In the attempt to progress towards a modern US tax system, the Biden administration has proposed a number of changes to the current tax code. According to a publication released by the U.S. Treasury early this year, they hope to push these changes through Congress which is necessary to gain approval for the amendments. It’s true that many Americans are divided on the best methods for stimulating the US economy, however, one fact remains undoubtable - careful estate and tax planning is crucial for the wealth and financial security of American families. 

The Greenbook, a publication that provides information regarding the Administration’s revenue proposals, details the proposed changes which will ultimately impact estate planning in numerous ways. Many of the effective estate planning strategies that have been diligently defined by professionals in the industry for decades may be discarded. However, this could also enhance certain processes in estate planning by implementing other key strategies.   

How Might the Estate Tax Exemption Reduction Affect You?

Notably, the reduction of estate and gift tax exemption amounts is absent from the list of proposals. While it’s possible that this could change in the future, we know that for now, these tax exemptions remain extremely high. It’s important to understand the law as it is written today so that you can make appropriate decisions with your assets and prepare for other coming changes. 

As it stands today, the estate tax laws that were passed under the Trump administration will expire and reset to the prior laws starting in 2026. If there is no action made by Congress to change this, the reset will restore the estate and gift tax exemption amount to $5 million, as it was in 2016. However, the rate of inflation must also be included in this amount which brings the total to roughly $6.6 million by 2026. 

With this information in mind, it’s crucial that you do all you can now to determine the expected return on your investments for the future. To do this, you should consider the average rates of return on your current investments, compounded annually. Many people have found that a healthy return of 7% annually could double one’s net worth in just 10 to 12 years. However, if estate tax exemption amounts are reduced by roughly 50% and continue to increase with the inflation rate, you risk having to pay significantly high estate tax rates. 

Other Greenbook Proposals May Be a Factor

It can be difficult to prepare for the uncertainties that may affect your tax and estate planning strategies. Without knowing what the future holds, how do you determine the best way to protect your assets? To make a more accurate decision, some of the other Greenbook proposals should also be considered, such as: 

These changes haven’t been approved yet by Congress, but their consideration could help sway your strategic plans. The following strategies are still effective tools under current tax law, and implementing them now could provide significant tax savings.

Grantor Retained Annuity Trust

A grantor retained annuity trust (GRAT) is an estate planning strategy that allows the grantor to contribute appreciating assets to chosen beneficiaries using little or none of your gift tax exemption. To do this, you would transfer some of your property or accounts to the GRAT in which you will still retain the right to receive an annuity. Following a specified period of time, the beneficiaries will receive the amount remaining in the trust.

inheritance estate planning

Installment Sales to an Intentionally Defective Grantor Trust

Another estate planning strategy that may be beneficial for you is to gift seed capital, typically in the form of cash, to an intentionally defective grantor trust (IDGT). You will then sell appreciating or income-producing property to the IDGT in which they will make installment payments back to you over a period of time. If the account or property increases in value over the period of the sale, the accounts or property in the trust will appreciate outside your taxable estate and will therefore avoid estate taxes. Additionally, the trust does not have to pay income taxes on the income the trust retains since the taxes are already paid on the income generated and accumulated in the trust.

Spousal Lifetime Access Trust

In a spousal lifetime access trust (SLAT), the grantor is to gift property to a trust created for the benefit of their spouse and possibly their beneficiaries. An independent trustee can make discretionary distributions to those beneficiaries, which can also benefit you indirectly. Contrary, an interested trustee should be limited to ascertainable standards when making distributions, such as health and education. With this estate planning strategy, you can take advantage of the high lifetime gift tax exemption amount by making gifts to your spouse. This trust avoids the use of the marital deduction which means the assets in the SLAT will not be included in either your or your spouse’s gross estate for estate tax purposes.

Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust

Finally, there are irrevocable life insurance trusts (ILITs). This trust allows leveraging life insurance to ease the burden placed on your estate if it becomes subject to estate tax at your death. This type of trust is established by transferring an existing life insurance policy into the ILIT in which you make annual gifts to the trust in order to pay the premiums on the policy. At your death, the trust receives the insurance death benefit and distributes it according to the trust’s terms. The death benefit and the premiums gifted to the trust are completed gifts, meaning your estate would not include any of the trust’s value. 

Meet with Reputable Estate Planning Attorneys Today

We are holding a series of webinars over the coming weeks, from which you can obtain a great deal of useful information. Just choose the session that fits into your schedule. The webinars are being offered on a complimentary basis, so you have everything to gain and nothing to lose. This being stated, we do ask that you register in advance so that we can reserve your seat.

To sign up for an estate planning webinar, visit Anderson, Dorn & Rader here. Once you find a date that is right for you, click on the button that you see and follow the simple instructions to register. For more information regarding estate tax exemptions and planning, connect with our estate planning attorneys today.

SPEAK WITH AN ESTATE PLANNING ATTORNEY

intestacyThe statistics that are compiled to get a feel for the estate planning preparedness of American adults are not encouraging. Sometimes a particular publication will start to track the progress of a certain phenomenon over a number of years, and Caring.com has focused on this subject.

They have published a survey for 2020 that is eye-opening, and not in a good way. In 2017 when they started doing their research, they found that 42 percent of American adults had estate plans in place. This year, the number is just 32 percent, and lack of preparedness is not confined to young people.

Just over 27 percent of respondents that were between the ages of 35 and 54 had wills or trust, and the parents of dependent children are typically in this age group. If you want to take chances when no one is depending on you, that’s one thing, but parents are in a different category.

You would certainly think that most people that are 55 years of age and older have addressed this responsibility, but this is simply not the case. Only 47.9 percent of individuals in this age group have wills or trusts.

