You may have seen the popular ABC TV show, Modern Family, which follows a fictional extended family through life’s ups and downs. It’s a relatable show that addresses many issues life throws our way. Just like the families depicted in the series, it’s crucial to have an estate plan to protect loved ones when someone passes, or becomes unfit to manage their finances. Let’s take a look at some situations that arise in Modern Family episodes and how you can apply the lessons learned to your own situation.
Throughout the Modern Family series, various family members start and own businesses. No matter if it’s a passion project, investment opportunity, or owner-operator business, it should have a plan for the future.
The “traditional” lines in familial relationships can get blurred within multi-generational, blended families. For example, Jay often refers to Manny as his son, even though he’s technically his stepson (the child from Gloria’s previous marriage). Though he loves Manny as if he were his own son, the law doesn’t take these emotions into account when it comes to transferring business interests. Legally, stepchildren have no right to inherit a stepparent’s money or property. In situations like these, documentation should be created if you want any assets to be left to stepchildren, including your business interests.
There are several minors within the Modern Family series that would require guardianship in the event that their parents pass away. While Manny expressed a desire to serve as Joe's guardian if Gloria and Jay pass, it is important for them to formally nominate their preferred guardian in their wills. However, it should be noted that such a nomination is not binding and may be contested by others. To mitigate the risk of potential disputes and ensure Joe's wellbeing, it is advisable for Jay and Gloria to have open and candid discussions with both of their families to prevent any possibility of a guardianship dispute.
Rex and Lily would also require guardianship in the event of the passing of their parents. Without a comprehensive estate plan in place, it is possible that a dispute may arise between the families of Cameron and Mitchell. While Lily has spent a significant portion of her life close to Mitchell's family, later in the show, Lily and Rex move to reside with their parents in Missouri, which is closer to Cameron's family. As a result, Rex may develop a stronger bond with Cameron's family as he grows up, which could potentially lead to conflicts between the Pritchett and Tucker families if guardianship for these two children becomes necessary. To avoid such a scenario, it is imperative for Cameron and Mitchell to establish an appropriate estate plan.
Finally, it is important for Poppy and George to have designated guardians in the event that their parents, Haley and Dylan, die. While the family may not possess significant financial assets or property, it is crucial for them to establish basic plans for their children's care, including the appointment of primary and alternate guardians. When the show ends, Haley and Dylan have moved out of Phil and Claire's residence, but still nearby. Furthermore, it is noteworthy that Farah, Dylan's mother, has become increasingly involved in their lives since the announcement of Haley's pregnancy. It is possible that she may express an interest in assuming the role of guardian for the children in the event of the untimely passing of Haley and Dylan.
As a parent of minor children, it is crucial to consider and plan for the potential guardianship of your children should the unexpected occur. While no one can replace a parent's love and care, it is essential to formally nominate a guardian in a last will and testament or through a separate legal document, as permitted by state laws. While the court ultimately makes the final determination, clearly expressing your wishes can provide peace of mind. Furthermore, discussing potential guardianship with your family members in advance can help prevent disputes and ensure that your wishes are respected upon your passing.
As all married couples know, the question of what will happen in the event of the first spouse's death is important to consider. For couples like Phil and Claire, who have built and accumulated their assets during the course of their marriage, it may be natural to consider everything they own as jointly held. Both partners may wish for all assets to pass to the surviving spouse. However, without proper planning, leaving assets outright to a surviving spouse can leave them vulnerable to creditors and predators.
It is important to consider potential scenarios, such as the possibility of a scam artist exploiting a well-intentioned person like Phil, or a successful woman like Claire remarrying and unintentionally disinheriting her children by leaving all assets to her new spouse. To safeguard assets for the surviving spouse, regardless of whether it is their first or third marriage, a qualified terminable interest trust can be an effective solution. This designation of trust allows the surviving spouse to receive annual income from the trust and withdraw principal for specific purposes like health, support, education, and maintenance. It also grants you the power to choose where any remaining assets are allocated upon the death of your spouse.
