If you have significant wealth, you may be exposed to future estate tax burdens that must be acted on before the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act reduces the estate tax exemption in 2026. Developing and implementing the right estate planning and tax strategies takes time. You may need to prepare regardless of whether the estate tax continues at its current level or if it is cut in half. This means strategizing to minimize your estate tax liability now.

Does This Sound Like You?

Meet the Andersons, a well-off family living in a state with a high cost of living. Robert Anderson, the father, is a successful entrepreneur who built a thriving business over the years. His wife, Sarah, is a high salary earner, and together they have accumulated a substantial estate of $8 million each, for a total of $16 million. Their estate is primarily composed of their business assets, valuable artwork, life insurance, a family residence, a vacation home, and other lucrative investments. They have two adult children, James and Emily, both actively involved in the family business.

Their Unique Estate Tax Situation

With the generous federal estate tax exemption set at $10 million adjusted for inflation per individual in 2017, steadily increasing to $13.61 million in 2024, the Andersons have felt relatively secure about avoiding estate taxes. Their primary concern has been preserving the family legacy and ensuring a smooth transition of their assets (business, accounts, and property) to the next generation. They had taken some initial estate planning steps, such as creating a living trust, discussing the use of a family limited partnership, and exploring gifting strategies to transfer the assets to their children gradually.

If the estate tax exemption drops to $5 million adjusted for inflation, the Andersons may face several estate tax issues that require professional advice and assistance before the end of 2025. The Andersons need to find other ways to protect their money and property.

Business Succession Planning

The family business represents a significant portion of the Andersons’ estate, and the sunsetting of the higher exemption amount could have profound implications for its continued viability. Robert and Sarah need to develop a comprehensive business valuation and succession plan now to minimize the total estate tax burden and ensure a smooth ownership transition to James and Emily later.

Property and Investments

Given the potential changes in the estate tax landscape, the Andersons need to revisit the valuation of their financial accounts, retirement and life insurance investments, personal property, real estate, and artwork to ensure accurate assessments. Then they need to determine which items will affect the estate tax calculation and any remaining exemption they have left from prior legacy planning. Depending on their assets’ values, these items can easily put them over the potentially soon-to-be lower estate tax exemption, exposing them to a 40 percent tax rate.

Lifetime Gifting

With the uncertainty surrounding the estate tax exemption, the Andersons may want to consider accelerated lifetime gifting strategies to reduce their taxable estate while the higher exemption is in place. The Internal Revenue Service declared in 2019 that individuals who take advantage of the increased gift tax exclusion from 2018 to 2025 will not be negatively impacted after 2025 if the exclusion amount drops.1 Gifting up to $13.61 million in 2024 has a zero tax liability. But gifting over $6.4 million in 2026 may have major consequences.

Life Insurance

The Andersons may want to use life insurance to ensure that their loved ones are provided for at their passing. They may want to consider creating an irrevocable life insurance trust to own the life insurance policy and be the recipient of the death benefit. This removes the value of the policy from the Andersons’ estate and protects the death benefit for their chosen beneficiaries.

Marital Deduction Planning

The significant portfolios of high-net-worth and ultra-high-net-worth families may require advanced tax planning techniques, including an AB trust, to optimize each spouse’s estate tax exemption and potentially minimize their estate tax liability. At the client’s death, an amount equal to the current estate tax exemption amount is placed in one trust, which uses the exemption, and the remainder is placed in a second trust for the surviving spouse’s benefit, which qualifies for the unlimited marital deduction. This results in no estate tax being owed at the death of the first spouse.

Portability and the Deceased Spouse Unused Exemption Amount

Spouses are able to give an unlimited amount of money and property to each other without having to worry about estate or gift tax. Because of this, some clients may not have an estate tax issue at the first spouse’s death because everything (or a substantial portion) went to the surviving spouse. Because they are utilizing the unlimited marital deduction, the deceased spouse’s exemption is not needed. However, even if this is the case, it may be advisable to file an estate tax return at the first spouse’s death to document how much of that deceased spouse’s exemption is being used, if any, and that the remainder is going to the surviving spouse. This will allow the surviving spouse to add the deceased spouse’s unused exclusion (DSUE) to the surviving spouse’s own exemption amount and apply that combined amount against their own estate at the time of death.

