HG.org Legal Resources

Estate Planning Law Articles

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


Estate Planning Basics

Many people hear the term “estate planning «and immediately think it doesn’t apply to them. After all, estate planning, is only for the rich or the elderly, right? Wrong. Basic estate planning is a necessity for everyone. As you age, or your estate grows, you can revise your estate plan to include more complex tools. Understanding some of the most basic estate planning tools, can help you on your comprehensive estate plan and should be started, preferably, early on in life.

Florida Living Wills and Health Care Surrogates

A living will becomes valid in Florida upon the incapacity of the person drafting or making it. An individual can revoke or cancel his living will as long as he is mentally competent to do so. You may cancel or revoke your living will by physically destroying it, creating a new one or in writing through a letter of revocation. You can also revoke or cancel your health care surrogate designation in the same way.

Federal Income Taxes on Inheritances

In most cases, the Internal Revenue Service does not impose federal income taxes on inheritances. Thus, recipients of large inheritances may not have to pay income taxes on the value of their gifts. Instead, Congress enacted tax laws imposing the federal income tax liabilities on estates.

Texas Pet Trust – 3 Questions

In 2006, Texas enacted legislation that allowed residents to create pet trusts, specific types of trusts that allow you to leave property for the care of your pet. The trusts are an ideal way for any pet owner who wants to leave their pets safe and secure after they die. Let’s look at some common questions about Texas pet trusts.

Filing a PA Inheritance Tax Return

In Pennsylvania, decedents' estates are required to file a PA Inheritance Tax Return (Form REV-1500) as part of the probate and estate administration process. A PA Inheritance Tax Return should be filed on behalf of any decedent who (1) resided in Pennsylvania at the time of his or her death, and/or (2) owned or had an interest in reportable property that is subject to inheritance tax.

How to Get the Most Out of a Grantor Retained Annuity Trust

Given the typically high rate of both gift taxes and estate taxes, the grantor retained annuity trust, or GRAT, has become a popular estate planning option over recent years. Although the rules for a GRAT are complex and ever-changing, the basic concept is simple enough to understand.

How Does an Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust Operate?

The avoidance of estate taxes and the often costly and lengthy process known as probate, are two important goals of many estate plans. For those who have substantial assets that they anticipate leaving to family and loved ones, estate taxes are a prominent consideration when estate planning. Although the estate tax rate changes on a regular basis, it is typically extremely high -- often hovering around 50 percent.

3 Estate Plan Changes to Make Now

An estate plan, once created, is not set in stone. You can, and should, make changes to your plan as time goes on. If you haven't made changes recently, there are several areas you should look at and update as necessary.

Living Will and Medical Power of Attorney

It is important to be aware of just how likely it is that you may go through a period of incapacitation before you pass away. Alzheimer's induced dementia is very common among our nation's elderly, and this is one of the reasons why it is good idea to be prepared. However, there are other causes of incapacity as well and it is better to err to the side of safety rather than leaving things to chance.

Communicate Your Wishes While You Can

A high percentage of people are not at all prepared for the eventualities of aging. One of the primary reasons for this is the fact that many individuals don't want to consider unpleasant possibilities. While this may be understandable on a particular level it is actually quite irresponsible. There are certain realities that are facts of life and there is really no excuse for refusing to accept them.

The Value of a Probate Attorney

When you use a last will to direct the transfer of your assets after your death it is not just passed around among your loved ones. The probate or surrogate court must determine its validity, and most lay people have no understanding of the expectations of the probate court. This is one of the reasons why the guidance of a good central New Jersey probate lawyer is important when you are drawing up your will.

NY Probate Basics - Surrogates Court-1

All states have their own set of probate laws and procedures that govern what happens to your property after you die. They also have their own court systems that handle probate cases. In many states, these cases are heard by probate court judges, while in others they are handled by district or circuit court judges. In New York State, probate cases are heard in front of the Surrogate's Court.

Do I Need to Worry about Estate Taxes?

In America, it seems as though we are always worrying about one tax obligation or another. Everything from our income to the food we purchase is taxed. Most Americans devote a considerable amount of time and effort to limiting their tax burden throughout the year and looking for every possible deduction and credit at the end of the year.

Pet Planning as an Integral Part of Estate Planning

To pet lovers, the fact pet planning as part of estate planning has now become commonplace, is a “What took you so long?” In recognition that our pets are beloved members of our families, animal advocates, the Massachusetts state legislature, and estate planning attorneys have brought pet planning to the forefront of many estate planning discussions.

Ten Steps in Estate Planning in California

This article lists out the ten steps involved in Estate Planning in particular reference to the State of California. The following are the ten complete steps involved in the process of Estate Planning.

