HG.org Legal Resources

Estate Planning Law Articles

Articles written by lawyers and expert witnesses worldwide
explaining the different aspects of Estate Planning.


Gift Tax Raises Questions

We have a federal gift tax in place, and at the present time it is carrying a 35% rate. When you think about any tax that will consume over a third of the resources in question such a high rate may get your attention. And when you are talking about a levy that is imposed when you are attempting to engage in an act of generosity this rate and the tax itself may cause you to scratch your head a bit.

Estate Planning Tools

Planning your estate is likely one of the most important projects you will embark upon within your lifetime. Although no two estates are the same, there are common tools that can be used during the estate planning process. Understanding these tools is an essential starting point for your estate planning project.

Small Business Succession Planning

As the owner of a small business, you likely have enough on your plate trying to keep the business running smoothly and profitably. Without taking the time, however, to create a small business succession plan, all the time, effort and hard work you have put into growing your business could be in vain in the event of your death or disability.

Irrevocable Trusts and Probate

Trusts are often used as part of an estate plan. Trusts offer numerous benefits to the beneficiaries of a decedent upon death such as avoidance of probate as well as potentially avoiding payment of estate taxes. Benefits to the decedent include the ability to control how the trust assets are used even after death.

Limited vs. General Powers of Attorney

Powers of attorney are legal documents you can use for any number of purposes. Powers of attorney transfer to someone else, called an attorney-in-fact or an agent, your ability to make decisions or enter into agreements. When you appoint a power of attorney, you give your agent the right to act on your behalf as a stand-in, and the decisions your agent makes are just as legally binding and enforceable as if you had made them yourself.

In Blended Families

When you design your estate plan, don’t make your children wait for an inheritance, especially if you’re in a blended family and want to keep the peace. Having your children wait until your spouse, who is not their parent, dies, pits your loved ones against each other.

How Do I Get Assets Out of My Living Trust?

You maintain full control of all of your living trust assets, so you’ll be happy to know that you have the power to take your assets out of your living trust, so long as you are alive and well. You transfer assets out of your trust the same way you got them into your trust. You change the title (or the beneficiary designation.)

What are Revocable Living Trusts?

Revocable living trusts allow you to distribute your assets through written documents, similar to wills. Also similar to a will, if you create a revocable living trust, you can revoke or amend your trust to change the distribution of your trust assets.

Divorce and Separation - Why You Should Have a Will

An explanation of the legal ramifications of divorce or separation on inheritance should you or your spouse die. What happens to your Will on separation or divorce? Until your divorce is finalized the existing Will is still valid. Your spouse is probably still named as an executor and main beneficiary. You are unlikely to want this now.

North Dakota Law on Nuncupative Wills

A nuncupative will is an oral will. Several states allow their residents to create oral or nuncupative wills under limited circumstances. Commonly called “deathbed wills,” testators make nuncupative wills during their final hours before at least one impartial witness.

Irrevocable and Revocable Trusts

A trust is a legal type of property ownership which allows a grantor to transfer legal title to trust property to a third-party trustee. The grantor gives another person the right to manage and temporarily retain ownership of his property for his benefit. To create a valid trust, a grantor must create the trust through a written instrument.

North Dakota Augmented Estates and the Uniform Probate Code

North Dakota is only one of 10 states to adopt the Uniform Probate Code’s augmented estate concept. Augmented estates allow disinherited spouses to claim a share of their spouse’s property if they were disinherited.

Avoiding Will Challenges

One of the things you should take into consideration when planning your estate is how your family members, or former family members, may feel about your wishes. Of course you have every right to leave your assets in any manner you see fit. But to make sure that the rightful heirs to your estate don't run into problems after your death you need to do what is necessary to avoid challenges.

Estate Planning: Don't Be Among the Unprepared Masses

Your would probably be surprised if you heard that someone died without leaving behind a last will or some other type of estate planning document directing distribution of his or her assets. Many people view estate planning as a simple, basic responsibility that everyone has to engage in for the well-being of their family members. So for many it comes as a surprise to learn that not everyone understands how important it is to have an estate plan in place.