Charitable Giving

If the Andersons are philanthropically inclined, another great option would be to engage in charitable giving through the use of a charitable remainder trust. Setting up this type of trust can be time-consuming—sometimes the process is fairly straightforward but often highly complex, requiring advanced planning and consideration.

Contacting a Trusted Advisor

If your situation is similar to the Andersons, expert guidance is necessary to address estate tax issues and help you evaluate the impact of the potential sunsetting of the higher estate tax exemption amount on your estate. Contact us to learn more about strategies to protect, preserve, and pass down valuable property.

1 Estate and Gift Tax Facts, IRS.gov, https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/estate-and-gift-tax-faqs# (last updated Dec. 5, 2023).

When it comes to estate planning and legacy planning, most individuals focus on passing down their assets to their children and heirs. However, for those seeking to establish a legacy that will endure for generations, the concept of a dynasty trust becomes particularly intriguing.

A dynasty trust, an integral part of estate planning, is an irrevocable trust that offers similar tax advantages and asset protection as other trust types, but with a remarkable distinction—it can span multiple generations. Often referred to as perpetual trusts, dynasty trusts are meticulously designed to last indefinitely, as long as the trust's assets remain intact. Given the long-term nature of a dynasty trust, it is imperative to establish it with utmost care and attention to detail. Once the trust is in place, its rules generally cannot be altered, underscoring the importance of getting everything right from the beginning.

 

 

Understanding the Mechanism of a Dynasty Trust

Setting up a dynasty trust follows a process akin to that of any other trust. The grantor, who serves as the trust's creator, transfers funds and assets into the trust during their lifetime or, in the case of a testamentary dynasty trust, after their death. Once the trust is funded, it becomes irrevocable, and the rules established by the grantor become fixed. Modifying these rules is only possible under specific state laws that govern trust modifications.

 

Selecting the Ideal Trustee for Your Dynasty Trust

When establishing a dynasty trust, thoughtful consideration must be given to selecting the most suitable trustee. It is common practice to appoint an independent trustee, such as a bank or trust company, to administer the trust throughout its existence. Although a beneficiary can serve as a trustee, this approach may give rise to potential issues concerning taxes and creditor protection. A beneficiary-controlled trust can have significant implications for income and estate taxes, depending on the extent of the beneficiary's powers. It can also impact the level of asset protection provided to the beneficiary and expose family wealth to the risk of misappropriation. On the other hand, a corporate trustee, such as the dynasty trust itself, possesses indefinite legal life and can ensure uninterrupted administration across generations. Corporate trustees typically charge an annual fee based on the value of assets held in the trust.

 

Determining Who Should Utilize a Dynasty Trust

While trusts are generally beneficial for individuals across various financial backgrounds, there are exceptions, and the dynasty trust is one of them. Establishing a dynasty trust does not necessitate grand dynastic aspirations akin to illustrious families like the Medici or the House of Windsor. However, it is most commonly utilized by families with substantial wealth. While there are no legal requirements regarding the minimum amount of funds needed to establish a dynasty trust, from a practical perspective, it is typically suitable for those with sufficient wealth and assets capable of sustaining multiple generations, taking into account the financial needs and responsibilities of the beneficiaries. Grantors who are concerned about future generations beyond their children often opt for dynasty trusts as part of their estate and legacy planning. Additionally, dynasty trusts can prove invaluable for families that own a family business and desire to maintain its continuity within the family lineage.

