Estate Planning Law Articles
Articles written by lawyers and expert witnesses worldwide
explaining the different aspects of Estate Planning.
You have to love win-win situations, and that's what you get when you include tax-free gift giving in your inheritance plan. Essentially, when you leave someone an inheritance you are giving this person a gift posthumously. But when you do you never get to see the look of surprise, joy and gratitude cross the face of this person who is dear to you. In addition, if that gift is received as a direct result of your death the occasion is certainly not a cause for celebration.
Not too long ago there was quite a buzz generated in financial circles by two of the highest profile and wealthiest businessmen in the world. Just this past summer Bill Gates and Warren Buffet issued a challenge to the nation's billionaires, asking them to give away at least half of their fortunes to charitable causes. The last we saw they had 38 takers, and Buffet himself had pledged to give away just about all of his assets previous to issuing this challenge.
There is a big DIY movement afoot in the United States these days, and for the most part this is a good thing. It can be a lot of fun to make home improvements, take on landscaping projects, fix up or restore cars, tailor your own clothes or engage in any other do-it-yourself project that may be of interest to you. The trick is to recognize your limits and make sure that you know where to draw the line.
Most people are not opposed to paying taxes that they feel are fair and properly used, but it is very difficult to accept levies that overstep the boundaries of logic and respect for personal property. The estate tax is the target of a lot of criticism, and though it was repealed for 2010 this is a temporary repeal for just the one year.
Did you know that you can donate your body to science? If you wish to do so, it is important that you set those desires out in advance in an anatomized gift declaration or other planning document that is provided by the agency you wish to favor.
Have you been named as the guardian of a minor child or a mentally incapacitated adult? If so it is important to understand what your fiduciary duties and obligations are to the ward. - Handle Financial Assets - As a guardian, you may have control of your ward’s financial accounts. You may use funds for the best interest of the ward.
Planning a funeral for a loved one can be a heart-breaking process full of confusing, sometimes expensive choices. You can alleviate this burden from your family by leaving written instructions for your final tribute. There are many advantages to making your own funeral preparations.
There’s been a lot of hype about the estate tax recently that created a good deal of confusion. The estate tax is a tax that the IRS imposes on the entire value of the estate when someone passes away. According to the IRS, the estate tax is a tax “imposed for your right to transfer property.” Prior to 2001, the estate tax exemption under the existing law was increasing annually from $600,000 until it reached $1,000,000 so any assets over that amount were taxed at a whopping 39% to 55%.
The greatest estate plan you can make is to spend all of your assets or everything that you own. This is simple and easy to do as you can just have fun until your last dollar and not worry about passing anything on. Some may be forced to do this while others may spend all of their assets by choice.
According to recent surveys, only 35 percent of Americans have completed their estate planning and only 21 percent have created a trust. According to the experts, this decline started to show as the housing market and economy slowed. Some Americans feel with the unpredictability of the economy, it is too hard to focus on estate planning. After all, a lot of Americans do not know if they will keep their assets through the down economy or not.
According to a recent study, a majority of American families who are wealthy enough to have a full-time accountant and legal representatives on staff have extremely outdated estate plans. In fact, more than three quarters of American wealthy families had outdated estate plans, even though 95 percent of them had significant life changes that required some form of updating to their plan.
Common estate planning errors do not just apply to those who do their own estate plans. Even those who pay thousands of dollars to create an estate plan can open the door to errors. Most Americans postpone updating their estate plans, especially with so much uncertainty in the air surrounding estate tax.
As a woman, you have spent countless hours working to create a high net worth. Unfortunately, the last thing on your mind is planning for how you will transfer ownership of your hard work to someone else if you were to pass away. Though it is hard to think about, female entrepreneurs need estate planning just as much as males to protect their assets and their loved ones.
You’ve taken the time to plan out your estate, but what about student loan debts? According to a study conducted by SmartMoney, one out of three consumers over the age of 40 is paying down student loans. Therefore, if you have student loan debt you need to include it with your estate plan.
