. Regardless of the complexities of your estate, it is essential to develop a plan for the distribution of your assets, settling your debts, and ensuring that your wealth goes to the individuals and causes that matter to you. Contact Anderson, Dorn & Rader’s office today to arrange a consultation with our team of estate planning attorneys and begin planning for the future.
Death is a delicate subject, but can be made simpler with proper planning. In the best case scenario, all paperwork and assets associated with a passing loved one is prepared with the utmost detail prior to death, allowing friends and relatives to fondly remember the deceased and take time to grieve.
Anderson, Dorn & Rader, and the estate planning business as a whole, aims to simplify the legal processes surrounding death so legacies can be transferred to surviving loved ones in a fair, stress-free manner. To accomplish this, savvy individuals will often take measures to ensure they don’t burden their surviving relatives with undue complications like the probate process.
Several tools are available through qualified attorneys to keep your property and monetary assets out of probate. Among these, establishing co-ownership of bank accounts and home titles, as well as lining up beneficiaries on investment and insurance accounts are great to start with. But a revocable living trust is one of the most favored comprehensive options that an individual can set up to avoid probate. Let’s check it out:
A trust is a fiduciary arrangement that grants a third party, or trustee, the legal permission to hold and manage assets on behalf of a beneficiary or beneficiaries. A living trust is enacted while an individual is still alive, rather than upon death. Arrangements can be made to grant you oversight duties on your own living trust until you become incapable of soundly managing your assets, or pass away. Upon your incapacitation or passing, the successor trustee assumes responsibility over the assets in the trust and manages them on behalf of all involved beneficiaries.
The Probate process involves transferring ownership of all monetary assets and property that haven’t been assigned to beneficiaries, or don’t contain a pay-on-death or transfer-on-death designation upon your passing. Often times with probate, the court gets involved, and the long-winded process to account for the assets ensues.
With a trust, your assets are ready to be transferred to your beneficiaries upon your death, if they haven’t already been transferred to the trust while you’re still alive. This puts probate out of the question, as your assets are all accounted for and can be distributed in a timely manner.
Even better, trusts can incorporate pretty much any category of asset: from real estate, to stock holdings, to bank accounts, to family heirlooms. This keeps your legacy from being administered through the probate court, ensuring everything you worked for ends up in the hands of the individuals you deem as successors. Not only does this eliminate costly court costs, but it keeps your records out of the public’s eye and enables beneficiaries to remember the deceased and carry on the good fortune of the trust without running into road blocks.
The language and investment surrounding the establishment of a trust can be daunting, often prompting individuals to delay the process or put it off entirely. But to plan without a doubt where your assets will end up, and with whom, it’s vital to create a trust. It’s peace of mind for both you and your loved ones when you pass.
Planning the details around your death is sometimes a difficult topic to breach, but can be made simpler with the help of your family and knowledgeable attorneys like Anderson Dorn & Rader. While you are ultimately at the helm when it comes to important decisions, our estate planning group truly cares about maximizing the legacy you will leave to your loved ones. For any questions about how to start the trust formation process, please give us a call or fill out our contact form. We look forward to bringing you and your family peace of mind.
With roughly 40 percent of U.S. adults suffering from a mental illness, it’s time to remove the stigma surrounding the topic. With greater awareness, there is greater opportunity to ensure that those affected by mental illness receive the help or treatment that they need, not just now, but in the future as well. Estate planning for someone with a mental illness will give you peace of mind that your loved one will be well taken care of in any unforeseen event.
The odds that you or somebody in your family is living with a mental health condition are 2 in 5. Rather than dismiss these issues because they are uncomfortable, we recommend being proactive about these challenges so that you’re prepared for whatever life brings your way. The best way to do this is with the help of an incapacity and estate planning attorney who will be able to draft a trust that covers all your bases.
Nearly 50 Million Americans Suffer from Mental Illness
Saying that America is dealing with a mental health crisis is not an exaggeration. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, approximately 40 percent of US adults experience mental illness, which is an increase of 20 percent from the year 2020. Additionally, 1 in 20 who experience serious mental illness, and 17 percent of American youth experience a mental health disorder.
The mental health crisis has worsened during the coronavirus pandemic. Loneliness and isolation are fueling increases in anxiety, depression, and thoughts of suicide and self-harm, reports Mental Health America. More people are seeking mental health screening and treatment, but around 23 percent of Americans with mental illness are still not receiving the services they need.