Statistics reveal that many family businesses fail to survive beyond the second or third generation, but a dynasty trust can significantly enhance the chances of success. By placing shares of the business into the trust, the grantor can provide for multiple generations of beneficiaries while ensuring the seamless continuation of business operations through professional trustee management. The trustee assumes responsibility for managing the business affairs and maintaining continuity, while the beneficiaries reap financial benefits. Furthermore, the grantor can include specific terms within the trust to guarantee competent business management, such as mandating the trustee to establish an advisory council functioning as a board of directors.

 

Tax Benefits of a Dynasty Trust: Preserving Your Wealth for Future Generations

In the realm of estate planning and legacy planning, one of the notable advantages of establishing a dynasty trust is the potential for significant tax benefits. By leveraging the federal estate tax exemption amount (which currently stands at $12.06 million per individual in 2022, or twice that amount for couples) to fund a dynasty trust, you can effectively transfer money and property directly to your grandchildren while avoiding gift or generation-skipping transfer (GST) taxes. To achieve this, you would place accounts and property into the trust and file a gift tax return to allocate appropriate tax exemptions to the trust or pay a portion of the wealth transfer tax. This strategic approach ensures that these assets are not included in your taxable estate, nor in the taxable estates of your beneficiaries, provided that the trust is fully exempt from GST tax.

Furthermore, utilizing trust funds to cover a beneficiary's living expenses or investing in a home for their benefit can also help reduce their taxable estate. Additionally, when a dynasty trust is properly drafted, accounts and property left to your loved ones within the trust can enjoy protection from creditors and divorce courts. In contrast, gifting money outright may not offer these same protective benefits.

It is worth noting that dynasty trusts are not available in every state due to the rule against perpetuities, a common law principle that restricts the duration of controlled property interests, including those established within trusts. This rule, which was not specifically created for trusts, aims to prevent individuals from exerting control over property ownership for an extended period after their demise through legal instruments like deeds and trusts. However, many states have modified or even eliminated this rule, as its interpretation can be complex. With the guidance of an experienced estate planning attorney, you may be able to establish a trust in a state where you do not reside, taking advantage of more favorable laws.

 

Crafting Your Dynasty: Navigating the Process

If you are considering the establishment of a dynasty trust, our firm can connect you with a skilled estate planning attorney who can guide you through the process. During your consultation, crucial factors such as selecting a trustee and beneficiaries, implementing tax and creditor protection strategies, understanding state laws pertaining to perpetual trusts, and aligning the dynasty trust with your comprehensive estate plan will be thoroughly discussed. Taking this initial step will enable you to secure your legacy and ensure the preservation of your wealth for future generations. To embark on this journey, please reach out to us, and we will be delighted to assist you.

We extend our warmest congratulations on your new home purchase. Whether this is your first time buying a home or an upgrade/downsize, acquiring a new home is a significant event that brings about change in your life. Properly prepare for the worst by protecting your newest accomplishment. Here are three essential tips to keep in mind now that you have the keys to your new home, including important considerations for estate planning.

 

 

1. Make Sure to Update Your Address

After moving into your new home, it is crucial to update your address with the relevant authorities. Start with visiting your local United States Postal Office to obtain a form for change of address. Alternatively, you can update your address online. This step will help the postal service forward your mail to your new address.

It is also a crucial step in protecting your property to update your address with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) by filling out Form 8822. This will ensure that you receive all important tax notices and refunds. Additionally, make sure to update your address with your local state tax agency.

2. Ensure Consistency Between Your Home Title and Estate Plan

One aspect of new homeownership that often goes overlooked is the need to align your home title with your estate planning objectives. After purchasing your new home, review the deed to confirm how the property is titled. Next, review your estate planning documents to ensure the property has been titled correctly to achieve your estate planning goals.

For instance, if your previous plan included a specific provision for the distribution of your old property, you will need to update this provision to reflect the current status. Similarly, if you have a trust-based estate plan to avoid probate, you will need to confirm that your new property is titled in the name of the trust and not in your individual name. Ensuring consistency between your home title and estate plan will help protect your assets and ensure your wishes are carried out effectively.