Those in business or with significant wealth are concerned with protecting themselves and their assets in matters of tax, trust, and estate laws. Charitable Remainder Trusts Need Analysis - A charitable remainder trust, or CRT, needs to be carefully analyzed. There may be other planning alternatives that make more sense in certain situations.
When you begin the estate planning process, you will be approached with the terms “General Power of Attorney” and “Health Care Power of Attorney.” During estate planning it is highly important that you understand these terms thoroughly, since they can greatly impact your health and well-being during and your family after life.
You have worked years to establish your business and your livelihood. Upon your death you want to ensure that your business and the legacy behind it will be protected. You can do this with estate planning, but you have to ensure you follow the proper steps to not only protect your estate, but your family business.
Just about every family out there can benefit from a Trust in some way. In fact, a Trust is not something designed specifically for the rich and famous. Therefore, if you are considering a family Trust, take a look at a few situations that imply your estate planning could benefit from using one:
By Jaburg Wilk
Litigators can be beneficial when there are disputes over probate and trust litigation. Probate and trust litigation can turn families into enemies and convert inheritances into attorneys’ fees. These disputes can fueled by sibling rivalry, blended families, family grudges, financial need, entitlement, revenge, greed, or spite.
levy that is imposed on gifts that you give to others if they exceed a certain amount. Every year you can give as much as $13,000 to any number of gift recipients free of the gift tax. The total sum of these tax-free gifts can equal any amount of money.
You can’t take it with you. This is one of the simple, inalienable truths about dying, and, like it or not, your relatives know this. So if you have had the good fortune to become wealthy during your life, be sure to develop an estate plan that will help keep things civil.
There are many different types of power of attorney; in fact, there are so many that someone could be easily overwhelmed when trying to decipher just what exactly, is encompassed by a grant of power of attorney. And don’t worry: if you don’t know what a power of attorney is, you are not alone. To put it simply, the phrase “power of attorney” describes one person’s bestowal of power upon another person to act in their stead.
Some people want to provide for minors or adults who are incapable of making their own decisions when they are making preparations for the future. If you want to set aside resources for the well-being of such an individual you would place them into a trust of some kind.
When you are engaged in the process of retirement planning, you are going to want to be apprised of all of your options. With this in mind we would like to take a look at home equity conversion mortgages. Just about everyone would like to be able to retain ownership of as much property as possible so that they can leave behind a robust legacy to their loved ones.
An important question to ask before you see an estate planning attorney to make a will or living trust and all of your other planning documents is what to bring. It is important to account for all of your assets, or everything you own before you make an appointment to see your estate planning attorney. You must do a little bit of work to prepare yourself and do your homework before you will be properly prepared for your initial meeting with an attorney.
Because of the fact that pets live relatively short life spans as compared to humans, you may think that it is not necessary to consider the future of your pet when you are planning your estate. Perhaps this is true for some younger people who essentially co-own their dog, cat, horse or other animal with other immediate family members.
If you were to get yourself a dog or cat as a senior citizen you may be taking a very positive step. It is not uncommon for elders to experience a sense of loneliness and pet ownership can certainly make a big difference. However, when you are planning your estate you must ask yourself what would happen to your dog or cat after you pass away.
There is an old Internet meme that shows a picture of a man looking at a computer while a woman stands in a doorway behind him The picture is captioned with some way of stating that the man cannot go to bed because he has to stay on the Internet because someone on the Internet is wrong.
Forgive me, ladies, but this is a post for the men in the audience. You can read it, but it is not for you. This post is for men who spend any time with other men. It does not take long if you get a group of men together that the conversation turns to what it means to be a real man. It really doesn't.
Most people do just about everything they can legally do to get as much money as they possibly can. This makes it amazing when someone appears to go out of their way to not get virtually free money. For example people have been known to not show up to claim inheritances for no reason. It happened recently.
Have you ever purchased a one size fits all T-shirt? I'm not sure why companies make these things. They don't actually fit anyone. They are always too large or too small for any particular person. If you have made the mistake of buying one of these things, it’s a mistake you are not likely to make again.