Intestate Succession

If you are going through life without an estate plan like most people and you never take action before it’s too late, you would die intestate. Under the circumstances, the probate court would step in to supervise the estate administration process.

They would appoint a personal representative to act as the administrator. This is a role that is similar to that of the executor that would be named in a last will.

Final debts would be paid during probate, and the court would ultimately order the distribution of the assets under the intestate succession rules of the state of Nevada.

If there are children but no spouse, siblings, or parents for living, the children would inherit the entire intestate estate. The surviving spouse would inherit the estate if there are no living parents or children.

Parents would be the sole inheritors if there is no surviving spouse and there are no siblings or children. The siblings are the inheritors if there are no children, no parents, and no surviving spouse.

When there is a spouse and one child, the spouse would assume ownership of all community property and half of the separate property, and the child would get the other half the separate property.

In a situation where there is a spouse in more than one child, a spouse would get the entirety of the community property and one-third of the separate property. The children would divide the rest equally.

If a spouse and parents survive a decedent, the spouse would inherit all of the community property and half of the separate property, and the parents would inherit the remainder.

Asset Transfers Not Subject to Intestacy Laws

The asset transfers that are subject to the intestate laws are transfers that would have been subject probate if there was a will. Some types of asset transfers are in a different category.

Life insurance proceeds and inherited individual retirement accounts would go to the beneficiaries that were selected by the decedent. The same thing is true with payable on death accounts and property that is held in joint tenancy.

Avoid Intestacy!

There is no reason to take any chances with your legacy. We know that people assume that they will always have time to take care of it later on, but for far too many fate intercedes.

When you take the right steps to preserve your legacy for the benefit of your family, you can go forward with peace of mind.

If you’re ready to get started, you can send us a message to request a consultation appointment, and we can be reached by phone at 775-823-9455.

estate planningEstate planning attorneys always emphasize the fact that there is no one universal approach that is right for each and every person. The optimal way to proceed will depend upon the circumstances, and this one of the major reasons why it is important to work with a qualified lawyer.

This being stated, there are certain core components that an estate planning will have in a general sense. Let’s look at the essentials that should be addressed in every estate plan.

Asset Transfers

Far too many people assume that a will is the right choice as the document that you should use to express your final wishes. In reality, a last will is usually not going to be the best choice unless the situation is extremely simple and straightforward.

Why is a will inadequate in a lot of cases? One reason why a will is less than ideal is the fact that it would be admitted to probate. This is a costly and time-consuming legal process that strips your family of privacy, because probate records are available to anyone that is interested in them.

There are also limitations when you use a last will. Unless you include a testamentary trust as part of the plan, the will would facilitate lump-sum asset transfers. This can be a source of concern if you have people on your inheritance list that are not great at handling money.

In addition to your desires, you also have to consider the life situation of the individuals that will be receiving inheritances. For example, people with special needs typically rely on Medicaid for health insurance, and they get income through the Supplemental Security Income program.

These are need-based government benefits, so an improvement in financial status can cause a loss of eligibility. If you name someone that is in this position in a last will, they would directly receive an inheritance, and this could impact benefit eligibility going forward.

This is just one example, but there are other reasons why a will would not be the best choice to provide for some people.

There are a number of different types of trusts that can be used to satisfy various estate planning aims. They are definitely not strictly used by wealthy individuals, and some of them wouldn’t even be appropriate for high net worth families. Once again, you should explore your options thoroughly with the benefit of professional guidance.

Financial Representatives

One of the cold hard truths that you should understand when you are thinking about the future is the possibility of latter life incapacity. It is not a pleasant thing to consider, but about one third of people that are 85 years of age and older have Alzheimer’s disease.

This is not the only cause of incapacity, so you should definitely prepare for this eventuality in advance. If you do not, people close to you could petition the state to appoint a guardian to act on your behalf. You would become a ward of the state, and this is not a very pleasant fate.

A guardianship can be avoided if you take the right steps to prepare for possible incapacity. If you have a living trust, you could name a disability trustee that would administer the trust in the event of your incapacity.

Another document that you can use if you do not have a trust is a durable power of attorney for property. The agent that you choose would be able to act as your representative if you ever become incapacitated.

You should actually have one of these documents even if you have a living trust, because the agent would be able to manage property that was never conveyed into the trust.

Advance Directives for Health Care

The last pieces to the basic estate plan puzzle are advance directives for health care. With a living will, you state your preferences regarding the utilization of life-sustaining measures.

You would add a durable power of attorney for health care to name an agent to make medical decisions on your behalf. These would be decisions that are not directly connected to life-support matters.

Another document that is necessary is a HIPAA release form. This will give health care professionals the ability to speak freely with the person or people that you name on the form.

Attend a Free Webinar!

We have scheduled a number of webinars that you can attend to obtain some important information about the estate planning process. There is no charge, and you can check out the dates and obtain registration information if you visit our webinar page.

 

lgbt estate planningOur firm has always been very receptive to the needs of the LGBT community, and there was once a time when legal safeguards were absolutely necessary for committed gay couples. When same-sex marriages were not recognized by the federal government, people in these committed partnerships were not afforded the same inherent rights that married people enjoy.

To provide an example, if you pass away without any state estate planning documents at all, this would be looked upon as the condition of intestacy in a legal context. Under these circumstances, the probate court would enter the picture to supervise the administration of the estate.

Ultimately, the assets would be distributed using the intestate succession laws of the state of Ohio. In our state, if a married person dies intestate without any descendants, the surviving spouse would inherit the intestate property.