Improvement starts with acknowledging that there is a problem. Talking to a healthcare professional about mental health struggles and treatment options leads to better outcomes. One improved outcome can be creating an estate plan that takes into account your own, or a family member’s, mental health.
Your Mental Health and Your Estate Plan
Every estate plan should be tailored to the individual’s needs and their unique family dynamics. A number of estate planning documents are available to address concerns about your mental health. Chief among such concerns is the possibility that, at some point, you may be unable to manage your own affairs. To prepare for that contingency, consider having the following documents in place:
Importantly, for these documents to have legal authority, you must have mental capacity when you sign them. To ensure capacity, you may want to obtain a professional opinion from a licensed mental health provider stating that you are of sound mind and understand the meaning and effect of the documents you are signing. Alleging lack of capacity is a common basis for contesting an estate plan.
In addition, if you are entrusting somebody with power of attorney authority, and that person has their own mental health concerns, you should discuss the issue with your family as well as your estate planning lawyer.
Your Beneficiaries’ Mental Health
Having beneficiaries who suffer from mental illness presents a different estate planning challenge. You must pass your legacy to them in a way that serves their best interests. Discretionary trusts and supplemental needs trusts are two ways you can look out for a mentally ill loved one even after you are gone.
There is a significant difference between suffering from a severe mental illness, such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, and a more minor issue such as anxiety or depression. Some people’s mental health issues can come and go over the course of their lifetime. Others’ illnesses are prolonged or recurrent. In some cases, a person may be genetically predisposed to mental illness that has not yet manifested. Proper proactive estate planning can protect you and your loved ones from whatever type of mental disorder may be of concern to you.
These are some of the factors to consider when making estate planning decisions based on mental illness in your family. Every individual and every family is unique. Your estate plan should reflect what you know now and be updated to reflect changes in your life and the lives of your family members. Contact us to learn how mental health considerations can fit into your estate plan.
Estate planning is a sensitive subject and it can be even more sensitive when the issue of mental health is involved. If you need to set up an estate plan, or revise an existing estate plan, around mental health concerns, we are here to help. Please contact our office to set up an appointment with an estate planning attorney.
Estate plans are more than your monetary net worth. Categories of your estate can include real estate, pets, possessions and all other property you own. Some people forget how priceless personal property, such as family heirlooms and keepsakes, can be to those you leave behind.
It is important to work out what will happen to these valuable items after your death by creating an estate plan.
Heirlooms have been passed down to family members for generations. These items can vary in monetary value, but the memories attached to them are copious, giving them an emotional and sentimental value that shouldn’t be discarded or auctioned after your passing.
Keepsakes are slightly different from heirlooms because they apply to specific items you owned during your life. These items can be anything from cutlery sets, furniture, or jewelry that you left behind for your family. While these valuable items only have been passed down once, they have nostalgia your family wouldn’t want to lose.
Family members can have different values associated with certain heirlooms and keepsakes. It can be crucial to talk with each family member about their feelings and expectations towards certain items in advance. This common knowledge will help your family avoid unnecessary fighting for heirlooms or keepsakes after your death.
It is a good idea to decide if you need to have your family heirlooms or keepsakes appraised. By doing this, you provide your heirs with the necessary documentation to understand the value of each object passed down to them. Plus, you might realize you want to get some of these items insured due to their worth. Handling this before you pass will make it easier for your heirs to go through the mourning process and avoid unnecessary externalities.
There is no proper way to distribute these valuable and irreplaceable items after your death. Of course, these valuables could end up lost or undervalued if they end up in the wrong hands when there is no plan in place for family heirlooms and keepsakes.
Here are some ways to distribute these precious items to your heirs.
Some people prefer to equally distribute heirlooms and keepsakes to their heirs by focusing on each items' monetary value. An estates planning attorney can offer you guidance when understanding the liquidity of each family heirloom and keepsake.
It is important to note more than two of your heirs may desire the same heirloom or keepsake. You can resolve this dilemma before you pass by creating a personal property memorandum. This document is a chance for you to explicitly state your wishes and avoid any conflict that may come after your death.
One benefit to this type of inheritance planning is that a property personal memorandum is referred to as your last will and identifies who is to receive said property. Also, you don't need to execute a new will or amend your trust if you decide to make modifications to which heirs receive these family heirlooms and keepsakes.
You may prefer to gift special items to your heirs before passing away. Doing this could be a consideration if you find enjoyment in seeing how your family reacts to receiving their heirloom or keepsake.