In blended families, as seen on Modern Family, there are a variety of options for inheritance distribution. As Jay prepares his estate plan, it is important for him to consider how he wishes to divide his assets among his family members. This includes his spouse, two adult children from a previous marriage, a minor son, and an adult stepson, as well as five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. He will need to make decisions regarding the distribution of assets, including the beneficiaries, the amount, and the timing of the distribution. He will need to consider whether it would be more beneficial to provide for his current spouse, Gloria, through a trust during her lifetime, with the remainder going to his other children, Claire, Mitchell, and Joe upon her death — or if his children should receive their portion of the inheritance while Gloria is still alive. Additionally, he will need to decide if he wants to provide for his stepson, Joe, or leave that responsibility to Gloria if she survives him.
When formulating an estate plan, it is crucial to consider the legal requirements for providing for a surviving spouse. In certain jurisdictions, there is a mandated minimum inheritance, known as the elective share, that must be allocated to the surviving spouse. Additionally, in states with community property laws, a surviving spouse may be entitled to a portion of assets acquired during the marriage. While one may assume that their spouse can support themselves without an inheritance, it is essential to have open and thorough discussions about estate planning, and document any agreements to ensure that the surviving spouse's rights and needs are protected. Without proper planning and documentation, a surviving spouse may unhinge the distribution of assets if they have not been taken into consideration within the estate plan, and haven’t waved their minimum inheritance rights.
Phil and Claire will need to evaluate their familial situation and devise a plan to distribute their assets and financial assets among their children and grandchildren. Given the distinct characteristics of their three children, it is important to consider each of their individual needs. For example, Haley, as a mother of two, may require a larger portion of the inheritance to support her children. Phil and Claire may elect to set aside a specific fund for their grandchildren. Alex is very smart and her education or employment opportunities may not require as much financial support. Luke, on the other hand, may benefit from trust money to pursue his business ventures and protect him from impulsive decisions.
An estate plan is a valuable tool for ensuring the protection of assets and financial resources for families of all sizes and backgrounds, not only those depicted in television series. The estate planning attorneys at Anderson, Dorn & Rader are dedicated to collaborating with families to develop a personalized plan that reflects the unique characteristics woven into each one. Reach out to our knowledgeable staff to see how we can assist your modern family with a financial plan for the future.
As the new year begins, many of us take stock of our past and plan for the future. As a business owner, it can be easy to get caught up in daily tasks and neglect long-term planning for your its succession. However, it's essential to consider the impact and legacy you want your business to have in the future. If you want to make a positive difference for future generations, consider using a new, lesser-known planning tool called the purpose trust.
A traditional trust is a legal agreement between three parties: the grantor, trustee, and beneficiary. The grantor funds the trust with financial or property assets, and the trustee manages these assets according to the terms of the trust, for the benefit of designated beneficiaries. A charitable trust is an exception, as it is created for a charitable purpose but does not have specifically designated beneficiaries. Recently, some states have introduced the concept of noncharitable purpose trusts, also known as purpose trusts.
These trusts can be established for most lawful purposes, as long as they are reasonable and do not violate public policy. However, in some states, they can only be used for specific purposes such as pet care or grave site maintenance. To ensure that the trustee carries out the grantor's stated purpose, the grantor must appoint an independent “enforcer” who can petition the court if duties outlined in the trust are not performed. A trust protector can also be appointed to modify the trust if necessary, for example, to add beneficiaries or modify the jurisdiction where the trust is effective. The goal of a purpose trust is not primarily to minimize taxes or transfer wealth efficiently (though this can be achieved), but to ensure that the grantor's purpose is fulfilled.
You’ve likely heard of, or own clothing from the company, Patagonia. In September 2022, Yvon Chouinard, the the company’s founder, transferred the voting stock of the $3 billion outfitter to a purpose trust to extend his mission of fighting the planet’s environmental crisis. In an excerpt on the Patagonia website, he stated that the company's continued purpose is to "save our home planet." After finding out his children did not have a desire to take over the family business, Chouinard decided not to sell the company, as he worried a new owner might have different values and his employees would not retain job security.