ABLE – “Achieve a Better Life Experience”– Federal Legislation - What You Need to Know About the Proposed Law

“ABLE,” has been proposed again in both houses of Congress. The purpose is to encourage and assist individuals and families in saving private funds and to provide secure funding for disability-related expenses. At the urging of a number of national disability advocacy groups, federal legislation to "Achieve a Better Life Experience", more commonly known as "ABLE," has been proposed once again in both houses of Congress (HR 3423 and SB 1872) in November 2011.

When Planning Your Estate Remember Your Pets

It is easy to neglect some of the smaller details when you are planning your estate. Legacy planning is a truly profound endeavor as your final act of giving, and when you combine the logistics with the emotional aspects the sum total of all that you have to take into account is considerable.

Budget Woes

It is important to recognize the fact that Atlanta estate planning is an ongoing process because if there's one inevitability in life it is that of change. If you get started planning your estate early enough it is very likely that you will be revisiting it consistently throughout your life. Sometimes the changes that take place are personal and specific to you, such as changes in marital status, a windfall of money, or the selling of a business.

An Intelligent Response to Estate Tax

On the surface it would seem as though you no longer have to worry about the estate tax if your estate is worth $5 million or less. Unfortunately, this is not completely true because the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 is going to expire at the end of 2012.

What Will Your Social Security Benefit Be?

If you are like most people when you're planning for your retirement, Social Security is going to be a factor. The majority of Americans polled say that their Social Security benefit is going to be their primary source of income when their working years are behind them.

Repeal of Estate Tax is a Possibility

When the tax relief measure was signed into law in December that extended the Bush era tax cuts the estate tax parameters were affected. If the Bush cuts would have been allowed to sunset with no new legislation having been passed the estate tax would have returned to the 2001 level of 55%, and the estate tax exclusion would have been just $1 million. Instead we now have a $5 million exclusion and a 35% maximum rate of taxation.

Incapacity Planning Documents

Atlanta elder law attorneys can help you get prepared for all the eventualities of aging, and it is truly best to have a comprehensive plan in place. When people get interested in estate planning they invariably recognize that they may well experience a period of incapacity before passing away, and this is something to recognize and address through the execution of the proper documents.

Don't Underestimate Long-Term Care Expenses

Atlanta elder law attorneys must keep their fingers on the pulse of all of the trends that are relevant to planning for aging. One of the matters that has gotten the attention of the elder law community is that of the high and rising costs associated with long-term care.

Estate Planning: Americans Surprisingly Unprepared

If you are one who is prone to procrastination, you are not alone. A lot of people in Fayette County place things on the back burner intending to get to them another day. We live busy lives and you have to prioritize things and this is quite understandable. But it is important to have your priorities in order.

Raiders Will Be Guided by Mark and Carol Davis

Al Davis, the longtime owner of the Oakland Raiders, passed away on October 8 at his Oakland residence at the age of 82. The Raiders have fallen on hard times of late, but Al Davis crafted a legacy of winning over his 40 years as Raiders owner. The Raiders won an American Football League championship back before the merger, and after the NFL and AFL merged they captured three Super Bowl titles.

Why Do I Need an Estate Planning Attorney?

Whether you are newly married and thinking about having children, well into middle age and thinking of future grandchildren or entering your golden years and worried about your own well-being, making plans for your estate in the event of your death or incapacity is a wise decision.

Estate Plan Alterations Are Usually Necessary

If you are like many people, you may have been first exposed to estate planning as a young adult without necessarily even realizing it. Life insurance is one of the foundational building blocks of many estate plans, and when you start your career you are usually going to be offered life insurance as one of your benefits.

Planning for Retirement

Everyone who has a pulse is well aware of the fact that the federal debt is a matter of great concern. Back at the beginning of August a deal was struck to raise the debt ceiling, but it came with an agreement to reduce the deficit by $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years. A bipartisan congressional group that is being called the "super committee" is charged with the responsibility of coming up with a plan to achieve this goal.

Estate Tax

There are a lot of things about the estate tax that many people simply can't digest, and this is why there is always pressure being applied from some quarters to repeal the tax permanently. At the top of the list is the fact that the estate tax is imposed on assets that you have been able to accumulate after paying taxes throughout your life.

Have You Considered Your Final Arrangements?

Focusing on the well being of your family is key when you are engaged in Atlanta estate planning. As we all know, making sure that your assets are transferred to your heirs in an efficient manner is at the core of the exercise. But there are other details that go along with the territory, and if you don't identify and address them you can be leaving your family members in a challenging situation.

Atlanta Estate Planning

There is a lot more to estate planning than simply writing out a last will. As a matter fact, a lot of people find that using a last will as their primary vehicle of asset transfer is not in their best interests. There are other ways to transfer assets to your family members after you pass away, and the best combination is going to vary depending on the specific nature of your situation.