However, if there is no valid “piece of paper,” this protection would not exist. Surviving parents would be first in line to assume ownership of the intestate property, and if there were no parents still living, siblings would come next. The line of succession would continue from there with the closest blood relatives.

There is also the matter of health care decision making. If no provisions are made for these contingencies in advance, the next of kin would be contacted by medical professionals. Someone that is in a committed relationship that is not legally married would not have the ability to make decisions on behalf of their partner.

We should emphasize the fact that estate planning has always been quite relevant for people that are legally married. The point is that they do have some basic protections from an estate planning perspective that are built into the laws. Things weren’t the same for couples that could not get married, but all that has changed, and a women named Edith Windsor had a great deal to do with it.

Landmark 2013 Supreme Court Ruling

Thea Spyer and the aforementioned Edith Windsor consummated a 30 year romantic relationship with their marriage in Toronto, Ontario in 2007. The following year, the state of New York recognized the marriage as well, but same-sex marriages were not federally recognized.

This was because of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that defined the institution as something that can only exist between a man and a woman.

There is a federal estate tax marital deduction in the United States that allows for unlimited tax-free transfers between spouses. When Spyer died in 2009, she left a sizable inheritance to her spouse. In spite of the fact that they were married, the IRS demanded over $360,000 to cover the estate tax liability.

Windsor was not prepared to take this lying down, so she filed a lawsuit, and the case ultimately made its way to the docket of the United States Supreme Court. On June 26, 2013, a majority of the Justices found that the section of the DOMA that limited the scope of marriages was unconstitutional.

Since then, same-sex marriages have been recognized by the federal government. As a result, the safeguards that have always been in place for married people are now extended to legally married members of the LBGT community.

Schedule an Estate Planning Consultation Today!

As we have stated previously, in spite of the fact that things have changed for the better, estate planning is a must for all married people, regardless of sexual orientation. Plus, there are those that choose not to get married for one reason or another, and inheritance planning is essential for these individuals as well.

Our firm is here to help if you are currently unprepared from an estate planning perspective. We would be more than glad to sit down with you, gain an understanding of your situation, and explain your options. If you decide to go forward, we can craft a personalized estate plan that ideally suits your needs.

You can schedule a consultation right now if you give us a call at 775-823-9455. There is also a contact form on this website that you can use if you would prefer to send us a message.

 

 

estate planA lot of people like to roll up their sleeves and embrace do-it-yourself projects, and there is certainly nothing wrong with taking the initiative to get things done on your own. It can save you money, and it can become an enjoyable hobby. This being stated, it is important to know where to draw the line when it comes to the DIY phenomenon.

Objective Analysis

There are websites on the Internet that sell do-it-yourself legal documents, including last wills and other estate planning devices. Since it doesn’t take any particular acquired skill to fill in the blanks on a worksheet, it can seem as though you can create your own will using tools that you can easily find online.

Is it wise to put an estate plan together on your own without any legal advice? This is a question that the people at the highly respected website and magazine Consumer Reports were interested in answering several years ago. To do just that, they launched an initiative that would give them some insight into the efficacy of DIY estate planning, or the lack thereof.

They assigned staff members to create last wills using downloads and worksheets that were being offered by three of the leading purveyors of do-it-yourself legal documents. In addition to wills, they actually used online tools to produce a few other legal documents that are not related to estate planning. Of course, we will stick to the last wills here.

Once the documents were in their hands, they had to find legal scholars that were qualified to examine them. Gerry Beyer from Texas Tech University School of Law was engaged, along with Norman Silber, a legal expert from Yale University. The third set of experienced eyes belonged to Hofstra University contract specialist Richard K. Neumann.

At the end of the process, they determined that there were unnecessary limitations in these templates. They found that it is unlikely that the DIY products that are on the market would meet your needs unless your intentions are extremely simple, like leaving everything to your spouse.

Understanding Your Options

The fact that you really can’t trust boilerplate documents that you can get online is only one part of the equation when it comes to the shortcomings of do-it-yourself estate planning. As a layperson, how would you know what documents you should use?

And yes, we are using the plural, because a well-constructed estate plan will cover multiple bases.

When it comes to asset transfers, a last will is not your only option, and in fact, it is not the right choice for many people. A will must be admitted to probate, which is a costly and time-consuming process that strips your family of privacy.

If you were to use a revocable living trust instead, the drawbacks of probate would be avoided. There are additional benefits that can be taken advantage of as well, like the ability to instruct the trustee to distribute limited assets over an extended period of time to protect a spendthrift heir.

This is just one of numerous different types of trusts that can be utilized when you are planning your estate. The ideal choice will depend upon the circumstances, and this is why it is important to discuss your unique situation with a licensed estate planning attorney before you make any impetuous decisions.

Getting back to the concept of multiple different objectives to address, end-of-life issues should be confronted when you are planning your estate. A significant percentage of elders become unable to make sound decisions at some point in time due to Alzheimer’s disease or dementia that is triggered by some other underlying condition.

If you have a living trust, you could name a disability trustee to manage the assets if you become unable to do so yourself. You can also add a durable power of attorney for property to give someone the ability to make decisions on your behalf concerning property that is not in the trust.

A durable power of attorney for health care decision-making will also be part of a typical incapacity plan. This is an advance directive for health care, and a living will is another advance directive that should be included. With this type of will, you state your preferences regarding the utilization of artificial life-sustaining measures.

Download Our Free Estate Planning Worksheet!

We have prepared a very useful worksheet that you can use to gain some additional insight into the estate planning process. It is being offered free of charge, and you can visit our worksheet download page to get your copy.

estate planningPeople that are serious about their estate planning efforts are interested in attending to every detail. This is wise, because the matter boils down to the final gifts that you will be able to give to the people that you love the most. The simpler and more efficient it is, the better for them, so you would naturally be concerned about the time frame after you are gone.