3. Review Your Life Insurance Policy and Beneficiary Designations

If you have a mortgage payment to make on your new home, it's likely you'll have a large monthly expense to pay off each month. To safeguard your loved ones, it is important to review your life insurance coverage. Ensure you have adequate life insurance coverage to address the mortgage payment in the event of your passing, particularly if you have a surviving spouse or children who are likely to remain in the home. Even if they decide not to reside in the property, life insurance can offer valuable resources during a potentially emotionally difficult period. Even if they choose not to stay in the home, life insurance can provide valuable assets during what can be an emotionally challenging time.

It's also a good idea to review your beneficiary designations. Life changes can happen quickly, and this may be overlooked. If your designations don't match up with the rest of your estate plan, you might inadvertently disinherit a family member or have the money go directly to an individual without any guidance.

Finally, with your new home comes the need for homeowner's insurance. Contact your insurance agent to confirm that you are receiving all eligible discounts. Many insurance providers offer package discounts when you combine services. By already having car insurance with the same company as your homeowner's insurance, you may qualify for a lower rate compared to purchasing each policy separately. Additionally, homeowners often receive discounts that renters do not.

We understand that buying a new home is a significant milestone, and we are here to assist you. If you need help aligning your new purchase with your estate planning goals, contact us today. We can ensure that your new home and estate planning are aligned to achieve your objectives, including the important aspect of estate planning for homeowners.

 

Every child is a precious gift, and as parents or grandparents, we strive to plan for their future, anticipating their needs and aspirations. However, families with special needs children or grandchildren face additional responsibilities in ensuring their loved one's future is secure, fulfilling, and supported. To ensure a flourishing future for your special needs child or grandchild, estate planning measures focused on their unique circumstances are essential. We recommend the following steps:

 

Have a Special/Supplemental Needs Trust Prepared

When it comes to estate planning, creating a Special or Supplemental Needs Trust (SNT) for your special needs child or grandchild should be a top priority. An SNT is a specialized trust designed to set aside funds and assets for the benefit of a beneficiary who may qualify for public assistance due to their disabilities. It can be established as a standalone trust or added to your existing trust.

It's important to note that government programs providing aid to disabled individuals have strict criteria regarding the amount of money and property a person can own while receiving benefits. Structuring any inheritance your special needs beneficiary may receive in a way that doesn't disqualify them from obtaining government benefits is crucial. Even if they are not currently receiving government benefits, considering the possibility of future needs is essential. To ensure all opportunities are available, it is vital that the trust is meticulously drafted by a lawyer well-versed in the eligibility requirements for government benefits.

An SNT not only provides financial security but also allows you to appoint a care manager or advisory committee. The care manager serves as an advocate for your special needs beneficiary, overseeing their well-being periodically or daily, depending on their level of care requirements. An advisory committee, comprising family members, friends, and professionals, can provide guidance to the trustee on the beneficiary's needs and the best use of the funds.

Additionally, the SNT can include a statement of intent, outlining the trust's purpose and how the funds should be utilized. This section acts as a safety net in case changes in the law make the beneficiary ineligible for government benefits. It allows for modifications to ensure your original intentions are met, even in the face of unforeseen circumstances.

 

Write Down Your Instructions

In addition to establishing an SNT, putting your instructions in writing is crucial to ensure your wishes are carried out as intended. Consider creating a letter or memorandum of intent that provides guidance to your trustee on managing the trust after your passing. Although not legally binding, this document offers valuable insights into your true intentions. You can include details on how the funds should be used in accordance with government rules, specific goals you would like the beneficiary to achieve, and the standard of living you envision for them.

 

Explore Life Insurance as a Funding Option

Supporting a special needs child or grandchild can be financially demanding, and it's important to consider how to sustain their care once you pass away. Life insurance can be a valuable tool in ensuring there will be sufficient funds for the trustee to use for their benefit. By designating the SNT as the beneficiary, you can provide a lump sum payment that is not subject to the same tax liabilities as retirement accounts.