The Patagonia Purpose Trust, guided by the family and advisors, took over the voting stock of the company to ensure that its values were upheld and profits were used for their environmental protection goals. A 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization was also set up to transfer the nonvoting stock into. The nonprofit will be funded by Patagonia’s dividends, amounting to an estimated $100 million a year, for environmental protection efforts. The business interests were not donated to a charity, so they will encounter an estimated $17.5 million in gift tax, and no charitable deduction will be available to Chouinard. However, he effectively avoided $700 million in capital gains taxes and substantial estate tax liability upon his death.
A purpose trust can be a viable option for business succession planning if you own a profitable company and want to keep its mission alive. Similar to the Chouinard family, you can ensure that your company's values and mission continue to be upheld for many years to come, and that your employees have job security. This is particularly useful if you do not have children who are interested in running the business or if your children do not share your values. The terms of a purpose trust can ensure that future management adheres to the trust's purpose, and also ensures that the company remains private and that values remain a priority over profit.
From a business standpoint, what are your goals for the future? If you're interested in using your wealth for the benefit of a cause you’re passionate about, you might want to look into a purpose trust. Contact the team at Anderson, Dorn & Rader to see if this planning option is suitable for you.
When a loved one suffers from a mental illness, one small comfort can be knowing that your trust can take care of them through thick and thin. There are some ways this can happen, ranging from the funding of various types of treatment to providing structure and support during his or her times of greatest need.
Let’s explore a few ways you can help take care of a loved one struggling with mental illness with the help of your estate planning attorney:
Trusts can be disbursed in many ways. If your loved one is involved in an inpatient care facility or an ongoing outpatient program, you can structure your trust so that its disbursements cover the costs of that treatment as time goes on. This also helps your loved one because it relieves them of the responsibility of managing large sums of money on their own. They can rest easier knowing that their care is covered without having to set up a complicated payment plan on their own.
In some cases, the person suffering from mental illness doesn’t have the capacity to enroll themselves in the right type of care. If an intervention of care is needed, your trust can also help encourage involuntary treatment that ultimately serves your loved one’s best interests in the long run.
Selecting a trustee isn’t always an easy feat. That’s one of many decision-making areas where we’re more than happy to step in and walk you through the process. When you have a loved one battling mental illness, your choice of a trustee becomes even more of a nuanced decision.
We’ll help you deduce the perfect person to not only manage the wealth contained within the trust but also keep a compassionate watchful eye on your loved one benefitting from the trust. An astute trustee can look for early warning signs surrounding your loved one’s mental health issue and make sure to get them connected to the care and services they need in no time.
Most people don’t think of large inheritances as a burden. But this can be the case when an individual is dealing with depression, anxiety, hoarding, or diseases like schizophrenia. Lifetime trusts are an excellent way to take care of your loved one without saddling them with a challenge on top of what they are already experiencing.
A discretionary lifetime trust can be drafted in such a way that its funds can only be used to go toward certain goods and services — such as outpatient mental health care, housing, or other “necessaries” of life. Likewise, it can also prohibit spending in areas that would cause more harm than good — gambling or compulsive shopping, for example. The discretionary nature of these types of trusts makes it so your loved one doesn’t have to worry about their own potential missteps when it comes to using the wealth contained within the trust.
Do you have a family member or other loved one who could use the financial flexibility and structural support of a trust? Give us a call today, and together we’ll figure out the best ways to enhance your loved one’s life by finding the right estate planning tools to offer the most help.
You’ve had your trust documents drafted and signed, now you assume your estate plan is in place and no further action is required. Unfortunately, this is not all that needs to be done to ensure your estate plan is effective. For any trust to have actual value, it needs to be funded.
The process of funding your trust is essential to leave property, cash, and other assets to your beneficiaries. Learn more about trust funding and proper titling below.
Funding is the process of moving assets, such as money and property into the appropriate trust. To fully understand funding, imagine your trust as an empty bucket. The bucket by itself doesn’t offer much usefulness, but once you fill the bucket up, it has a purpose. Trusts function similarly in that they are only useful when they have money or property in them.