There is no cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all estate plan, so the waiting game, as it were, will depend upon the way that you plan your estate. Let’s look at some of the details.

Last Wills and Probate

If you use a last will, you name an executor to handle all of the tasks that must be completed to get the assets into the hands of the inheritors. The executor is not allowed to act independently. After your passing, the executor would admit the will to probate, and the court would supervise the estate administration process.

When probate enters the picture, your heirs will not receive their inheritances shortly after your passing. The first order of business for the court would be to determine the validity of the will, and to this end, any party that wants to issue a challenge can take advantage of this window of opportunity.

Creditors must be notified, and they are given a certain amount of time to come forward seeking satisfaction. The executor would have to identify and inventory all the assets that comprise the estate, and appraisals and liquidations are typically going to be necessary.

All in all, the best case scenario would be 6 to 8 months to a year. More complex cases, like a contested estate situation, can take considerably longer. For example, it took well over a decade for the Anna Nicole Smith case to run its course.

It should be noted that this is not the only drawback of probate. Considerable expenses accumulate, and this money reduces the amount of the inheritances that will eventually be passed along to the heirs. There is a loss of privacy as well, because probate records can be accessed by the general public.

Revocable Living Trusts

A lot of people that do not look into the subject closely assume that a last will is the right asset transfer vehicle to benefit your heirs. They are under the impression that trusts are only utilized by very wealthy people that have estate tax concerns or other complicated situations to address.

While it is true that there are trusts that are beneficial for high net worth individuals, these would be irrevocable trusts. There is another type of trust called a revocable living trust that can be ideal for “the rest of us" and actually benefit your heirs.

When you use a revocable living trust as the centerpiece of your estate plan, you maintain complete control of the assets, because you would act as the trustee and the beneficiary while you are alive and well. You name a successor trustee to take over when the time comes, and you name your heirs as the beneficiaries. After your passing, the trustee would be empowered to distribute assets to the beneficiaries in accordance with your wishes as stated in the trust declaration.

These distributions to beneficiaries would not be subject to the probate process and the undo time consumption that goes along with it. Many of the other drawbacks would be avoided as well, and a living trust would provide additional advantages. For one, you can include a spendthrift clause to protect assets that you are leaving to someone that does not manage money effectively.

We Are Here to Help!

Our doors are wide open if you would like to discuss your estate planning objectives with a licensed attorney. You can schedule a consultation right now if you give us a call at 775-823-9455. There is also a contact form on this website that you can use to send us a message.

estate planningIn some instances, a client will come to us looking for help because of a bad situation that has developed due to a lack of informed planning. We do what we can under these circumstances, and there are damage control strategies that can sometimes be implemented.

These situations are a bit frustrating for us, because we know how easy it could have been to avoid the difficulties. With this in mind, we will look at a handful of common estate planning mistakes that are made in an effort to increase awareness.

Failure to Consider the Value of a Trust

If you have been successful enough to be able to leave behind a suitable legacy for your loved ones, a last will may not be the right choice for you as an asset transfer vehicle. The notion that trusts are only for the wealthy is a major misconception that is harbored by far too many individuals that are not well-informed.

As we will look at in another section, there are certain types of trust that can be useful for people that have advanced estate planning concerns, like death tax exposure. This being stated, a revocable living trust is a legal device that can be useful for a wide range of people that are not in the upper financial stratosphere.

A living trust would actually not be the right choice for high net worth individuals. You retain incidents of ownership when you establish this type of trust, because you can in fact revoke the trust, and you can act as the trustee and the beneficiary while you are alive and well.

This is a positive for many people that would not like to surrender control of their assets permanently. It would not be good for those that want to get assets out of their own name for certain reasons.

One of the major benefits that you gain through the creation of a revocable living trust is the avoidance of probate. This is a time-consuming, intrusive, and expensive legal process that would enter the picture if you use a last will to state your final wishes.

All the assets are consolidated in one place, and this is another positive. Plus, with a last will, there is an open forum for disgruntled parties to present estate challenges. It is much more difficult to contest the terms of a revocable living trust.

Unfortunately, countless families find out about the pitfalls of wills and the probate process when it is too late to do anything about it.

Enabling a Spendthrift

Another problem with a last will is the fact that, generally speaking, you would be facilitating lump-sum asset transfers to the people that are named in the document. A spendthrift inheritor could burn through their inheritance much too quickly and have nowhere to turn for assistance later on.

If you use a living trust instead of a will, you could include a spendthrift provision. This would allow the trustee to distribute assets to the beneficiary incrementally in accordance with your wishes. The resources would also be out of the reach of the beneficiary’s creditors.

Choosing the Wrong Estate Administrator

As we have stated, you can act as the trustee of your living trust while you are alive. In the trust declaration, you name a successor trustee to handle the trust administration tasks after you pass away. Some people choose someone that they know personally that they trust in a broad sense, but this can be a major blunder.

It takes a significant amount of financial acumen to administer a living trust effectively, and there are legal guidelines that must be followed to the letter. The trust administration process can be time intensive, and the trustee could face personal liability issues if mistakes are made.

You can avoid these potential problems if you engage a professional that offers fiduciary services. We would be more than glad to act as the trustee of your living trust or any other type of trust that you create during the estate planning process.

When you have a professional at the helm, you can be certain that your trust will be administered properly.

Let’s Get Started!