 

Assess Your Retirement Account Distribution Options

The SECURE Act has brought changes to how beneficiaries can receive distributions from inherited IRAs, potentially impacting the financial support available to your special needs beneficiary. However, the Act also recognizes "eligible designated beneficiaries," including individuals with disabilities, who can still receive distributions over their life expectancies. Congress has established rules that allow the life expectancy of disabled beneficiaries to be used for certain types of trusts. If you have a substantial retirement account, it is crucial to discuss your distribution options to maximize benefits for all your beneficiaries.

 

Contact Us for Assistance!

We understand that securing a bright future for your special needs child or grandchild is of utmost importance to you. Our priority is to work with you in developing a comprehensive plan that will guarantee continued care and well-being for your loved ones. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us to schedule an appointment so that we can begin this process together.

When Elvis Presley, the King of Rock and Roll, passed away in 1977, he left behind a complicated legacy, just like his famous dance moves. His estate, including the iconic Graceland, eventually ended up in the hands of his only child, Lisa Marie Presley. However, the future of Elvis's legacy and the fate of his estate face challenges ahead. These challenges involve Lisa Marie's personal financial issues, a significant age gap among her children, and even a legal dispute initiated by her mother, Priscilla Presley. The unfolding of this captivating saga will determine the course of Elvis's rockin' legacy.

From Elvis to Lisa Marie: Inheritance and Financial Legacy
Lisa Marie, born in 1968 to the legendary rock and roll icon Elvis Presley and his wife Priscilla Presley, had to face the tragic loss of her father at a young age. Sadly, Elvis passed away at forty-two due to a heart attack. Fast forward to January 2023, and Lisa Marie herself succumbed to heart problems at the age of fifty-four.

Despite Elvis's untimely departure, his legacy has continued to thrive, with his estate earning an impressive $400 million in the previous year alone. The value of the estate skyrocketed to over $1 billion, thanks in part to the 2022 Elvis biopic movie. This created a substantial financial legacy for Lisa Marie to inherit.

The Elvis Presley Trust
When Elvis Presley passed away, his estate was placed in a trust with Lisa Marie, his grandmother, and his father as beneficiaries. According to the trust, Lisa Marie's inheritance was held in trust until she turned twenty-five in February 1993. After that, the trust dissolved automatically, and Lisa Marie inherited $100 million, including Graceland, her childhood home.

Today, Graceland stands as a museum and popular tourist attraction, generating over $10 million annually. To manage Graceland and the rest of Elvis's estate, which includes Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc. (EPE), Lisa Marie established the Elvis Presley Trust. Until 2005, Lisa Marie served as the owner and chairperson of EPE's board, but she later sold 85 percent of its assets.

Graceland and the Living Trust
Graceland, the iconic mansion that was once Elvis Presley's residence, has become a symbol of his legacy and a beloved tourist destination. After Lisa Marie inherited it, she made it clear that Graceland would always remain within the family.

Lisa Marie's children, Riley Keough, Harper Lockwood, and Finley Lockwood, are set to inherit her fortune and properties through a living trust. However, Lisa Marie's son, Benjamin Keough, tragically passed away in 2020.

Considering that it's unclear whether Lisa Marie had a separate will in place, the living trust, an estate planning document, will play a significant role in determining the distribution of her assets. Through the living trust, individuals can transfer ownership of accounts and property to a separate entity, the trust, which they control while alive. The trust also names a successor trustee to manage the accounts and property after their passing.

Priscilla Presley's Trust Challenge
A challenge to Lisa Marie's living trust has emerged from an unexpected source—her own mother, Priscilla Presley. The legal dispute revolves around a 2016 amendment to the trust, which removed Priscilla and a former business manager as trustees and replaced them with Lisa Marie's daughter, Riley Keough, and her late son, Benjamin Keough.

