Death is a delicate subject, but can be made simpler with proper planning. In the best case scenario, all paperwork and assets associated with a passing loved one is prepared with the utmost detail prior to death, allowing friends and relatives to fondly remember the deceased and take time to grieve.
Anderson, Dorn & Rader, and the estate planning business as a whole, aims to simplify the legal processes surrounding death so legacies can be transferred to surviving loved ones in a fair, stress-free manner. To accomplish this, savvy individuals will often take measures to ensure they don’t burden their surviving relatives with undue complications like the probate process.
Several tools are available through qualified attorneys to keep your property and monetary assets out of probate. Among these, establishing co-ownership of bank accounts and home titles, as well as lining up beneficiaries on investment and insurance accounts are great to start with. But a revocable living trust is one of the most favored comprehensive options that an individual can set up to avoid probate. Let’s check it out:
A trust is a fiduciary arrangement that grants a third party, or trustee, the legal permission to hold and manage assets on behalf of a beneficiary or beneficiaries. A living trust is enacted while an individual is still alive, rather than upon death. Arrangements can be made to grant you oversight duties on your own living trust until you become incapable of soundly managing your assets, or pass away. Upon your incapacitation or passing, the successor trustee assumes responsibility over the assets in the trust and manages them on behalf of all involved beneficiaries.
The Probate process involves transferring ownership of all monetary assets and property that haven’t been assigned to beneficiaries, or don’t contain a pay-on-death or transfer-on-death designation upon your passing. Often times with probate, the court gets involved, and the long-winded process to account for the assets ensues.
With a trust, your assets are ready to be transferred to your beneficiaries upon your death, if they haven’t already been transferred to the trust while you’re still alive. This puts probate out of the question, as your assets are all accounted for and can be distributed in a timely manner.
Even better, trusts can incorporate pretty much any category of asset: from real estate, to stock holdings, to bank accounts, to family heirlooms. This keeps your legacy from being administered through the probate court, ensuring everything you worked for ends up in the hands of the individuals you deem as successors. Not only does this eliminate costly court costs, but it keeps your records out of the public’s eye and enables beneficiaries to remember the deceased and carry on the good fortune of the trust without running into road blocks.
The language and investment surrounding the establishment of a trust can be daunting, often prompting individuals to delay the process or put it off entirely. But to plan without a doubt where your assets will end up, and with whom, it’s vital to create a trust. It’s peace of mind for both you and your loved ones when you pass.
Planning the details around your death is sometimes a difficult topic to breach, but can be made simpler with the help of your family and knowledgeable attorneys like Anderson Dorn & Rader. While you are ultimately at the helm when it comes to important decisions, our estate planning group truly cares about maximizing the legacy you will leave to your loved ones. For any questions about how to start the trust formation process, please give us a call or fill out our contact form. We look forward to bringing you and your family peace of mind.
Trust laws exist not only to safeguard the trust and trustor, but to also set guidelines for trustees to abide by. A trustee has a duty under the law to communicate with beneficiaries and inform them of progress or changes in the trust administration. Some duties of the trustee include giving beneficiaries a copy of trust documents, providing information and timelines of the trust administration, and preparing an annual accounting synopsis of the trust’s income and expenses.
It’s not uncommon for trustees to leave beneficiaries in the dark regarding new trust information. Some trustees are unaware of their duties under the law and believe they can do what they please with the trust. However, this is typically not the case, and if your trustee is unresponsive to your requests for information, you have every right to seek further action. Below are some things for you to consider when wondering how to handle an unresponsive trustee.
How do you try to contact your trustee? Is it through email? Do you try to call? Have you sent a letter through the mail? It could be very possible that your trustee simply isn’t checking in on all of their inboxes all the time. A trustee who simply doesn’t check their email regularly may respond quicker to a phone call or text message. If you’re not getting response through phone or texts, you could try sending them a formal letter.