We are here to help if you would like to consult with a licensed estate planning attorney. You can send us a message to request a consultation appointment, and we can be reached by phone at 775-823-9455.

estateThey say that the only two certainties of life are death and taxes, and everyone is well aware of the April 15th date that approaches all too rapidly. With few exceptions, most people are diligent about making preparations for tax day. Yet, for some unknown reason, the majority of the same folks totally ignore the other inevitability that we will all face at some point in time.

A while back, a website that is focused on legal matters did some research to get a feel for the estate planning preparedness of Americans. The results were quite surprising, but not in a good way. Overall, 57% of the adults in our country are going through life without any estate planning documents at all.

When you look at this figure, you would naturally assume that people that are younger are going to bolster the statistic, and they do to some extent. A rather eye-popping 92% of individuals under the age of 35 are rolling the dice without a will or a trust or any type of postmortem asset transfer plan.

You can say that people in this age group are rarely going to pass away, and generally speaking, this is true. However, accidents happen every day, and younger individuals are stricken by catastrophic illnesses. It is rather arrogant to assume that you will never be “one of the statistics.”

When you are talking about people in their mid-20s to mid-30s, a significant percentage of them are parents of dependent children. Anyone that is responsible for the well-being of minors should certainly cover all their bases with regard to any eventuality that can come down the pike.

The statistics continue to tell a sad tale when you look at the older age groups. Only 44% of baby boomers, which are people between 45 and 64, have estate plans in place. A mind-boggling 22% of senior citizens over the age of 65 have done nothing to prepare for the inevitable.

Intestacy

If you pass away without any estate planning documents, the condition of intestacy would exist. Interested parties would inform the probate court, and the court would supervise the intestate estate process. A personal representative would be named to serve as the administrator; this role is similar to that of an executor.

There are numerous different circumstances that can come into play that would impact the situation, and the exact details vary on a case-by-case basis. Depending on your true wishes, your family dynamic, and the nature of your assets, the outcome can be disastrous.

When final debts have been paid and the court has made all its determinations, the remaining assets would be distributed in accordance with the intestate succession laws of the state of Nevada.

In fairness, it is possible that this would wind up being consistent with what you would have done, but it is very unlikely. And even if it is, there would be a lot of totally unnecessary expenditures and time consumption during the probate process.

Take Action Today!

One of the questions that was asked in the survey that we have been looking at is somewhat humorous, but it is instructive at the same time. Right around one third of people said they would rather have a root canal, give up sex for a month, or do their taxes than engage in the estate planning process.

We can say with absolute certainty that the real experience is nothing to dread, and we go the extra mile to make our clients feel comfortable on every level. The reality is, estate planning is one of the core responsibilities of adulthood, and there is no point in running away from it.

Personalized attention is the key to a well-constructed estate plan, because there is no one-size-fits-all approach. This is exactly what you get when you make a connection with our firm. If you are ready to do just that, you can call us at 775-823-9455 to set up a consultation.

You can alternately send us a message through our contact page and we will get back in touch with you promptly.

The Kiddie Tax can apply to the unearned income of children. Read on to learn if this tax applies to you or your children. Also, learn ways to avoid the Kiddie Tax.

Kiddie Tax is Worse Than Ever

estate planning tipsAs estate planning attorneys, we sometimes hear from a client that wants us to provide damage control. The individual does not know where to turn, because their last surviving parent passed away without any estate planning documents in place. There are things that we can do in many cases to mitigate the damage, but this is a tough situation that could have been avoided.

They say that the only two certainties of life are death and taxes. With this in mind, everyone is prepared to file their tax returns on or before the 15th of April. For some unknown reason, many of the same people do not even consider the matter of estate planning. They are avoiding something that is absolutely inevitable, and their family members pay the price in the end.

Studies have been conducted periodically to gauge the estate planning preparedness of adults in the United States. LexisNexis probed into the situation, and they found that 55 percent of Americans do not have wills or any other estate planning documents in place. The figure is lower among older Americans, but still, many people in their 50s and 60s have been totally remiss.

If you pass away without an estate plan, the condition of intestacy will exist. The court will step in to name a personal representative to act as the estate administrator. Subsequently, the final debts will be paid out of the estate’s resources, and the remainder will be distributed in accordance with the intestate succession laws of the state of Nevada.

It is likely that you would not approve of the way your assets are distributed if you die intestate. For example, if you pass away with a surviving spouse and a parent still living, your spouse would not inherit everything. Your surviving spouse would inherit all community property, but just half of your separate property. Everything else would go to your parent.

Action Is Required

As you can see, you must put a proper estate plan in place so that your true wishes will be carried out after you are gone. A last will is a possibility, but when you understand the facts, you will see that a revocable living trust is preferable in many ways.

If you use a last will as your vehicle of asset transfer, it would be admitted to probate. The court would be involved, and your loved ones that are named in the will would have to wait out a long, drawn out process. It typically takes about eight months to a year for a simple case to pass through probate, and no inheritances are distributed during this interim.

You probably do not want to see a lot of money go out the window that could have gone into the pockets of your loved one. If you feel this way, you may want to look for an alternative to a last will. Numerous expenses pile up during the probate process, including a court filing fee, the executor’s remuneration, attorney fees, appraisal charges, liquidation expenses including commissions, and incidentals.

These drawbacks are completely avoided if you utilize a revocable living trust as the centerpiece of your estate plan. You can act as the trustee and beneficiary while you are living, and you name successors to assume these roles after you pass away. In the trust declaration, you leave behind instructions to the trustee with regard to the way that you want the assets to be transferred after you are gone.

You have the ability to instruct the trustee to distribute assets incrementally; you are not required to allow for lump sum distributions. This is another advantage that a living trust provides over a last will. To prolong the viability of the trust, you could allow for a certain amount be distributed every month so the principle can continue to earn income and replenishes the trust.