The funding process involves retitling your assets in the name of your trust. Bank accounts, property, and any other assets will need to be titled in the trust’s name in order for them to be included in that trust, otherwise, it will remain empty. This can be done in one of two ways:
By doing this, your trust can be easily handed over to a successor trustee to manage in the event of your incapacitation - without the need for court intervention. Your successor trustee will have the right and responsibility to use the assets placed in the trust for you and your beneficiaries while you are unable to manage those things on your own. Fortunately, fully funded living trusts are exempt from the probate process, which provides a superior method of managing the trust for streamlined asset distribution and much more.
To properly fund your trust, you’ll need to work with the financial organizations you bank with to transfer ownership of your accounts into the trust’s name. Any real property you own will also need to be transferred into the trust’s name which may require a new deed to be signed with the correct information. Take a look at some of the common types of property that can be included or funded in your trust:
Accounts including checking, savings, money market, and certificate of deposit (CD) should all be regularly funded to your trust. To do this, you’ll need to work with the bank or credit union in which you have accounts to retitle them into your trust’s name. Commonly, you will be required to provide a certificate of trust that contains information the financial institution will need to complete the transfer. Just be sure that there are no early withdrawal penalties for retitling your CD accounts.
Real estate may refer to your personal residence or another property (commercial, residential, or industrial) owned by you. Real property refers to the interests associated with property such as mineral or timber rights. Both types of property will require the help of an estate planning attorney to prepare the appropriate documents and ensure the property deeds are signed and sealed specifically for your trust.
Investment accounts will also need to be transferred into your trust’s name which can be accomplished through your financial advisor or broker of a custodial account. To do this, a certificate of trust is often necessary for proper retitling of your investments.
Personal effects may include items such as jewelry, furniture, clothing, photos, artwork, collections, tools, vehicles, and more. You can easily move these items into your trust by signing an assignment of personal property.
In regards to your life insurance, it’s best to name your trust as the primary beneficiary of the policy so that the trust has authority over the earnings garnered from said policy. It is then customary to name loved ones or other special persons such as a spouse, partner, or child as secondary beneficiaries. Most insurance companies have processes in place that allow these changes to be made easily. To change the primary beneficiary on your life insurance policy, contact your insurance agent to get the proper beneficiary designation forms filled out and filed.
Retirement assets may include individual retirement accounts (IRAs) and 401k plans. Typically, it is not recommended to transfer ownership of these accounts to your trust due to the serious tax implications they pose for the plan’s owner. Before you assign your trust as the primary beneficiary on your retirement accounts, it’s crucial that you understand the potential tax consequences associated with this plan of action. Fortunately, your estate planning attorney can help you assess these risks and make the most appropriate decision for you.
The most common types of property are listed above, but these aren’t the only assets that you may want to be funded into your trust. To ensure that your legacy goes to the appropriate beneficiaries, and to avoid probate, it’s important to include all of your assets in your trust. Some of the other types of property that should be funded into your trust include:
Your estate plans matter more than you may think. While many people assume they don’t have adequate assets to warrant the need for a living trust or other types of estate plans, this isn’t the case. Reputable estate planning attorneys can help you develop an effective estate plan that safeguards your assets and ensures your legacy for generations to come.
Connect with Anderson, Dorn & Rader today to have your trust documents drafted and titled, and your trusts properly funded. We’ll help you retitle your accounts and ensure correct ownership of your property for an effective estate plan.
States are all over the board on their income taxation. An individual in a state with a high state tax rate could use a nongrantor trust to hold some of their income-producing assets and thereby avoid state income taxation on the income from those assets.
Briefly, trusts may be taxed as grantor trusts or nongrantor trusts. A grantor trust is taxed directly to the grantor, so this type of trust doesn’t help if you’re trying to avoid your state of residence’s income tax. However, a nongrantor trust is a separate taxpayer. As such, a nongrantor trust could be a resident of a different state than its grantor.
Let’s look at a quick example: Mary sets up an irrevocable nongrantor trust in Nevada, a state without any state income tax. She avoids any triggers for the trust being a resident in any other state. The trust has no income that would be deemed sourced from another state. Thus, the income of the trust would face no state income taxation.