Of course, you don't want to forget the gift tax you may incur after giving any items to your heirs while alive. Furthermore, you may want to consider if you should factor them into what share of your estate your heirs receive after your death depending on their value.
Anderson Dorn and Rader’s attorneys have the expertise and knowledge to help you create an estate plan that considers all your assets. Family heirlooms and keepsakes are just one piece of the puzzle. Define all your wishes for what your heirs receive with an estate plan to help avoid conflict between your heirs later on.
Our law firm has been helping families plan for both their financial wealth and their treasured wealth for many years. We believe that traditional estate planning has been failing American families. Traditional “bare bones” estate plans have only focused on distributing financial wealth and have done little to secure the future families intend when planning for future generations.
We have seen many families lose financial assets after the first generation through traditional estate planning means. The loss of family legacies and history is even more devastating.
There is a better alternative! Legacy Wealth Planning helps you examine not only your financial and non-financial goals and concerns but it also focuses on the values and legacy you wish to leave behind. With a customized Legacy Wealth Plan, you can minimize the emotional impact on your family, retain valuable assets and ensure that your legacy lives on through those you love and your future generations.
In our estate and legacy planning meetings, we take a deeper look at the real-life issues facing families today…
Take a moment to stop and think about what you really want to pass down to future generations. The odds are good that it is not just tangible assets, but the intangible ideals, philosophies, and beliefs that make up your legacy that you hope to pass down. Legacy planning can help you do just that. Legacy planning is not something that takes the place of your existing estate plan. Instead, legacy planning takes over where your estate plan leaves off and focuses on things that are typically overlooked in traditional estate planning.
A traditional estate plan focuses on protecting, growing, and eventually distributing the tangible assets you acquire over the course of your lifetime. While traditional estate planning remains necessary, it does have its limitations. For example, your traditional estate plan can help you plan for the end of your life by creating a roadmap for distributing your material wealth after you are gone; however, there is no place in that plan to focus on the values, morals, faith, and beliefs that have guided you throughout your lifetime and helped you reach the material success you have achieved. As you undoubtedly know, those core values, investing philosophies, religious beliefs, and guiding principles are far more valuable to your beneficiaries than tangible assets are, which is why legacy planning is so important.
Legacy planning does not require a separate plan nor does it require you to abandon your current estate plan. Instead, legacy planning is accomplished by taking a holistic approach to your comprehensive plan that weaves your legacy into your existing plan. Think of it as creating a bigger, better, more inclusive version of your current estate plan. By doing so, the hope is that future generations will honor your legacy by adopting the same values and beliefs that guided you throughout your lifetime.
Legacy planning begins by asking the question “What is the legacy you wish to leave behind?” How can your legacy shape your children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren? What are the principles, values, philosophies, and beliefs you wish to impart on future generations? For some people, their faith comes first. Others place a great deal of importance on education, family values, or philanthropy. Maybe you have an investing philosophy that has worked extremely well for you that you wish to pass on to loved ones. Your legacy is yours to create and pass down by incorporating modern and innovative legacy planning tools and strategies into your overall estate plan.
Because the legacy you wish to pass on is highly unique and personal, the legacy plan you create will also be unlike any other legacy plan. There are, however, some common tools and strategies used to interweave your legacy plan into your estate plan. For example, if you have a strong belief in the importance of education, you might establish a trust that can only be used to pay for tuition or expenses related to higher education. If philanthropy is part of your daily life, you could create a family foundation that will carry on your charitable work after you are gone. Drafting a Letter of Instructions that discusses your values, philosophies, and beliefs is also a straightforward and simple way to incorporate legacy planning in your estate plan.
Your legacy plan reflects what truly matters to you and what you hope to pass down to future generations. The legacy planning attorneys at Anderson, Dorn & Rader, Ltd. are committed to ensuring that your legacy shines through in your comprehensive estate plan. If you are ready to get started with your Reno, Nevada legacy plan, contact us today by using our online contact form or by calling (775) 823-9455.
There is a more complete form of estate planning called legacy planning that you may want to consider. Your legacy plan could contain some financial elements, but you can also include some things that money cannot buy that are very valuable as well. Let’s look at some of the components that could be included in your legacy plan.
We are going to primarily focus on possibilities that have nothing to do with money, but we should discuss the value of wealth preservation for high net worth individuals. There is a federal estate tax that can seriously impact your legacy, because it carries a 40 percent maximum rate.