You should also consider the relationship you and the trustee have with each other. If communication typically escalates into hostility between you two, it’s possible that the trustee may be avoiding you on purpose, even though this goes against their duties to keep all beneficiaries informed. If you cannot speak civilly in person or over the phone, it’s important that you keep all communication in writing. Just be sure to ask your questions very clearly and request information without accusations. If this still doesn’t work and your trustee remains unresponsive, it may be time to seek legal assistance.
An attorney may be involved in trust communication between beneficiaries and trustees in one of two ways. Most trustees have attorneys who represent them. If you’re having a hard time getting a hold of the trustee, try contacting their lawyer instead. If a trustee is oblivious to their duties under law, an attorney can ensure they are made aware of their responsibilities and encourage the trustee to comply. Some trustees may not want to directly communicate with beneficiaries of the trust, in which case their attorney may be the direct point of contact. To get information via a trustee’s attorney, be sure to follow up your initial call or text with the requests you wish to receive and any attempts you have made to contact the trustee.
If you feel a lack of proper representation in a situation like this, you may also seek out your own attorney. They’ll be able to clearly identify your rights as a beneficiary, and will give you the backup you need to enforce them. It’s always a good idea to have an objective intermediary that can assist in getting you the information you are rightfully entitled to.
If you and your attorney are still being met with no response, then your last option is to file a petition with your local court. Before you do this though, you should confirm that your attorney is familiar with trust laws and administration. This can make or break your petition’s success. If the trustee fails to respond to the petition, the court can then remove the trustee from the trust. This might also make the trustee liable for any losses or damages the beneficiaries experienced as a result of their lack of communication and ability to perform their duties. A court petition gives additional resources like subpoenas, depositions, and requests for documents to help you get the information you’re seeking. This should be used as the last method for handling an unresponsive trustee, as it can be costly and emotionally messy.
Trustees can conjure various reasons for being unresponsive, but they are legally obligated to communicate with and provide beneficiaries with certain information regarding the trust. Before you go filing a petition right away, try another method of contacting the trustee. If a phone call isn’t working, try an email or maybe send a letter instead. If this still doesn’t garner any results, involve an attorney. They will help get the ball rolling and will likely encourage the trustee to come forward with their information. Only as a last result should a petition be filed with your local court.
If you have any questions regarding how to contact an unresponsive trustee, be sure to reach out to the reliable and experienced trust attorneys at Anderson, Dorn & Rader. We’re happy to help you get the information from the trust administration that you are entitled to, and are dedicated to providing the highest quality estate planning resources available.
Every February, American Heart Month begins as a friendly reminder to think about your heart health. This commemorative month was established in 1963 and prompts us to combat heart disease, the leading cause of death in America. Even with the high mortality rate of Covid-19, heart disease continues to be the dominant cause of death in the United States. Ultimately, American Heart Month is a great time to review your heart health and build healthy habits for the future. Of course, don't forget to consider who will act as your medical agent if you are unexpectedly stricken with a heart attack.
Various states have differing titles for medical agents, including a medical power of attorney, an advanced health care directive agent, a health surrogate, a health or medical proxy, and more. Regardless of the title your state uses, this person will make all medical decisions for you if you ever become too ill to communicate your wishes.
This person plays an essential role in making critical decisions regarding your health. Your medical agent should understand your medical wishes because they decide what care you will or won’t receive by communicating with providers caring for you. Also, keep in mind this person gains access to your private information, so you should consider all these factors before deciding who will act on your behalf.
It is easy to assume anyone close to you is fit to be your medical agent, but this is not the case. Consider someone you know will stay level-headed in emotional situations since everyone handles stress differently. Your medical agent should be reasonably assertive because of the many family opinions and doctor recommendations they will have to navigate. This person should be comfortable silencing others opinion to focus on your wants and needs when making decisions.
Your medical agent should live close to you because something unexpected can come up at any moment. This person will have to act on your behalf quickly and efficiently so that you don’t have to wait for care if you are incapable of speaking for yourself.