Many people within the elder law community are concerned about the future solvency of the Social Security program. Indeed, given the rapid aging of the population there will be an added strain on the system. Exactly how to go about cutting costs is a matter of ongoing debate, but the Social Security Administration has been taking some steps that would seem to be quite logical to most people.
A living Will registry is a good idea. It’s like an insurance plan that covers your wishes instead of your property. Although the subject matter underlying a living Will registry may be difficult to discuss, registration and use of the registry is simple.
Common law marriage is still in practice in Alabama ,Colorado, The District of Columbia, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah and should be factored into your estate plan if you live in any of these states and it applies
Pregnancy is one of those significant life events that cause us to make a great many changes in our lives. One thing to which being pregnant should give rise, is considerations about your estate plan. Perhaps you do not yet have an estate plan in place. Perhaps you need to make some adjustments to your existing plan, in light of the pregnancy.
I have an old friend that I only know through the Internet. I'm not sure how we met. It was a long time ago. It was probably through a mailing list or some early Internet message board. We have a lot of similar interests so over the years we have kept in touch. We do not talk often, but every once in a while we send each other emails to see what is going on or to discuss something of mutual interest.
Perhaps some of your family members are not as motivated to make something out of their lives as you are. It is frustrating when that family member is a child or grandchild who just cannot seem to do anything with his or her life, who shows no desire to go to college and get a degree that can land them a good job.
It can be very difficult for adult children with aging parents to accept that the people who raised them are now coming to the age where they are not able to perform the same tasks that they used to be. If you have aging parents there may come a time when you will need to step in and begin managing some of their responsibilities for them.
You must think everything all the way through when you are interested in being totally and comprehensively prepared for the inevitable. With this in mind you would do well to make provisions for your dog when you are planning your estate. No one knows exactly when they will be passing away so you may think that you will live longer than your dog but in reality you have no guarantees.
Estate planning in the digital age is going to require communicating relevant information to your executor or personal representative. These days a lot of people conduct a significant amount of business online. Indeed, some individuals take care of just about everything over the Internet and it can be quite efficient to handle your affairs digitally.
Older Americans often use reverse mortgages to buy long-term care insurance, pay for medical treatments, finance home improvements or supplement income. There are different types of reverse mortgage available and only people who are 62 or older will qualify. Just because you may qualify, however, does not mean that you should be considering a reverse mortgage.
State law governs the distribution of your estate if you do not have a will or trust in place. Did you know that your spouse may receive only 1/3 of your estate when your pass away? Intestacy is the process governing the distribution of you estate should you pass away without a will or trust. In Oklahoma, the default rule for a family (with no step-children), is that only 1/3 of your estate will pass to your spouse if you unexpectedly pass away; the rest will pass to your children.
Depending on your needs, estate planning may be a simple or complex process. We believe that these three instruments are essential to protecting your loved ones and estate, should you become incapacitated or pass away unexpectedly. Regardless of the size of your estate, there are three estate planning instruments you should establish today.
The recent economic downturn have resulted in many of us tightening our belts. For most of us, this means having to forgo our annual overseas holidays, having to downgrade from going to restaurants to having our family meals at food court. Everyone is looking for ways to reduce their spending. We often overlook the very obvious method (and also substantial) savings through refinancing.
Have you ever considered whether or not your business could continue without you or your key employees? “Keyman Insurance” is an insurance policy designed to financially protect a business from the effects of prolonged illness or death of important employees of a business. Read this article to find out how your business can benefit from keyman insurance.
There is no doubt that you have heard a great deal of information bandied about regarding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) in the days since the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the law, in a 5-4 decision. All of the facts and figures can be confusing, especially since they all seem to conflict from day-to-day. So what kind of effect, if any, will the PPACA’s expansion of Medicaid have on private health insurance rates?