The reason why this tax is only relevant for people that have accumulated a significant store of wealth is because there is an estate tax exclusion or credit that is relatively high. At the time of this writing late in 2019, the exclusion is $11.4 million. We are mentioning the date because there are typically adjustments at the beginning of every year to account for inflation.
There are a number of different ways to arrange for tax efficient asset transfers if your estate is going to be subject to taxation. The ideal course of action will depend upon the circumstances, but this being stated, there is a commonly utilized type of trust that can optimize your legacy.
This vehicle is the generation-skipping trust. As the name indicates, you would name your grandchildren as the beneficiaries rather than your children. Throughout the life of your children, they would be able to benefit from assets that are contained within the trust and receive distributions from the earnings.
After their passing, your grandchildren would inherit the assets. Yes, the direct transfers would be subject to the estate tax, but one round of taxation would be avoided.
The heirlooms that you have in your possession could simply be sold by your trustee or executor after your passing, and the proceeds could be distributed to the inheritors. This being stated, the objects that have been in your family for generations have value that exceeds mere dollars and cents.
You could inventory all of the heirlooms that you have acquired over the years and examine your inheritance list. Ultimately, you can get the right meaningful item or items into the hands of each respective family member. In fact, you can start doing this with some items while you are still alive.
When you are devising your legacy plan, you may want to consider the inclusion of your personal memoirs. It can be rewarding and cathartic to reminisce and share your memories in writing so that your loved ones can gain a better understanding of your formative experiences.
An explanation of the family history that you remember could be contained within your memoirs, or you could choose to have a document that is strictly devoted to your lineage. Many people start to get interested in their family tree at some point in time, and you can be of great assistance if you share what you know about your family’s roots.
There is another document that has nothing to do with money that can be a powerful addition to your legacy plan. Ethical wills stem from the Judaic tradition, and they go back to biblical times. With an ethical will, you record your moral and spiritual values so that your loved ones will be able to gain access to valuable guidance during challenging times.
We have shared a little bit of food for thought here, and there are some other legacy planning possibilities that we will look at in a future post. This blog has a lot of information, and we go the extra mile to provide help in another way.
Our firm offers free Webinars, and there are a number of sessions being held in the near future. To get all the details, visit our Webinar schedule page.
Q. What is Legacy Wealth Planning?
A. Legacy Wealth Planning is the creation of a definitive plan for managing your total wealth while you’re alive, distributing your estate how you choose after your death, and a clear plan to pass on your legacy. Your estate includes all assets of any value that you own. This includes non-financial assets as well as financial assets, including real property, business interests, investments, insurance proceeds, retirement accounts and personal property. Your legacy incorporates important decisions ensuring your family core values, responsible behaviors and community involvement are passed on to future generations. Keep in mind, your legacy also includes personal effects, such as family heirlooms, stories, and accumulated wisdom and life lessons of your family.
Q. What is “traditional” estate planning?
A. Traditional estate planning (Wills and Trusts) focuses on the accumulation, the preservation, and the distribution of only your financial assets and worldly possessions. It protects material wealth from probate and minimizes taxes.
Q: Why do I need an estate plan?
A: Most of us spend a considerable amount of time and energy in our lives accumulating wealth. With this, there comes a time to preserve wealth both for enjoyment and future generations. A solid, effective estate plan ensures that your hard-earned wealth will remain intact as it passes to your beneficiaries, instead of being siphoned off to government processes and bureaucrats.
Q. What is the difference between “traditional” estate planning and Legacy Wealth Planning?
A. Traditional estate planning is focused on financial assets and is concerned with avoiding probate and estate taxes. On the other hand, Legacy Wealth Planning is concerned with financial and non-financial assets of a family and creating a family’s personal legacy plan. Legacy Wealth Planning addresses how to capture and transfer family traditions and values, as well as protecting financial wealth for current and future generations.
Q: If I don’t create an estate plan, won’t the government provide one for me?
A: YES. But your family may not like it. The government’s estate plan is called “Intestate Probate” and guarantees government interference in the disposition of your estate. Documents must be filed and approval must be received from a court to pay your bills, pay your spouse an allowance, and account for your property–and it all takes place in the public’s view. If you fail to plan your estate, you lose the opportunity to protect your family from an impersonal, complex governmental process that can become a nightmare. Then there is the matter of the federal government’s death taxes. There is much you can do in planning your estate that will reduce and even eliminate death taxes, but you don’t suppose the government’s estate plan is designed to save your estate from taxes, do you? While some estate planners favor Wills and others prefer a Family Wealth Trust as the Estate Plan of Choice, all estate planners agree that dying without an estate plan should be avoided at all costs.