It is crucial to make sure your medical agent is willing to set time aside in case of a medical emergency. Having this title is both time-consuming and emotionally draining, so reach out to the person you’d like to act as your medical agent and address any concerns. Doing this in advance will help you choose someone willing to take on this responsibility.
You must choose a medical agent who will make decisions following your wishes. The person you choose needs to set aside their own wants to focus on making the decisions you expressed previously. Your medical agent acts as your voice even if they don't agree with your course of action, so be sure to find someone you can trust to follow your wishes if you are incapable.
Remember, even if you believe someone is right for the title, some states prohibit certain individuals from acting as a medical agent.
Many states don’t allow minors to be patient advocates, but there can be exceptions. Also, remember not everyone over the age of 18 qualifies to act as a medical agent so talking with a professional can help clarify state restrictions.
Not every state restricts health care providers from acting as medical agents, but most do. These restrictions can be overlooked if the health care provider is a family member, but make sure to take the proper steps to allow this. Furthermore, Kansas, Missouri, and Kentucky allow your health care provider to act as your medical agent if they are an active member of your religious organization.
If you haven’t decided who will act as your medical agent, Anderson, Dorn, and Rader can help determine the best fit. If you need someone to act as a backup, our attorneys are willing to build a strong relationship with you to understand your needs in case of an emergency. We will ensure that your wishes are carried out and written as required by state law.
Contact us now to discuss how to properly name a medical agent, as well as discuss other advance care directives.
An estate plan consists of several parts and considerations, including a living trust. A living trust is a legal arrangement set up during a person’s lifetime that places their assets into a trust overseen by a trustee. The living trust also determines how the trustor’s assets will be distributed once they pass or become incapacitated. Some factors that may cause someone to create a trust range from tax benefits and avoiding probate to caring for family members with special needs. See how working with an estate planning attorney to create a living trust will help your family.
Avoiding probate is the most common reason for seeking out a living trust. Probate is the courts’ process of proving a will is accepted as a valid document that can be used to effectively distribute assets. There are several reasons in which you would want to avoid probate. The first is that probate can be a costly way to transfer your assets upon death. There are multiple parties that may need to be paid out during a probate proceeding, including the court, which add up quickly.
Probate is also a very lengthy process. It can take six to nine months (sometimes longer) to fully go through probate. There are many factors, documents, and people involved in the probate process, so it’s easy for complications to arise. Problems such as a contested will or an inability to find clear records of all of the deceased's assets and debts can extend this timeline.
Lastly, your probate proceedings will be publicly recorded for the court, meaning your case will become public knowledge and will be available to anyone. This significantly limits you and your family’s privacy which is not ideal during a family member's death.
A living trust provides tax savings to those estates that are subject to estate or gift taxes. There are many types of trusts to choose from, but the most common are irrevocable trusts and revocable trusts. A revocable living trust allows you to make amendments and changes to the documents as necessary, even during the trustor’s life. An irrevocable trust cannot be amended after the document has been signed, but it does offer significant transfer tax benefits that are not subject to the typical gift tax requirements. When you work with us, we'll make sure to align the type of trust with your family's tax-saving needs and other goals.
When it comes to your trust, it’s important for you to understand that a trust only controls assets that are put, or funded, into the trust. Living trusts need to be continually updated to accommodate changes such as marriage, childbirth, home purchases, and tax laws that could affect the trust. With a living trust, the trustor is able to amend the document to reflect their wishes. Because of this, it’s crucial that you work closely with your estate planning attorney to make sure your assets are properly aligned with your trust. This will not only help you get organized, but it will also make things easier for your heirs when you pass away.
Call our office at (775) 823-9455 or visit us online at wealth-counselors.com to schedule a complimentary consultation.
The field of estate planning contains many different legal instruments that most people have never heard of, so it can be kind of confusing when you start to do your research. On the other hand, there are some estate planning tools that are commonly used that most people have heard of that exist in some variations. As they say, a little bit of knowledge can sometimes lead to misconceptions, so we would like to clear up the difference between some of the basic terms that are often confused.