Creating a Self-Proving Will in Florida

To get around the judicial process of authenticating a will, the Florida legislature enacted Section 732.503 of the Florida Statutes within the Florida Probate Code. To create a self-proving will, a testator must comply with the legal requirements to create a valid will. In addition to signing a will in front of two impartial witnesses who also provide their signatures, a testator will self-prove his will in front of a notary using a statutory acknowledgement form.

Florida’s Elective Share Statute

In Florida, Chapter 732 of Part II of the Florida Statutes is the Florida Probate Code. Pursuant to Section 732.201, Florida law allows married spouses to receive elective shares of probate property. As such, spouses cannot disinherit one another from receiving at least some of their estate assets. The Florida Statutes allows a spouse to receive one-third of a spouse’s elective estate.

Does Gift Tax Make Sense?

We are all taught from an early age that generosity is a positive quality. There are few more satisfying feelings than seeing a smile cross the face of someone you care about when they open up a Christmas or birthday gift. Giving is said to be its own reward, and the ineffable feeling that goes along with it is indeed quite palpable.

COLA on Way for People on Social Security

Retirement planning attorneys stress the importance of making preparations for the future because they are aware of all the details surrounding entitlement programs for senior citizens.

Veterans Aid

Serving your country in the military is a supreme sacrifice, but there are some rewards that go along with it. Most people are aware of the fact that veterans who have served at least 20 years are eligible to receive a retirement pension.

Why Having a Small Business

Most people realize the importance of estate planning and keeping up to date with their plan; however, if you are a small business owner, creating a succession plan is equally as important. A succession plan is basically the same as an estate plan, except it focuses on what will happen to your business, or your interest in a business, upon your death.

What is an Insolvent Estate?

When you start considering estate planning issues, you do so with the intent to pass on as much of your wealth and property as possible.

The Federal Trade Commission and the Funeral Rule

Unfortunately, many complaints filed by consumers alleging deceptive trade practices or illegal contracts involve senior citizens.

Advanced Estate Planning Suggestions for Alzheimer’s Patients

There are a number of considerations to make during your estate planning process, of which includes getting your affairs in order prior to creating a will.

New Baby

If you have a new baby, adopted a child, or have a step-child or other special child you want to provide for, you need a new estate plan.

Veterans Benefit Can Defray Long-Term Care Costs

There are some statistics that you run across that are kind of hard to believe if you have not already done some research into the subject in question.

Should Dying Be a Taxable Event?

There are those who refer to the federal estate tax as the "death tax, «and though this can sound like a flippancy there is actually reasonable logic to support this name. To explain, let's take a look at the anatomy of this levy.

Your Business Needs a Succession Plan

Most people think to create a plan for their personal assets in the event of their death; however, if you are an owner, or part owner, in a business, you need to include your business assets in your estate planning.

Lessons Learned from a Famous Supreme Court Justice’s Will

Even U.S. Supreme Court Justices are required to leave legally valid written wills to save their executors from unnecessary probate fees.

How to Use an AB Trust

One of the biggest concerns for individuals and couples with a sizable estate is how to accomplish the transfer of assets upon death without incurring estate taxes.

Without a Will

Some people never get around to planning their estate or creating a will. In this situation, there is no will to determine how affairs are to be handled and how assets are to be distributed.

Baby Boomers Becoming Caretakers

A recent survey reported by the newspaper USA Today had some surprising findings for the growing group of Baby Boomers that are anticipating caring for their aging parents - only half could name any medications their parents take.

The Most Important Key to an Estate Plan That Works

Most people sign their estate planning documents, breathe a sigh of relief, pat themselves on the back for completing the task, and don’t think about their estate plan again.

Giving Gifts Can Provide Tax Savings

The federal estate tax looms as a significant source of asset erosion and taking steps to mitigate your estate tax exposure is a big part of what estate planning is all about.

The Pitfalls of Probate

A lot of people equate the process of estate planning to the execution of a last will. While it is true that you can choose to use a last will as your primary vehicle of asset transfer and a lot of people do, it is not always the best choice.