The estate tax and the gift tax are unified under the tax code. We would like to provide a basic explanation with regard to what exactly this means to you. You cannot simply give gifts while you are alive in an effort to circumvent the estate tax. There is a federal gift tax in place as well and it carries the same rate as the estate tax.
You may have heard the term "unified exclusion" if you have started to do any research into the field of estate planning as you look ahead toward your own future. What this is referring to is the amount of resources you can pass along to your loved ones without facing the prospect of paying a hefty tax.
The taxes that are imposed on transfers of assets are something to take very seriously when you are interested in wealth preservation. These taxes extend beyond the estate tax alone. There is also a gift tax, and it is unified with the estate tax under Internal Revenue Service regulations.
Nursing home costs are rising, which could be detrimental to your financial health should you find yourself in need of nursing home care, or even that of an assisted living community. In fact, the average annual cost for a nursing home is running around $75,000 per person. Having insurance won’t be much of a help since most insurance plans do not cover the costs associated with a nursing home.
It isn't uncommon for a new client to walk into an estate planning attorney's office and ask if the attorney can make a quick update to a Will. While updating a Will is possible and is generally not difficult, there are often complicating factors which will require you to take more time and to think carefully about how your updates will affect your estate plan. Here are a pair of issues you want to think about if you are intent on updating or changing your Will.
Estate planning involves making provisions for those that you care about, and with this in mind you must remember to include your pet. Yes, pet planning is an important part of any holistic estate plan and you must make sure that your pet will be properly cared for if you pass away first.
Many times it is not the big assets such as the house or bank accounts that cause fights among family members when an estate is divided. Deciding what to do with your personal items such as your favorite piece jewelry that has been handed down from six generations is what many people think of when they make an estate plan.
You must not avoid writing your will. In fact, it is your voice after you death. Your family and loved ones will be certain of your wishes. A carefully written will can avoid your assets going to unintended individuals, eliminate contests over the distribution of your possessions, can be used to create a trust, economical relative to intestate administration, and a will can be easily amended to fit changing circumstances.
Trusts are versatile, money saving instruments that are widely used to save on estate tax liability, ensure privacy, and provide for special needs in all situations. They must be explored as an alternaive to wills. What is a Will? - A will is a legal instrument that permits a person to make decisions on how his possessions will be managed and distributed after his death.
When parents of get older and have multiple children, one child may provide caretaking responsibilities for the parent. These added duties include care at home including chores such as cooking, cleaning, organizing, and any other duties that are associated with home care. Added duties can also include companionship and spending extra time with an older parent that may be lonely and alone otherwise.
It is important to be aggressive about tax planning in light of the heavy toll that the federal estate tax can take on your legacy. To be able to act intelligently you must gain an understanding of the taxation that is imposed on significant asset transfers and we will shed some light here.
It is a good idea to think things all the way through when you are engaged in the process of inheritance planning. Getting resources into the hands of your loved ones is of course the goal, but you would do well to consider the personality traits and financial capabilities of the people who will be receiving inheritances.
Although it is difficult to think about your own mortality, if you have minor children under the age of eighteen then it is something that you must consider for their own protection and well being. The estate plan that you come up with when you are still alive will greatly affect and shape the course of their entire lives.
Oklahoma City estate planning attorneys are licensed to provide legal services to their clients. They are bound by professional guidelines. That means you have a high degree of certainty that the documents that are prepared by a member of the Oklahoma Bar Association will stand up under the scrutiny of the probate court.
To be able to proceed intelligently when you are planning your estate you must have an understanding of the relevant tax laws. There are those who think that it is not fair, but acts of giving while you are alive or after you pass away are taxable.
For many elderly Americans, the golden years are fraught with concerns over money instead of spent sitting on the front porch sipping iced tea. Social Security does not provide the average retiree enough income to live on comfortably. Employer sponsored pensions and retirement accounts are virtually unheard of anymore.
The Jefferson’s was always one of the funniest television shows around. It's still funnier than most of the shows that have come afterwards. What is not funny is what has happened to the star of the show, Sherman Helmsley, after he passed away. I mean literally what has happened to him. He died two months ago and his body has still not been laid to rest.