Q. What is a Family Wealth Trust?
A. A Family Wealth Trust is the main component of a Legacy Wealth Plan and covers important issues other than avoiding probate.
Q: What’s the difference between having a Will and a Living Trust?
A: A Will is a legal document that describes how your assets should be distributed in the event of death. The actual distribution, however, is controlled by a legal process called probate, which is Latin for “prove the Will.” Upon your death, the Will becomes a public document available for inspection by all comers. And, once your Will enters the probate process, it’s no longer controlled by your family, but by the court and probate attorneys. Probate can be cumbersome, time-consuming, expensive, and emotionally traumatic during a family’s time of grief and vulnerability. Con artists and others with less-than-pure financial motives have been known to use their knowledge about the contents of a will to prey on survivors. A Living Trust avoids probate because your property is owned by the trust, so technically there’s nothing for the probate courts to administer. Whomever you name as your “successor trustee” gains control of your assets and distributes them exactly according to your instructions. There is one other crucial difference: A Will doesn’t take effect until your death, and is therefore no help to you during lifetime planning, an increasingly important consideration since Americans are now living longer. A Family Wealth Trust can help you preserve and increase your estate while you’re alive, and offers protection should you become mentally disabled.
Q. How does a Family Wealth Trust differ from a Revocable Living Trust?
A. Most Revocable Living Trusts are primarily concerned with avoiding probate and estate taxes. A Family Wealth Trust offers lifetime benefits, and protects wealth for current and future generations.
Q: The possibility of a disabling injury or illness scares me. What would happen if I were mentally disabled and had no estate plan or just a Will?
A: Unfortunately, you would be subject to “living probate,” also known as a conservatorship or guardianship proceeding. If you become mentally disabled before you die, the probate court will appoint someone to take control of your assets and personal affairs. These “court-appointed agents” must file a strict accounting of your finances with the court. The process is often expensive, time-consuming and humiliating.
Q. Why should I have a Family Wealth Trust?
A: Not only does a Family Wealth Trust provide for the disposition of your property (like a Will), but it also offers the following benefits:
Q: If I set up a Family Wealth Trust, can I be my own trustee?
A: YES. In fact, most people who create a Family Wealth Trust act as their own trustees. If you are married, you and your spouse can act as co-trustees. And you will have absolute and complete control over all of the assets in your trust. In the event of a mentally disabling condition, your hand-picked successor trustee assumes control over your affairs, not the court’s appointee.
Q: Will a Family Wealth Trust avoid income taxes?
A: NO. The purpose of creating a Family Wealth Trust is to avoid living probate, death probate, and reduce or even eliminate federal estate taxes. It’s not a vehicle for reducing income taxes. In fact, if you’re the trustee of your Family Wealth Trust, you will file your income tax returns exactly as you filed them before the trust existed. There are no new returns to file and no new liabilities are created.
Q: Can I transfer real estate into a Family Wealth Trust?
A: YES. In fact, all real estate should be transferred into your Family Wealth Trust. Otherwise, upon your death, depending on how you hold the title, there will be a death probate in every state in which you hold real property. When your real property is owned by your Family Wealth Trust, there is no probate anywhere.
Q: Is the Family Wealth Trust some kind of loophole the government will eventually close down?
A: NO. The Family Wealth Trust has been authorized by the law for centuries. The government really has no interest in making you or your family suffer a probate that will only further clog up the legal system. A Family Wealth Trust avoids probate so that your estate is settled exactly according to your wishes.
Q: How do I know if I have a “bare bones” living trust?
A: Very few estate planning attorneys offer Legacy Wealth Planning. A “bare bones” living trust covers probate avoidance and usually ignores important issues to protect you, your spouse (if married) and your children. Bring your existing trust to your free one-hour consultation and we can review it for you.
Q: If I have a “bare bones” living trust should I go back to the attorney who drafted the trust?
A: You can certainly go back to the attorney you worked with before, however, few attorneys offer Legacy Wealth Planning. If you want Legacy Wealth Planning, contact a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys.
Q: Is a Family Wealth Trust only for the rich?