Direct Asset Transfers Free of the Gift Tax

Taxation is an interesting thing, and a lot of people would question why you should have to pay a tax when you give someone a gift.

When Will You Be Retiring?

If you want to be prepared for the future you need to engage in careful and intelligent advance planning.

Reducing the Taxable Value of Your Home

When you are inventorying your assets in anticipation of distributing them to your loved ones after your death you may find that your home is your single most valuable asset.

Estate Tax Relief to Expire in 2013

If we said 2010 was an interesting year in the field of estate planning it would be a gross understatement.

Massive Numbers of Baby Boomers Retiring Unprepared

There are those who hear retirement planning attorneys say that it is important to make preparations for retirement but let this advice go in one ear and out the other.

What’s the Most Important Part of Disability Planning?

The absolute most important part of disability is naming successor trustees and power of attorney agents.

The Hand of Taxation

Much of estate planning focuses on the reduction or elimination of taxes, with good reason. Consider the “hand of taxation «which represents all the taxes during your lifetime and at your death.

Why You Must Fund Your Trust

TThere are not too many people who like paperwork; and, funding a revocable living trust is a lot of paperwork. Yuck

What is a Codicil?

A “codicil” is an amendment to a will; it’s an addition or change. Codicils were commonly used before the computer age when wills were written by hand or typed on a type-writer.

How to Avoid Probate

When an individual dies, the assets owned by the decedent are often required to pass through a legal process known as probate.

What Is a Joint Tenancy?

Joint tenancy is a form of property ownership that comes to us from the common law of feudal England.

North Dakota Adopts the Uniform Real Property Transfer on Death Act

On April 27 of 2011, North Dakota became the first official state to adopt the Uniform Real Property Transfer on Death Act.

Estate Planning Keeping Raiders in Davis Family

If you were to make a short list of the most influential owners in the history of professional football Al Davis would certainly be at or near the top of the list.

A Look at Qualified Personal Residence Trusts

Estate planning obviously involves deciding how you would like to provide for each of the ones that you love after you pass away.

Recognition of a German Will in New York / USA (Formal Validity)

This article provides an introduction to the recognition of German wills in New York / USA.

Estate, Gift, and Generation-Skipping U.S. Tax Treaties

The U.S. is a signatory to several important estate, gift, and generation-skipping transfer tax treaties. The article gives a short introduction to the requirements and the benefits of the existing treaties.

Independent Mental Capacity Advocacy (IMCA)

Read this guide concerning independent mental capacity advocacy to enable you to help someone who does not have mental capacity and where there are no appropriate friends or family members.

Late Singer Winehouse had Solid Estate Plan

The entertainment industry was dealt a blow last month when the British singer Amy Winehouse was found dead in her posh North London home.

Difficult Issues Elders Face

As you reach the latter stages of your working years it is likely that you are simultaneously tying up any loose ends that remain as you prepare to ease into retirement.

Tax Measure Details Relevant to Estate Planning

As we allow the impact of the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 to set in some of the finer details are starting to come into focus.

Mitigate the Damage with Generation Skipping Trusts

Due to the new tax relief measure that was passed in mid-December we are working with an estate tax rate of 35% in 2011 and 2012.

Estate Tax Changes Loom Over Horizon

One of the things that you have to keep in mind when you are serious about crafting your legacy is the fact that updates to your estate plan are probably going to be necessary.

QPRT For Tax Savings

If you are like a lot of people when you inventory your assets you may find that your home is the most valuable thing that you own.

Payroll Taxes and Trust Fund Recovery

The IRS has made some changes, taking advantage of new payment technologies that remove any wiggle-room for employers to make the payroll tax payments. As of January 1, 2011 Employers are required to make their federal tax payments through the electronic federal tax payments system. This system is free but employers must register to get started. To make things more complex the employer must make separate payments for each different tax return type including tax forms 940, 941 and 945.

2013 to Bring Changes to Estate Tax

They say that the only constant is change, and some of these changes are for the better while some of them are for the worse.