When the time comes, the trustee would follow your instructions and handle all of the estate administration tasks. The process of probate would not be a factor.

Let’s Get Acquainted!

If you do not have an estate plan in place, or if your existing estate plan has not been updated in a long time, you should definitely come into our office for a consultation. We will get to know you, gain an understanding of your situation, and make the appropriate recommendations. You can send us a message to request an appointment, and if you like to speak with us over the phone, our number is 775-823-9455.

estate planningWhen we consult with clients, we often hear many of the same questions. With this in mind, we present a hypothetical question-and-answer session with a Reno estate planning lawyer in this post.

Doesn’t the state take care of everything when you die without an estate plan?

To die without an estate plan is called dying intestate. Under the rules of intestacy, the probate court would supervise the administration of the estate. Creditors would be given an opportunity to come forward seeking satisfaction, an estate is inventories and valued, disputes are resolved, and ultimately the assets would be distributed under intestate succession laws.

That’s the good news, but the bad news is that it is very possible that your assets would not be distributed in accordance with your wishes. For example, if you are happily married, you have no children, and your parents are still living, you would probably want your spouse to inherit everything. In Nevada, under intestate succession rules, your spouse would inherit half of your separate property, and your parents would inherit the rest.  Intestacy law does not appropriately deal with most issues that arise with separate property.  Further, intestacy law does not account for many modern day families, such as blended families with step-children, non-traditionally married couples, and a myriad others.

There is no reason to surrender control of your estate to the judicial process when it is so easy to engage the services of a licensed Reno estate planning lawyer.

Trusts are only for wealthy people, right?

It is true that there are some types of trusts that are used by high net worth individuals that are exposed to the federal estate tax. However, there are other types of trust that can be quite useful for people of relatively ordinary means.

Far and above the most common is the revocable living trust. If you use a last will, it would be admitted to probate after you die. The court would provide supervision, and the executor would handle the estate administration tasks.  But this process will take eight or nine months to a year to run its course, and inheritors receive nothing during this interim. There are also innumerable expenses that pile up during probate, often at a cost between 4% up to 8% of the estate value.

If you use a living trust instead, the trustee that you name in the trust agreement would be empowered to distribute assets to the beneficiaries outside of probate. This is one advantage, but there are a number of others, including the option to protect an inheritance through a trust against lawsuits, creditors, divorcing spouses, or other predators.

A living trust is beneficial whenever a client has a goal to avoid probate and make the process easy for their loved ones.  It's not only for wealthy people, but for people who want to better take care of their life planning.

Are inheritances subject to taxation?

Since the Internal Revenue Service requires you to report all sources of income, you may assume that inheritances that you leave to your loved ones would be taxed. In actuality, inheritances are not subject to taxation, with the exception of inheriting retirement accounts (such as traditional IRA or 401(k) accounts).

There is, however, a federal estate tax that might apply to your estate before everything is distributed to the beneficiaries as an inheritance.  But, the vast majority of people do not have to be concerned about the estate tax because there is a VERY large exclusion. Only the portion of your estate that exceeds the amount of this exclusion would be taxed. At the time of this writing in 2019, the exclusion stands at $11.4 million.

Attend a Free Webinar!

These are a few short questions that we frequently hear from our clients, and you can ask your own if you attend one of our upcoming Webinars. The information sessions that we hold provide a treasure trove of useful information, so we strongly encourage you to attend the Webinar that fits into your schedule. To get all the details, visit our Webinar page and follow the simple instructions to register for the date that works for you.  Starting in 2019, we are offering Webinars semi-monthly in the evening to accommodate those people that cannot attend during the middle of the day.

wills and trustsThe estate planning lawyers at our firm place an emphasis on education, because far too many people have misconceptions about wills and trusts. One of the most common ones is the idea that a will is the only choice because trusts are "only for very wealthy people." Trusts are often misunderstood as being only useful for the rich.
Yes, very high net worth individuals can benefit from the utilization of certain types of trusts. These are going to be irrevocable trusts that are used for estate tax avoidance, income tax planning, and asset protection. However, irrevocable trusts are rarely used in an individual's estate plan.  A revocable living trust is a tool that is often the best choice for a wide range of different people that do not consider themselves to be among the financial elite. Let’s look at a handful of the benefits that living trusts provide.

You’re the Boss

A lot of people are under the assumption that you surrender all personal control of assets that you convey into a trust.  This is not the case when it comes to a living trust. A "trustee" is the person that administers, or manages, assets in a trust, and you can be the trustee for your own trust. When you establish the trust agreement, you name a successor trustee to handle these chores after you are gone. You can name someone that you know, or you can use a professional fiduciary such as an attorney, certified public accountant, trust company or the trust department of a bank.
Other people assume that they are "giving away" their estate by transferring property into a trust.  A "beneficiary" in the trust is the person that enjoys the use of the assets in the trust.  You will be the beneficiary and utilize assets in the trust as you see fit for the remainder of your lifetime.  You also name a successor beneficiary to receive distributions from the trust after your death. If you choose to do so, you can name multiple beneficiaries.
In other words, since you manage and enjoy your own estate in the trust during your lifetime, you retain full control and use of your property without limitation. Your control is absolute, because you are not forever beholden to the original terms that you set forth when you established the trust declaration. You can change the beneficiaries, and you can name a different trustee. Plus, you can convey additional property into the trust at any time.  The trust is a tool that ensures your estate will be managed by the proper person for your designated beneficiaries upon your death.
In fact, you can dissolve the trust entirely if you ever want to because after all, it is a revocable living trust.