A: No. A Family Wealth Trust can help anyone who wants to protect his or her family from unnecessary probate fees, attorney’s fees, court costs and federal estate taxes. In fact, the Family Wealth Trust offers substantial protection for your family, regardless of your total estate. In addition to savings at death, especially if your estate is over $100,000, the Family Wealth Trust also provides savings and peace of mind during life, because it avoids the expense and emotional nightmare of an incapacity or “living probate” proceeding. Also, a Family Wealth Trust protects spouses in the event of remarriage after one spouse dies and affords greater protection for children.
Q: Can any attorney create a Family Wealth Trust?
A: YES, but you would be better off choosing an attorney whose practice is focused on estate planning. Members of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys receive continuing legal education on the latest changes in any law affecting estate planning, allowing them to provide you with the highest quality estate planning service anywhere.
Q: What steps can I take to preserve my legacy?
A: The best approach is to meet with an attorney who understands the Legacy Wealth Planning process. This will ensure you address the financial and non-financial assets of your family. The right attorney will help you, first, set up a Family Wealth Trust to preserve your financial legacy. Then, you will be educated about completing the My Legacy workbook, to share in your own words about your life story, family history, memories, and life lessons. And finally, writing a Legacy Planning Letter to distribute your cherished possessions with sentimental value.
As estate planning lawyers, all too often we speak with people that are looking for “damage control.” They find themselves in difficult circumstances because they did not plan ahead in advance appropriately. Of course, we do everything that we can to provide assistance after the fact, but most often there is only so much that can be accomplished.
They say that the only certainties of life are death and taxes, and everybody prepares for April 15th each year. Strangely enough, the majority of adults have made no preparations at all when it comes to this other certainty. Granted, we know that tax day will come along every year, and most people go forward with the belief that the Grim Reaper is not going to pay them a visit anytime soon.
Yet, you never know what the future holds, and people of all ages pass away each and every day. Estate planning is one of the basic, core responsibilities of adulthood, and everyone should have a plan in place. And when you have a partner or spouse and/or children depending on you, the importance of planning is amplified exponentially.
Since so many people go through life without any estate planning for an extended period of time, when they finally take action, they breathe a sigh relief once and for all. The documents are placed in a drawer or a lockbox somewhere, and these individuals go forward with the idea that the matter is closed.
In fact, estate planning should be viewed as an ongoing process. There are many different things that can take place in your own life that can trigger the need for estate plan updates. One of them would be additions to your family, and of course, subtractions could also render your existing estate plan obsolete. If you get divorced, you are certainly going to want to change your beneficiary designations and adjust other elements of your existing estate plan.
Speaking of marital status changes, if you decide to get remarried after getting divorced, your estate plan will need another round of revisions. One situation that can occur is the desire to protect the interests of your new spouse as you simultaneously preserve inheritances that you want to leave to your children from a previous marriage. This type of situation can be addressed through the utilization of a qualified terminable interest property trust (QTIP).
When you establish this type of trust, your spouse would be the life beneficiary, and your children would be the final beneficiaries. If you die before your spouse, he or she would be able to receive income from the earnings of the trust and live in a home has been conveyed into it. However, your surviving spouse would not be able to change the terms of the trust when it comes to the final beneficiaries. Your children would inherit the assets that remain in the trust after the death of your surviving spouse.
Improvements in your financial status over the years and/or changes to relevant tax legislation can also create circumstances that lead to the need for estate plan revisions. In fact, we just experienced a change that is very relevant to the estate planning community. As of 2018, the federal estate tax exemption is $11.2 million. This is the amount that can be transferred before the estate tax and its 40 percent rate is applied to your estate. Prior to the enactment of the tax legislation, the federal estate tax exemption was $5.49 million. Clearly, this is a very significant difference, and changes like these should definitely be discussed with your estate planning attorney if you are a high net worth individual.
As you can see, there are many things to take into consideration as the years pass, and you should certainly go forward in a fully informed manner. With this in mind, we have scheduled a number of informative Webinars over the coming weeks. You can obtain some very useful knowledge if you attend the session that fits into your schedule, and these Webinars are being offered free of charge. To register, visit our Webinar schedule page, find the date that works for you, and follow the simple instructions.
November 11 is Veterans Day, and people around the country are taking some time to remember the contributions that have been made by former service members. In this post we would like to share some thoughts about retirement and estate planning for veterans.
Veterans have the same concerns that we all do when it comes to estate planning. You want to make sure that you are taking all the appropriate steps with regard to the transfer of your assets after you pass away. It is also important to be financially prepared for the different stages of life.