Everyone has heard of the last will, which is of course the most commonly used vehicle of asset transfer when a person dies. Many individuals are aware of the fact that there is an alternative to the will that prepares assets for eventual distribution while you are still alive. Since the last will is a vehicle of asset transfer, when some people hear the term "living will" they assume that this must be the way that you prepare assets for distribution while you are alive, but this is not the case.
A living trust is the vehicle of asset transfer that is executed while you are still alive. You can actually serve as both the trustee and the beneficiary while you are living so that you retain full control of the resources. But you name secondary beneficiaries and a successor trustee who will distribute the assets to your beneficiaries upon your death or incapacitation in accordance with your wishes.
The living will, on the other hand, is an advance health care directive. It is used to express your preferences with regard to the medical procedures you would accept and those that that you would prefer to deny in the event of your incapacitation. The matter of being kept alive through the utilization of life support systems is at the core of most living wills.
When you are in a position to leave behind inheritances that can have life changing consequences for your loves ones you have a pleasant problem. You may want to make life easier on your family than they were for you, but at the same time you don't want to adversely impact one's motivation and work ethic.
By the time you have reached your twilight years it is likely that your children have become established in their own right. Leaving an inheritance out right to those who have already made it can be done with confidence. But you may have children with creditor problems or you may have younger children or family members that have not yet established themselves. Also, there could be someone in the family with a substance abuse problem, or an individual with a gambling problem. These factors present special planning considerations as you plan your estate.
One way that these types of concerns can be addressed is through the creation of an incentive trust. These instruments involve the naming of a beneficiary and the appointment of a trustee like other trusts, but there is one key difference. You as the grantor of the trust attach stipulations that must be met before distributions from the trust will be made.
If you have a younger heir these may be educational. You could allow for regular monthly distributions as long as the beneficiary remained a student in good standing. Perhaps you could offer an additional lump sum distribution upon attainment of an advanced degree. There are those who take it a step further and stipulate that the trust will match every dollar that the beneficiary earns on the job once he or she enters the workforce to encourage a strong work ethic.
You can include many variations of conditions that you see fit. Incentive trusts can go a long way toward alleviating concerns that you may have about your beneficiaries. It is important however to keep in mind that too many "strings attached" to an inheritance can result in resentment. Compelled behavior may not always be psychologically beneficial. Still incentive trusts are powerful tools and can be effective motivators in many circumstances.
We have all been involved in situations at various points in our lives when we decided to try to fix something on our own. There are times when you can indeed get out your basic tool kit and get the job done, but there are other instances when you learn an important lesson. As you are engaged in the task you see what is necessary, and then you look in your kit and recognize that you don't have the right tool. Knowing the right tools for each job and having access to them is one of the differences between a professional and a dabbler.
Estate planning is one of those jobs that requires the utilization of the proper tools for each circumstance. The one that we would like to take a look at today is the GRAT or grantor retained annuity trust. These vehicles are useful for gaining estate tax efficiency and gifting appreciating assets free of taxation.
The strategy that is employed to make this happen is called the "zeroed out" GRAT. You fund the trust with appreciable assets like securities, real property, or business interests, appoint a trustee, and name a beneficiary. You also decide on the duration of the trust term and the amount of the annuity payments that you would like to receive out of the trust for the term period.
When you fund the GRAT you remove the assets transferred to the trust from your estate for tax purposes, but the IRS does consider the donation to be a taxable gift. However, the taxable value of the gift is calculated using 120% of the federal midterm rate as it stands during the month the trust is created. So, when you set your annuity payments you want them to equal the total taxable value of the trust according to the IRS' valuation methodology. Because your retained interest is 100% of the taxable value, you owe no gift tax on the contribution into the trust. But, any appreciation that exceeds that valuation passes to your beneficiary at the end of the trust term tax-free.
If you have any questions regarding GRATs or other advanced planning techniques, please do not hesitate to contact our firm at any time.