Measured Distributions

As we touched upon above, you can use a professional to act as the trustee after you pass away. Many people will go this route for a number of different reasons. For one, there would be no succession concerns, because the professional trustee (such as a law firm or a bank) will almost always be there upon your death. Secondly, there is going to be professional oversight with regard to the way the trust is administered.
Another benefit is the fact that a professional will know how to invest the trust assets wisely. Lastly, you can rely on the fiduciary to show no favoritism and follow your instructions to the letter without emotion.
You do not have to instruct the trustee to distribute everything in the trust right after your passing. For example, you could allow for set monthly distributions to the beneficiaries, or you could direct the trustee to distribute only the earnings without dipping into the principal at all. Some people will allow for larger, lump sum distributions when the beneficiaries reach certain age thresholds.
Of course, you could give the trustee latitude with regard to emergency distributions. The exact details are up to you, and this is another great benefit that you gain if you utilize a revocable living trust as your primary asset transfer vehicle.

Incapacity Planning

Alzheimer’s disease strikes approximately four out of every 10 people that are 85 years of age or older. Of course, some people become unable to make sound decisions for other reasons, and incapacity can strike at a younger age. To account for this, you could empower the successor trustee, or a different individual or entity, to act as the trustee in the event of your incapacity.

Attend a Free Estate Planning Webinar!

If you would like to learn more about Reno wills and trusts and 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.

trust in reno nvIt can be intimidating to consider the possibility of relinquishing control over your property. People sometimes assume that you do surrender control of assets when you create a trust.
In this post we will provide some clarity about creating a trust in northern Nevada.

Different Types of Trusts

Revocable Trusts

There are different types of trusts. Perhaps the most commonly utilized trust in Reno NV in the field of estate planning is the revocable living trust.
These trusts are largely useful to enable probate avoidance. If you use a last will to state your final wishes, the estate must be probated before your heirs receive their inheritances.
This process can be expensive and time-consuming. Most people would like to facilitate timely asset transfers.
When you use a revocable living trust to arrange for these transfers the distributions to the beneficiaries will take place outside of probate.
Because of the fact that the trust is revocable, you do retain control of assets that you convey into this type of trust.
You can act as both the trustee and the beneficiary while you are still living, and most people will do this. As a result, you can control investments and give yourself distributions as you see fit.
The control doesn't stop there. Because the trust is revocable, you can actually dissolve or revoke it at any time. The terms that you originally set forth are not etched in stone either. You can change them and add or subtract beneficiaries.

Irrevocable Trusts

There are irrevocable trusts as well. With some exceptions, these trusts do require you to surrender incidents of ownership, so you do not continue to have control of the property that has been conveyed into the trust.
Because the trust is not revocable, you cannot dissolve it, and generally speaking the terms cannot be changed.
Why would you want to create a trust that did not allow you to retain control? There are a number of reasons.
Certain estate tax efficiency strategies involve irrevocable trusts. Because the assets would be owned by the trust rather than the estate, there are certain benefits.
In addition, when you surrender incidents of ownership by placing assets into an irrevocable trust they are generally going to be protected from creditors and claimants seeking redress. Nevada does allow some irrevocable trusts to be "self-settled," so some incidents of ownership are retained, but these are sophisticated strategies that require the advice of competent counsel to establish and fund.

Specific Questions, Straight Answers

The best way to proceed if you have questions about estate planning would be to discuss everything in detail with a licensed Reno Nevada estate planning lawyer.
Rather than looking for answers to general questions about what trusts can and cannot do, you would be better off consulting with an attorney. You can explain exactly what you want to accomplish, and your attorney can give you direct answers to your specific questions.
 

The process of estate planning involves some very measured and informed decision-making. If you make certain assumptions as a layperson you may be making errors of commission and omission.
Because of the fact that there are websites on the Internet selling do-it-yourself generic, fill-in-the-blanks last wills, more and more people are getting the idea that they can go it alone. Unfortunately, this is increasing the numbers of people who are not properly prepared.
With a will, you need to consider the fact that your estate must be probated before the heirs receive their inheritances. The probate laws in the state of Nevada require rigid formalities that may cause delay and expense if they are not followed precisely.
When you work with a qualified estate planning attorney who is licensed in Nevada you can be certain that your will is properly constructed.
If you use a boilerplate document that you picked up on the Internet or at the book store you have no way of knowing if the will is truly up to par.
And then there is the simple fact that a last will may not be your best choice.
Last Will Alternatives
The probate process that we mentioned above is time-consuming, and, when all the costs, fees and expenses are considered, quite expensive.
There are effective ways to arrange for asset transfers to your heirs directly, outside of probate. One of them would be through the creation of a revocable living trust.
With these trusts you can retain control of the assets while you are alive and well. If you were to become incapacitated, your successor trustee would be empowered to handle your financial affairs, usually avoiding the need for a guardianship.
Upon your passing the trustee administers the estate outside the probate court and then distributes assets to the beneficiaries in accordance with your wishes.
Specialized Concerns
There is no one-size-fits-all estate plan because different families have different concerns. For instance, if you have estate tax exposure you must take steps to position your assets in a tax efficient manner to avoid a 40% hit.
If asset protection is a concern you would implement certain strategies that would not be important if you were not concerned about shielding assets from creditors and litigants.
Special needs planning is a factor for some people. You have to be careful about the way you set aside money for a person with a disability who is relying on government benefits like Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income.
People who are owners of small businesses are going to have estate planning concerns that differ from those who work for someone other than themselves.
These are just a few examples of the unique circumstances that require varied approaches.
Decision Makers
It is also important to include an incapacity component within your estate plan. The courts could, at considerable expense to your estate, appoint a guardian to manage your affairs if you don't take the appropriate action. This guardian may not be someone that you would have chosen.
You can select potential future decision-makers using an appropriate revocable living trust combined with a durable power of attorney.
All these solutions are best handled with a qualified estate planning law firm.