When it comes to the latter component, if you are a careerist you have some great opportunities when it comes to retirement planning. The military pension that service members are entitled to after at least 20 years of service can be a fantastic supplement to Social Security income.
In addition, many people embark on careers in the private sector after serving 20 years. If you joined up after college at the age of 22 for example, you would be just 42 when you leave the service.
You would have an extraordinary resume. Your undergraduate education would have been in place before you joined, and you may well have added onto that while you were in the military.
This presents an extraordinary opportunity for wealth building. You could be drawing a significant retirement pension while you are traversing a civilian career path. If you plan ahead effectively, you could potentially accumulate quite a bit of wealth while you enjoy a comfortable lifestyle.
This would all lead to the ability to enjoy your retirement years to the utmost once you decide to put your working years behind you.
Service members are inherently involved in history making. When you have served in the Armed Forces, especially during a time of war, you have experienced things that civilians simply cannot fully grasp.
A legacy plan can involve leaving behind autobiographical notes or memoirs. This can be a gift that has a lasting impact that transcends dollars and cents.
Veterans should definitely consider putting their experiences into writing. You can include these memoirs among your estate planning documents. Family members can learn much, and perhaps ancestors yet unborn can learn some history when they read your reminiscences.
There is also the matter of physical mementos. Veterans often retain ownership of items that hold a great deal of significance to them. When you share the stories that are attached to things that you will be leaving behind, you imbue these items with meaning that can be felt over the generations.
We would like to thank all veterans for their service. Without their sacrifices we would not have the freedoms that we enjoy each and every day.
People who are fortunate enough to enjoy significant financial success are often in a position to create a charitable foundation. When you take this step you can leave behind a profound legacy as your name is associated with philanthropy into perpetuity.
The actor Larry Hagman died at the age of 81 recently, and he will certainly be missed. Though he played a rather unlikable character on the classic television series Dallas, people who knew him say that he was a very nice person who made the world around him a better place.
Individuals who have created artistic works of various kinds leave behind a legacy in the form of their work. Hagman certainly left behind a great deal of his own work, and people will be able to enjoy it for generations to come.
In addition to his legacy as a performing artist Hagman was also an avid philanthropist.
People who start foundations often target causes that are particularly meaningful to them. Hagman greatly valued the creative arts, and indeed, his ability to craft a character before the camera enabled him to enjoy extraordinary financial success.
He gave something back by starting the Larry Hagman Foundation. This foundation assists children in the Dallas-Fort Worth area who have an interest in the creative arts but lack financial support.
Admirers sometimes want to do something in remembrance of a public figure who has passed away. The family of Larry Hagman asks that you make a donation to the Larry Hagman Foundation if you want to pay your respects.
If you are interested in establishing or identifying a foundation that meets your charitable intent, be sure to contact qualified legal counsel to assist you. There are many legal and tax pitfalls that can be avoided with proper advice.
Estate planning for high net worth families is extraordinarily important given the realities of the federal estate tax and any damage that could be done via litigation. In addition to these protections you also have the ability to reach out and support nonprofit entities that you believe in while gaining tax advantages in the process.
This may seem self-evident to anyone who has the financial savvy to have accumulated a significant store of wealth. You must, however, be diligent because constant adjustments may be necessary as things change.
There are changes that take place in your own life such as a divorce, getting remarried, and watching family members depart while others join the family. Of course very significant changes in your financial standing are relevant as well.
In addition to these things that can take place in the life of an individual there are also very important changes that reverberate throughout society as a whole. For example, in 2013 the estate tax exclusion is going down to $1 million while the rate rises to as much as 55%. These parameters will also apply to the gift tax and the generation-skipping transfer tax.
The portability of the estate tax exclusion between spouses ends in 2013 as well. Besides the increased exposure to estate taxes, taxes on dividends and capital gains will be going up if the currently existing laws are not changed in the very near future.
To keep wealth intact you must be ready to adjust along the way, so take advantage of an annual review with your estate planning attorney and stay on top of your financial health.
We all leave behind a legacy when we die -- what your legacy is depends on how much time and effort you put into creating it prior to your death. You don’t have to have a vast fortune in order to create a legacy plan; however, the wealthier you are, the more important it is to create a legacy plan that is consistent with your objectives.