IRS Wage Levy Can be Stopped by Legal Action

Of all of the methods the IRS can employ to collect on back tax debt none are worse than the Wage Levy. Also called wage garnishment, an IRS wage levy is when the Internal Revenue Service forcibly takes or “levies” up to 85% of your wages prior to writing your paycheck. Many people have a hard enough time making ends meet with their full check and will find it impossible to get by with most of the check gone.

Reasons to Hire a Tax Attorney and Not a CPA for IRS Problems

While there are many reasons to hire a local tax attorney for tax problem resolution there are two major reasons above all others.

How Do Powers of Attorney End?

You have the right to give other people the authority to make decisions on your behalf by creating a power of attorney.

Asset Protection Planning Tips

Asset protection is often coupled with thoughts of high-powered attorneys and other executives poring over your financial documents in order to reach one common goal – protecting your estate to include your assets and properties. However, it doesn’t have to be that complicated or that expensive.

Care Planning and Advance Decisions

People often plan the care they want in the future when they are diagnosed with a serious illness, or go into a care home; read this briefing note about what it involves and the types of decisions and guidance to you may consider giving to your caregivers.

The Division of Marriage and Property in Florida

It is important to know and understand how the division of property works in your marriage. There are properties that will be considered marital property and properties that will be considered non-marital property.

Uncovering Hidden Assets in a Divorce

Divorcing can be exceptionally tricky. Not only are you taking a life that was formally combined with someone else and separating it to a single’s life, but more often than not asset division is not agreed upon by both parties involved. Your Florida divorce attorney will be able to advise you and all matters regarding the division of assets.

Life Insurance in Estate Planning

Life insurance is a key component to the estate planning process. Gone are the days when life insurance was primarily thought of as a means to pay for funeral expenses and burials.

Davis Family Will Retain Ownership of Raiders

There are few if any National Football League franchise owners who had the type of long-term success that Al Davis was able to achieve.

Does My Revocable Living Trust Avoid Ancillary Probate?

If fully funded, your revocable living trust avoids both probate, in your state of residence when you die, and ancillary probate, in any other state where you own property. If you don’t fund your trust, it will NOT avoid probate anywhere.

Types of Wills in Turkish Succession System

In general, wills must be in writing and signed by the testator in the presence of two witnesses before a public notary, magistrate or an authorized officer. In practice, official wills are issued before public notaries. Witnesses must be adults and must have full legal capacity.

How a Revocable Living Trust Can Minimize Federal Estate Taxes

We all want to pay the least amount of tax dollars possible; a revocable living trust may be able to help minimize federal estate taxes.

17 Things You Need to Know about Your Estate Plan

There’s lots to know about your estate plan; that’s why it’s important to work with a qualified estate planning attorney.

Care Home Fees – Using Your Will to Protect Your Money

Use your Will to protect some of your assets from being used to pay for care home fees. Around 70,000 homes a year (190 every day) are taken by councils throughout the UK, to recover long term care costs.

The Basics of a Financial Power of Attorney

A power of attorney is the next best thing to a magic wand.

Seniors on Social Security to Get Boost

One of the reasons why retirement planning attorneys always emphasize how important it is to make preparations for the future is because they understand the fallout that results from a lack of long-term planning.

Cuts by “Super Committee” Could Impact Elder Americans

Most people are well aware of the fact that the subject that is consuming the lawmakers in Washington is the federal debt.

4 Revocable Living Trust Key Players

The revocable living trust is a commonly used estate planning tool; it is often the center of an estate plan and has many benefits.

Start Estate Planning Early

It might surprise you, but the ideal time to start estate planning is the minute you turn 18 years of age and can sign legal documents. Start estate planning early, because it can become too late.

Who Needs to Plan for the Federal Estate Tax?

In 2011 and 2012, your estate will pay up 35% of any assets that go over your federal tax exemption amount.

Tax Act Expiration May Impact Your Estate Plan

You have to keep abreast of the ever-changing tax laws if you want to be prepared every step of the way as you are crafting your legacy over the years.