However, states have complicated rules on when they will try to tax a nongrantor trust as a resident. States tax based on where the trust is administered / trustee is resident, where the beneficiary is resident, where the grantor was resident when the trust became irrevocable, etc.
Each state has a different set of rules. Here’s a link to a helpful chart of those rules for nongrantor trusts.
Just because a trust is administered in a state without an income tax does not mean that other states might not try to claim the trust as a resident of their states. Let’s look again at the example of Mary’s trust set up in Nevada. If Mary were a resident of Maine when she set up the trust, Maine would consider the trust a resident of Maine. If the beneficiaries of the trust were residents of California, California would consider the trust a resident of California. When a state considers a nongrantor trust to be a resident, it will tax it on all its income, not just the income derived from sources within that state.
Kaestner v. North Carolina examines the constitutionality of a state taxing a trust as a resident when the trust is not administered in the state and the trustee doesn’t live in the state. The North Carolina Supreme Court held it was unconstitutional for the state to tax the trust under those circumstances because there weren’t sufficient contacts with the state. Here’s a link to that case. The U.S. Supreme Court decided to hear the appeal in the case, so we could see new developments in this area before too long.
If you set up an irrevocable nongrantor trust in a state without a state income tax and you scrupulously avoid triggers which would consider the trust to be a resident of any other state, you can avoid state income taxation on the assets you put in the trust. Kaestner could simplify this process.
Often, the smallest things have the most sentimental value. Your grandmother’s silverware or your grandfather’s railroad watch could connect you to them in a special way. Your mother’s ring or your father’s Boyscout bugle could hold a special place in your heart. Your sports memorabilia could connect you to one of your children in a unique way. You may want those items to go to particular beneficiaries who will cherish their sentimental value as you have. There’s an easy and flexible way to do that.
When your will or trust is drafted, it can include a disposition of “tangible personal property” through a list external to the document. Tangible personal property includes things you can touch, like the items listed in the paragraph above. It does not include real estate or intangible assets like bank accounts, cash, etc.
In most (if not all) states, if your will or trust references a tangible personal property list external to the will or trust, the list is valid to transfer the items detailed on that list to the beneficiary identified. The list would reference your will or trust and would provide for the disposition of the specific item of tangible personal property with a description of the item and to whom it should go. The list must be signed and dated every time you update it.
The unique thing about the tangible personal property list is that it does not need to be executed with the formalities of a will or trust. For example, the list does not need to be witnessed or notarized, even though the document referencing the list needed additional formalities. If you change your mind, you can simply update the list and sign it and date it again.
The list is an easy and flexible way to earmark items to your desired beneficiary. The flexibility can be important. Let’s say that you have an athletic daughter and you were leaving all your sports memorabilia to her. Then, your grandson earns an award in a swimming event. You may want to decide to give your diving trophy to your grandson since it’s a way for him to remember the special bond you share. You can simply update the list with the new disposition and sign it and date it.
Often, clients want to continue to control their beneficiaries after death, just as they’ve done during their lifetime. They want to etch in stone the exact circumstances under which distributions should be made to the beneficiaries. Sometimes they think the beneficiary will have to go to the tombstone like a confessional or ATM.
The problem is the client doesn’t know what may happen in the intervening years. Here are just a few of the several things that regularly change after a plan has been drafted:
Rather than trying to precisely anticipate every possible future scenario, which is a fool’s errand, it’s better to put that in the hands of the trustee. The trustee can be given discretion to withhold distributions based on pre-set factors such as:
That’s not to say you shouldn’t set forth your general wishes. But, most of the specifics should be left for the trustee to decide.
For example, a client in San Francisco in 1990 might have decided to provide for a beneficiary’s rent and set forth a specific dollar amount of $1,000 to cover it, expecting that would be ample. It would be much better to give the trustee discretion to pay for the beneficiary’s support, in the trustee’s discretion. Imagine how the average rents have changed over two decades in San Francisco, where the rent of even a studio apartment is now over $2400. If a specific dollar amount were used, even inflation-adjusted, it would not allow the flexibility to respond to the changing world. Giving the trustee discretion achieves the desired result: to pay for the beneficiary’s rent.