A legacy plan is your chance to elaborate on your basic estate plan. Your basic estate plan allows you to determine who will receive your assets when you die. A legacy plan allows you to ensure that those assets are preserved for generations to come and/or allows you to continue contributing to causes that have meant something to you during your lifetime. Without a legacy plan, your wealth may be significantly reduced by various taxes levied on your estate at the time of your death. In addition, you will lose the opportunity to direct how your wealth will be managed after your death.
A legacy plan often incorporates trusts and other estate planning tools that can allow you to direct how your assets will be used for generations to come. A generation skipping trust, for example can provide income for your children and ensure that assets are preserved for your grandchildren. A charitable trust can be created to provide a mechanism for you to continue to support a cause that was important to you during your lifetime long after your death. Start planning now so you can create a legacy of which you can be proud.
The dictionary definition of the word "legacy" will tell you that your legacy involves gifts of property and monetary assets after your passing. This is of course a large part of it, but there could be more to shaping your legacy than simply arranging for the passing of your assets to your family members.
Depending on your resources exactly how you go about this can vary considerably. There are those who will make a donation that is specifically used to finance some type of building project. This may carry your name into perpetuity, which can be quite rewarding for many people.
Some people will leave behind the resources to provide a scholarship or scholarships to worthy students. This too can be an enriching portion of an individual's legacy.
You can also choose to pass along the wisdom that you have acquired throughout your life by committing your experiences to writing. Some people choose to write a full-blown autobiography and leave it behind for future generations to draw from. Others will author an ethical will that passes along their moral and spiritual values. Today, there are many resources to assist in writing an interesting personal history that can be found online or in bookstores. The same is true of writing an ethical will.
Carefully selecting certain family heirlooms and/or personal possessions and handing them on to particular respective heirs for specific reasons can also be part of a carefully planned legacy.
There are many possibilities to take into account when you are preparing for the latter portion of your life and your eventual death. If you're interested in taking estate planning to a higher level, don't hesitate to get in touch with a Northern Nevada legacy planning attorney to arrange for an informative consultation.
When you consider the subject of estate planning it is useful to recognize the fact that it is an ongoing process. Your initial estate plan is going to be based on a snapshot of your life as it existed at that time. Clearly, things do not stand still and events happen in your life that often times render your existing estate plan obsolete. Things like changes in marital status and additions and subtractions to the family would fit this description.
In addition, there are things that take place that are out of your control that affect your estate planning efforts. Legislative changes that impact the tax code are among them, and with this in mind we would like to take a look at the lay of the land at the present time.
The estate tax and the gift tax are unified, and at the present time there is a $5 million unified exclusion. So if your estate and any gifts that you have given utilizing your unified exclusion do not exceed this amount no estate or gift taxes will be levied. Estates or gifts exceeding the exclusion are taxed at 35%. Keep in mind that any gift exceeding the annual exclusion amount of $13,000 per person, reduces the estate tax exemption by the amount of the gift.
Those parameters are only in place through the end of next year. At that time the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation Act of 2010 will expire and the rate of the tax will rise to as much as 55% while the unified exclusion is reduced to just $1 million.
So, this presents an interesting situation. The $5 million exclusion becomes a $1 million exclusion when 2013 arrives, so it would be logical to consider giving gifts to your loved ones in 2012 before the exclusion is reduced.
Of course it is possible that changes to the laws could take place at any time, and this is another factor to consider. Clearly, the pending reduction of the exclusion is food for thought and it is something to discuss with your estate planning attorney.
Some view Social Security as their primary retirement plan. The reality is that this program is a basic safety net that may not provide the financial resources needed for a comfortable retirement.
That said, since most are required to pay into the program it can be viewed as welcome supplement to retirement if nothing more. There are several commonly asked questions that people who are engaged in retirement planning often ask.
The first question most people have involves the age of eligibility. Qualified Americans who were born in 1954 and earlier reach full retirement age in a Social Security eligibility context on their 66th birthday. The age of full eligibility then rises by two months per year through 1959. Anyone born after that becomes eligible to receive their full Social Security benefit when they reach 67.
Another question people often have is whether or not they can work while receiving Social Security. The answer is that once you reach the age of full eligibility you can indeed earn any amount of income and still collect your full benefit.
However, you don't have to wait until you reach your full eligibility age to begin receiving Social Security. You can start receiving Social Security when you are as young as 62, but you receive a reduced benefit. If you work before you reach full retirement age while you are receiving this reduced benefit your payout is cut by one dollar for every two dollars that you earn above a certain annual limit. Right now that limit is $14,160.
The above information is accurate as of this writing but of course it is subject to change. To review current information visit the following website.