Probate Avoidance: Is it Right for You?

Hollywood’s depiction of Estate Administration leaves the impression that a last will is something that is read by an attorney and then the assets are handed out to the family members after a relative passes away. In reality, when you use a last will to express your final wishes your estate is going to have to pass through a process called probate.

Organ Donation

Advance medical directives are an essential part of an estate plan, but where and when do you express your wishes regarding organ donation?

Retirement Pitfalls

Retirement planning in any economy is a challenge, and people can make mistakes if they choose to go it alone. We discuss five common errors that are made by many in retirement planning.

Medicaid Planning Terms

Medicaid is a joint federal and state, need-based program that is often needed by senior citizens to pay for the catastrophic costs of nursing home expenses.

Reasons for Special Needs Trust

A special needs trust is an estate planning tool used to allow assets to be held in trust for the benefit of a physically or mentally challenged individual, or a person with a chronic or acquired illness. We outline four reasons to consider creating a special needs trust.

FAQ of 401K and Estate Plans

A retirement fund plays an important role in establishing a comprehensive estate plan, and we answer the most frequently asked questions regarding 401K accounts, the popular employer sponsored plans.

Do Your Estate Planning Early

Don’t procrastinate when it comes to estate planning; do your estate planning early. Why? Because you may become incompetent or uninsurable. If that happens, it is likely that your estate planning goals will not be met.

You Need These 4 Documents to Prepare for Incapacity

Each individual has the chance of becoming incapacitated at some point during his or her lifetime. For many people, incapacity is more likely each year than death.

Succession: Structured Solutions for Estate Planning

The author has prepared this document to assist in the evaluation of alternatives offshore structures for the better planning of their assets, estate and business transactions.

End of Life Decisions in Ontario, Canada – Do Doctors Have the Right to Decide?

As Shia Muslims, Mr. Rasouli’s family believed that as long as a person was alive everything should be done to prevent death. Accordingly, they opposed the doctors’ plan to withdraw the mechanical ventilation. This case was first heard by Madam Justice Himel of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. It was appealed to the Ontario Court of Appeal. Now leave is being sought to have the matter heard by the Supreme Court of Canada. Thus far, the courts have sided with Mr. Rasouli’s family.

On Social Security? Expect 3.6% COLA

Americans who are relying on Social Security too heavily can find it difficult to get by, especially given the ever-increasing costs that they face. The law does allow for regular cost-of-living adjustments that are tied to the rate of inflation on a yearly basis.

Oakland Raiders Will Remain in Al Davis' Family

Al Davis was an enigmatic figure who was loved by most in the “Raider Nation” but was sometimes criticized by outsiders.

Keep Long-Term Care Costs in Mind

Unfortunately too many people don't take retirement planning seriously enough, and as a result a significant percentage of Americans are not prepared.

DIY Estate Planning Not Advised

We live during a time when everyday people can find information on just about any subject with the click of the mouse.

What Happens to My Life Insurance Policy After I Die?

Many people choose to invest in life insurance. This can be a great way to offer protection to your loved ones, especially if you’re a provider for your family.

Large Numbers of Americans Have No Estate Plan

When you hear estate planning attorneys encouraging people to take action and create an estate plan for the protection of their families you may think that they are preaching to the choir.

Who Needs a Living Will?

Facing the prospect of becoming seriously ill is bad, but becoming seriously ill and not being able to tell your doctor what kind of treatment you want is worse

The Charitable Remainder Unitrust or CRUT

There are many things to consider when you are arranging your affairs financially for the latter portion of your life. Depending on the exact nature of your wishes and the form that your assets are in, a number of different financial instruments could be utilized in combination.

Have Patience After Losing a Loved One

When you lose a loved one, give yourself time to grieve. Whether the death was sudden or expected, it is often best not to rush to make the decisions that are needed. One way to minimize the issue is by proper estate planning.

Assisting with Long Term Care? Is a Caregiver Contract Right for You?

In many cases, family members help their loved ones with their long term care needs. This may be a better option than bringing in a stranger.


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