It is important to understand that estate planning documents do not exist in a vacuum. Estate planning is one of the most technical and dynamic areas of the law.  Properly planning an estate requires consideration of federal and state tax issues, state property law, state probate law and state trust law.  Estate planning documents must be carefully customized to meet each individual’s unique circumstances and objectives.  If they are not, unintended, and often costly, consequences may result.
Suppose you use a generic template that you find online to create a last will and testament or revocable living trust.  Are you sure that the documents that you wind up with will stand up to any challenges that may present themselves after your death?  Are you sure the tax sensitive provisions of your documents have been properly considered for your particular circumstances?  Could there be conflicting clauses that require your family to go to court to interpret the document after you have passed?  Has the document been thoughtfully drafted under state law so that your beneficiaries’ inheritances are protected from a divorcing spouse or other potential creditors?
Another thing to consider is best explained by way of example. Let's say that you never played golf before. You look into the bag and you see a lot of clubs, but you really don't know what club you should use. You may not use the right clubs as you try to negotiate the course without any information.  The same is true of estate planning. There are numerous different legal instruments that can be utilized.  Just arbitrarily deciding which ones you are going to use in a DIY last will and testament or revocable living trust is simply reckless.
These are a few things to think about, but if you would like to learn more of the facts we urge you to download our free report on DIY estate planning.  This special report goes into a good bit of detail about the dangers of do-it-yourself wills and living trusts.
We urge you to download your copy of the report. Access will be granted if you follow the simple instructions that you see after clicking this link: The Dangers of DIY Wills & Living Trusts.

People that have assets that exceed the exclusion amount ($5.25 million in 2013) most certainly need to discuss tax efficiency strategies with a licensed estate planning attorney who places an emphasis on wealth preservation.
However, there are those who the only reason someone would meet with an estate planning lawyer is to avoid taxes. They may reason that because their estate is less than the exclusion amount, there is no need for estate planning.  In fact, there are myriad concerns that can be addressed with a properly constructed estate plan that have nothing to do with tax exposure.
One of these concerns could be long-term access to financial resources. You may be concerned about leaving lump sum inheritances to certain people on your inheritance list. After all, you won't be around to help if someone in the family was to burn through his or her inheritance too quickly.
A way to respond to this would be to convey assets into a spendthrift trust. You appoint a trustee, and this could be a family member, the trust department of a bank, or a trust company. This trustee will administer the funds according to your stated wishes and distribute assets to the beneficiary in a measured fashion. The beneficiary will not be able to control the principal, which also means their creditors would not have access, either.
This is only one possible scenario. There are many others, including planning for blended families and providing for a family member with special needs without jeopardizing disability benefits.
Arranging for the transfer of your financial assets to your loved ones is a profound act. It is something that is best undertaken with the benefit of professional guidance.

On the Internet there are marketers that sell generic estate planning documents like wills and trusts.
Statistics tell us that most people don't have a comprehensive estate plan in place. Some of these people finally decide to put the procrastination behind them and they start searching for solutions. They come upon one of the sites, and they see an easy answer because the marketing materials can be convincing.
It is important to recognize the things that you can do on your own with a little bit of guidance and the things that are better left to licensed professionals. Consumer Reports, the highly respected magazine that has been informing people about the quality of various products and services for many years, advised against DIY wills last year.
Legal professors who examined documents constructed with online worksheets and downloads saw a number of different problems with them.
We endeavor to provide legal information that is truly accurate, covering every aspect of estate planning. To this end we have joined with the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys and compiled a series of special reports that are available for download on our website.
These reports examine wills, trusts, powers of attorney, legacy planning, asset protection, special needs planning, estate administration, and a number of other topics.
You can download these reports absolutely free of charge. To reach the page that contains a list of the reports and a brief description of each of them simply click this link: Free Nevada Estate Planning Reports.
If you have further questions after reviewing the information contained in the reports simply contact our firm to request a free consultation.

The estate planning process involves a number of different facets, including matters that the typical layperson may not consider. When you know the facts you understand why certain courses of action are recommended by estate planning and elder law attorneys.
On the other hand, when you harbor misplaced notions you may fail to act or take incorrect courses of action. With this in mind we would like to highlight two misplaced notions that can lead to negative consequences.
Incapacity Is Unlikely
You may feel as though it is unlikely that you will ever become unable to make your own decisions. If you feel this way you should ask yourself if you expect to live until you are at least 65.
If you say yes to the above, and you are correct and you do reach the age of 65, it is likely that you will live to the age of 80 at minimum.
Alzheimer's disease is very common among the elderly. 13% of those who are 65 years of age and older have Alzheimer's, and if you confine the sample to those 85 and up you are looking at a figure of 45%.
Given the likelihood of Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia, having durable powers of attorney naming agents to act on your behalf the event of your incapacity is important. Having a living trust is an even better plan.
I Don't Need a Trust
There are those who don't even consider the possibility of creating a living trust because they feel as though trusts are for very wealthy people. Of course, wealthy individuals and families should have a living trust at a minimum, but even those with modest means can benefit.
Living trusts are used to facilitate asset transfers outside of probate. Probate is the process of estate administration, and because it is done through the courts, it is time-consuming and often costly. If you create a living trust your heirs will receive their inheritances in a timely manner because these transfers are not subject to the probate process.
 

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