MetLife Study Indicates Elder Financial Abuse is on the Rise

Elder financial abuse is one of the major issues that is a hot topic in elder law circles at the present time. Though it is hard for reasonable people to understand how anyone could target vulnerable senior citizens, it is something that happens with alarming frequency. The MetLife Mature Market Institute does a lot of very valuable work that shines a spotlight on matters of interest to seniors.

German Law on Inheritance and Gift Tax: New Regulations for Situs Taxation in Force

The article outlines the new regulations for situs taxation in Germany. Pursuant to Section 16(1) of the German Law on inheritance and gift tax (Erbschaftsteuer- und Schenkungssteuergesetz) a taxpayer is entitled to acquire up to €500 000 tax-free depending on the degree of kinship. A taxpayer is entitled to acquire up to €500 000 tax-free over a ten year period.

German Inheritance Tax - Tax Liability in Germany

The article outlines the rules of tax Liability in Germany. According to § 2 Erbschafts- und Schenkungsteuergestz (ErbStG) unlimited inheritance tax liability results from the fact that either the deceased or the heir is a resident taxpayer upon his death.

What to Do if You Suspect Elder Abuse

As some point in your life, you are likely to have an elderly loved one who is unable to fully care for himself or herself. As people in the United States live longer, the population of people over the age of 65 continues to increase. Many people now live into their 80s and 90s with a great deal of independence. Even those who are relatively independent, however, eventually need some type of assistance in most cases.

Texas Advance Directives: 4 Types

Making decisions about the kind of medical care you want to receive when you get older or become too ill to communicate is important. In Texas, you have a wide range of methods available to ensure your medical wishes are followed.

When You Should Start Estate Planning

Though many people don't start thinking about estate planning until later in life, there is no single best time when you should begin to plan on structuring your estate. The truth is that everyone can begin at least some part of estate planning immediately. Whether you're single, recently married, a parent or anyone else, you can get a leg up on your future by tackling estate planning issues now.

Can I Change My Trust?

One of the common goals of estate planning is staying in control; often, clients want to know if they can change their trust. The main rule is: If the trust is revocable, the trust can be changed; if the trust is irrevocable, the trust can’t be changed. There are exceptions.

I Have an Addicted Son; Should I Disinherit Him?

Sadly, many Americans have trouble with drug, alcohol, and gambling addictions However, if you have an addicted child, you don’t have to disinherit him. In most cases, disinheritance causes great emotional trauma as inheritances represent the love of a parent for a child (whether we want to admit it or not.)

Many Benefit From Charitable Remainder Unitrusts

When you are exposed to the estate tax you have to make a serious commitment to gain estate tax efficiency. There are a number of ways you may achieve this, and the best strategy will vary depending on the nature of your assets and what exactly you are trying to achieve. This is one of the reasons why it is a good idea to retain the services of a savvy estate planning attorney.

Estate Tax Exposure

A lot of people call the federal estate tax the "death tax, “and many consider it a sarcastic term. Some probably do use it in this spirit, but the reality is that there is literal truth in this description.The assets that you accumulated throughout your life after paying taxes are sitting safely in the bank or otherwise invested.

Estate Planning for Same-Sex Couples in Ohio

I recently had the opportunity to develop an estate plan for a same-sex couple and found several effective strategies for making sure each partner could receive inheritance and make healthcare decisions for the other just as if they were a married heterosexual couple. Actually, now they are probably better protected than most married heterosexual couples, because most couples don’t have an estate plan or living trust in place.

Family Farm Estate Planning in Ohio: 10 Reasons Why You Need to Do It

Family farms and estate planning in Ohio was a pretty hot topic at a event that I spoke at. About 125 farmers from across the state showed up to hear me and the other speakers. One thing that struck me was that most of the farmers I spoke to said they’d never met an attorney who could explain why they should do estate planning and elder law planning. In this post I want to solve that issue and explain plainly why estate planning is necessary for farmers.

A Look at the Gift Tax

We have all experienced the indescribably pleasant feeling that goes along with an act of giving. Making someone else happy is a great experience because, as they say, it is better to give than to receive. However, the powers that be seem to take a dim view of giving for some reason.

Gay Partners must Plan Ahead

The subject of same-sex marriage is a controversial one and the legalities surrounding these unions are always being questioned. At the present time, at the federal level marriages between people of the same sex are not recognized. Most states don't recognize marriages between gay couples either, and this would include the state of Nevada.

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.

Tax Discounts with Family Limited Partnerships

Significant gifts come with a cost in the United States via the imposition of the federal gift tax. This tax is carrying a 35% rate at the present time, and any tax that consumes over a third of the amount in question is attention-getting. However, 35% looks almost good when you consider the fact that the gift tax is scheduled to rise to 55% once 2013 rolls around.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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.)

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

The Federal Trade Commission and the Funeral Rule

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

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

When Will You Be Retiring?

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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 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.

What Is a Joint Tenancy?

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


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