Navigating the Challenges: Estate Planning and Protecting Your Legacy
Priscilla's claim challenges the validity of the living trust amendment, citing violations of legal requirements. She highlights the lack of proper notification, absence of witnesses or notarization, and even a misspelling of her name in the document. Adding to her concerns, Priscilla alleges that her daughter's signature appears suspiciously different from her usual signature. Consequently, she has sought the court's intervention to invalidate the amendment that removed her as the trustee.

Lisa Marie's Financial Struggles
Recent legal documents indicate that Lisa Marie faced financial challenges before her passing, despite inheriting $100 million at the age of twenty-five. She held approximately $95,000 in cash and possessed various assets such as bonds and stocks valued at $715,000. Although she earned over $100,000 per month from EPE, she also carried a $1 million tax debt and incurred monthly expenses of $92,000. Furthermore, her ex-husband, Michael Lockwood, reopened a lawsuit seeking $4,600 per month in child support.

By 2016, Lisa Marie's $100 million trust had significantly dwindled to just $14,000 in cash. Her former manager, Barry Siegel, faced allegations of mismanaging her finances, which resulted in a decline of her wealth. Court records reveal that Lisa Marie was burdened with a $16.67 million debt at that time. However, in 2019, Siegel countered the claims and asserted that the sale of her 85 percent stake in EPE helped resolve over $20 million in debts.

Potential Legal Challenges for the Lisa Marie Presley Estate
The legal ambiguity surrounding Lisa Marie's estate gives rise to numerous potential legal issues that will likely require judicial resolution. One such challenge is Priscilla's claim against the living trust amendment. If her challenge is successful, the amendment would be considered void, making Priscilla the successor trustee responsible for managing the trust's assets and funds instead of Lisa Marie's daughter, Riley. This matter would necessitate court intervention for resolution.

Creditor Claims
Although it remains uncertain whether Lisa Marie had outstanding debts, if she did, creditors could make claims against her estate. The estate would need to determine whether to accept or reject these claims. Rejecting them could lead to legal disputes. Creditors hold priority over beneficiaries, which means that Lisa Marie's accounts and property, including Graceland, might need to be sold to satisfy any outstanding debts. Additionally, even after the debts are settled, the estate may still be subject to estate taxes, which could further complicate matters if creditors decide to initiate lawsuits.

Her Daughters' Inheritance
Assuming the estate possesses sufficient funds to settle debts without selling Graceland, Lisa Marie's three daughters, Riley, Harper, and Finley, are poised to inherit the mansion and any remaining property or funds. However, the upkeep and tax costs associated with Graceland surpass $500,000 annually. It remains uncertain whether the daughters would collectively agree to bear these expenses and preserve the Elvis legacy within the family.

The daughters have the option to sell Graceland, but this decision could ignite internal conflicts if even one daughter wishes to pursue a sale. Additionally, crucial details regarding the ages of the daughters and their inheritances remain unknown. Did Lisa Marie establish a trust to hold her twin daughters' inheritances until they reach a specific age, as her father did for her? Or does the trustee possess discretionary power over the funds? Moreover, depending on the outcome of the trust challenge, will the trustee ultimately be Riley or Priscilla?

Furthermore, the question of whether Lisa Marie distributed her estate equally among her daughters remains unclear, as there is no legal requirement for equal distribution.

Control What You Can with an Estate Plan
The sudden and tragic passing of Lisa Marie Presley serves as a reminder that death can come unexpectedly. However, through estate planning, we can exert some control over our legacy.
Crafting a comprehensive estate plan can help alleviate some of the uncertainty and provide peace of mind to both ourselves and our loved ones. If you're ready to start planning for the future, please reach out to our office to schedule a consultation.

Ladies, You Need a Plan

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.

Financial planning by ADR, Women's history month by ADR

Planning Considerations for Women

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.

Anderson, Dorn & Rader Can Help You Plan Ahead!

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:

A live guitarist's hands are shown riffing to a rock and roll song under blue light.