The trustee selected by the client is in a much better position to judge when a distribution should be made, for rent in the prior example. The first five letters say exactly what you should do with them: t-r-u-s-t them. Trust that the trustee will make the right decision. If you don’t trust that person, put someone in that role whom you do trust.
The client can only gaze into a crystal ball and wonder what might happen in the world and in the beneficiary’s life. Trustees have the benefit of 20/20 hindsight. They know what has happened since the client drafted their estate plan and died. They know the beneficiary’s circumstances and they know the current state of the world. They are in a far better position to make a decision.
If you would like to learn more about wills and trusts or other estate planning matters, attend one of our upcoming Webinars. They are free to attend, and you can get all the details if you visit our Webinar information page. Or you can call us to arrange a free consultation to discuss living trusts, or other estate planning matters, at (775) 823-9455.
Once the world began to get over the shock of the death of music legend and golden girl Whitney Houston, reports began to surface that there was trouble brewing with regard to her estate. Houston was found dead in her Beverly Hills hotel room at the age of 48 and left behind only one heir -- 18 year old Bobbi Kristina. While fans rushed to buy anything related to Houston, Houston’s family was already poised for a fight over her estate with Houston’s ex-husband Bobby Brown. With the news this week that Houston left behind a trust, everyone in Houston’s camp can breath a sigh of relief.
Despite unprecedented success in her professional career throughout the 90s, Houston was plagued with personal problems as a result of a battle with drug and alcohol addiction as well as a stormy relationship with Bobbi Kristina’s father, singer Bobby Brown. After finally divorcing Brown in 2007, Houston appeared to be on the road to a comeback when she was found dead last month.
While Houston’s daughter is of age to inherit directly, she allegedly battles her own issues with drugs and alcohol, making her susceptible to a claim that she is unable to handle her own finances and in need of a conservator. Houston’s family was reportedly worried that Brown would petition a court to become her conservator, effectively gaining control of Houston’s fortune. Houston, however, apparently thought ahead and created a trust for Bobbi Kristina. By creating a trust, Houston put a stop to any attempts to gain control of the money and put control of the money in the hands of someone she hand picked as trustee.
A trust is often used as an estate planning tool in order to accomplish a variety of goals. At its most basic, a trust consists of a grantor (sometimes called a settlor, or trustor) who establishes the trust, a trustee who administers the trust assets, at least one beneficiary, and assets to fund the trust. Often, all three positions -- grantor, trustee and beneficiary -- can be held by the same person. Beyond that, trusts come in numerous forms that range in complexity; however, one simple distinction centers around whether the trust is revocable or irrevocable. Understanding some of the important features of the two options can help you decide which one is right for you.
All funded trusts, including the revocable trust, avoid probate. What this means is that the funds held in the trust are not required to pass through the often lengthy legal process that follows the death of the grantor, making the trust benefits available to the beneficiaries in a much more timely fashion. A much more important aspect of a revocable trust is that a revocable trust, as implied by the name, can be revoked, amended or modified by the grantor at any time. This feature can be very important if you feel that you may wish to change the beneficiaries or the specific terms of the trust at some future point. This flexibility makes a revocable trust an attractive option for most people.
An irrevocable trust cannot be revoked, amended or modified without court intervention in most states. Under most circumstances, the grantor may not be the trustee or the beneficiary. All control and access is delivered to an independent trustee and a third party beneficiary. What the grantor receives, however, for giving up the ability to control the trust is asset protection, probate avoidance, possible estate tax avoidance and potential income tax and, when the beneficiary is a charity, capital gains tax advantages. These are highly complex strategies and must be entered into with appropriate caution. The expertise of a qualified estate planning attorney should always be sought.
When you create a trust, one of the most important decisions you must make is who to appoint to succeed you as your trustee. Although each trust is unique, there are some basic considerations that you may wish to take into account before making a decision regarding the appointment of a trustee.