The Legacy Lewis Left

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.

Scenarios Involving Lewis’s Estate Plan

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.

Will Lewis’s Assets Transfer to His Children?

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:

Issues with Taxes

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.

Potential Plot Twists

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.

You Don’t Have to Be a Rock Star To Have An Estate Plan

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:

enact a trust

What is a trust?

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.

So How Can A Trust Help Avoid Probate?

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.

Trust Assistance from Trusted Northern Nevada Attorneys

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

Mental Health Estate PlanningSaying 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

Mental Health In Estate PlanningEvery 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.

 

 

Mental Health BeneficiariesThere 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.

 

https://www.nami.org/Press-Media/Press-Releases/2021/For-Mental-Health-Awareness-Month-NAMI-is-Highlighting-that-You-Are-Not-Alone

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. 

What Is An Heirloom And Keepsake?

Heirlooms

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

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.

 

Keepsakes

Issues You May Face When Sorting Family Heirlooms and Keepsakes

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.

Family Heirlooms and Keepsakes

How To Distribute Family Heirlooms and Keepsakes

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.

Equal Distribution 

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.

Personal Property Memorandum

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.

Gifting Family Heirlooms And Heirlooms During Your Life

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.

Let An Estate Planning Attorney Help

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.

start planning today

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…

  1. Revocable Living Trust: A device used to avoid probate and provide management of your property, both during life and after death.
  2. Property Power of Attorney: Instrument used to allow an agent you name to manage your property.
  3. Health Care Power of Attorney: Instrument used to allow a person you name to make health care decisions for you should you become incapacitated.
  4. Annual Gift Tax Exclusion: Technique to allow gifts without the imposition of estate or gift taxes and without using lifetime exclusion.
  5. Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust: A trust used to prevent estate taxes on insurance proceeds received at the death of an insured.
  6. Family Limited Partnership: An entity used to:
    • Provide asset protection for partnership property from the creditors of a partner
    • Provide protection for limited partners from creditors
    • Enable gifts to children and parents maintaining management control
    • Reduce transfer tax value of property.
  7. Children’s or Grandchildren’s Irrevocable Education Trust: A trust used by parents and grandparents for a child’s or grandchild’s education.
  8. Charitable Remainder Interest Trust: A trust whereby donors transfer property to a charitable trust and retain an income stream from the property transferred. The donor receives a charitable contribution income tax deduction, and avoids a capital gains tax on transferred property.
  9. Fractional Interest Gift: Allows a donor to transfer partial interests in real property to donees and obtain fractional interest discounts for estate and gift tax purposes.
  10. Private Foundation: An entity used by higher-wealth families to receive charitable income, gift, or estate tax deduction while allowing the family to retain some control over the assets in the foundation.

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.

Limitations of a Traditional Estate Plan

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.

How Is Legacy Planning Different from Traditional Estate Planning?

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.

What Is Your Legacy?

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.

How Does Legacy Planning Work?

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.

Contact a Reno, Nevada Legacy Planning Attorney Today

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.

legacy planningThere 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.

Wealth Preservation

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.

Family Heirlooms

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.

Personal Memoirs

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.

Family History

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.

Ethical Will

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.

Attend a Free Webinar!

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:

  1. Provides for the immediate transfer or trust management and distribution in the future of assets after death;
  2. Allows for a smooth transition of management upon incapacity or death;
  3. Avoids the expense and hassle of probate proceedings;
  4. Minimizes estate taxes and defers payment of estate taxes for married couples;
  5. Allows for continued control over assets after death or incapacity;
  6. Provides security to you and your loved ones;
  7. Protects your children’s inheritance from their own potential divorce;
  8. Safeguards your estate for your kids if your surviving spouse remarries;
  9. Offers flexibility.

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.

estate planning lawyersAs 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.

Ongoing Process

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.

Learn More!

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.
The Basics
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.
Legacy Planning
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.
Honoring Veterans
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.
 

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