There are certain pitfalls that go along with this and you should be aware of them before making any final decisions. During probate anyone who wanted to contest the will could step forward and present his or her case and the probate court would hear these arguments.
Some families are blessed with a child that is extremely successful in terms of wealth. This condition can make planning an estate more challenging than it would normally be. Making an estate plan as a parent that has one child that is more successful than the other children can present some difficulties if you do not properly plan ahead.
An interesting case in Missouri has made headlines recently regarding the use of an alleged forged estate planning document resulting in first-degree murder charges. William Van Note, a 67 year-old retiree, and his long-time girlfriend, Sharon Dickson, were shot during a home invasion in 2010, killing Dickson and critically injuring Van Note, wounding him with a gunshot to the head.
The process of divorce is extremely emotional and stressful for people, so, as a result, it is quite easy to overlook important details. One such important detail to remember after receiving a divorce is to check the beneficiaries listed on any life insurance policies, wills, trusts, IRAs, 401(k)’s and other employer-provided plans or similar documents.
There is nothing unusual about making an inheritance conditional on something else. Conditional gifts are as old as estate planning itself. For example, inheritances are often conditioned on the heir or beneficiary reaching a particular age or graduating from college. Most people do not see any controversy in these conditions.
Many people have a very similar problem. They want to know how to save enough for their own retirement and still have money left over to leave an inheritance to their children. It is a problem that does not have any easy answers.
On our blog, we have recently been posting about the Presidential candidates proposals for changing the estate tax and investment taxes. The two candidates' proposals couldn't be more different, especially on the estate tax, which Romney would seek to eliminate. Because of the uncertainty about who will win the election, some people might be tempted to put off getting an estate plan until after the election. That would be a mistake.
For many people, a comprehensive estate plan includes one or more trusts. Trusts offer numerous advantages such as flexibility, control and both tax and probate avoidance in some cases. Although there are a wide variety of trusts that you can choose from when you decide to create a trust, all trusts require the same basic elements to start—a beneficiary, a trustee and funds.
In today’s digital age, identity theft is a serious concern for everyone. Not only is stealing an identity potentially easier in the electronic age, but once an identity has been stolen, a considerable amount of damage can be done in a relatively short period of time. Sometimes, the damage cannot be repaired, leaving victims without their life savings in their golden years.
One of the most common reasons people give for not creating a comprehensive estate plan is that they do not believe they have enough assets to warrant creating one. While there are reasons apart from assets why creating an estate plan is important, you might also be surprised at the hidden assets you have that do warrant creating an estate plan.
Making an estate plan is an important step in taking control of your financial life, but you must have an accurate and complete picture of your overall net worth and potential for growth of your net worth in the future. It is very easy to underestimate the size of your estate when making your estate plan. This could potentially be harmful for your estate and reduce the amount that your heirs receive.
What does it mean when an attorney tells you that something is probate property? What about non-probate property? If you don’t know, then you should keep reading. When someone dies, he or she is called a decedent, and the property that they owned will be classified as being either probate property or non-probate property.
It is nice to be able to achieve multiple objectives through a single action and in many cases this can be done in the financial planning field. For those who are seeking asset protection, income, and estate tax benefits, Alaska trusts may be just one of these very efficient multipurpose tools.
Sometimes you can be motivated by the difficulties that others have experienced and avoid the pitfalls that led them into unenviable positions. With this in mind we would like to highlight the findings of a study of interest to the elder law community that was recently conducted by experts associated with the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Why regulation of will writing in the UK is a good thing. Good news. In the UK will writing is going to be regulated by approved regulators. This means that anyone who writes a will or someone else must pass exams, keep up to date with recent developments etc.
When one is coming up with an estate plan there is a common practice that some people engage in. That practice is putting their name on a bank account with their child or what is also known as having the bank account titled jointly. There are reasons to title a bank account jointly with a child that would convince someone that this would be a good idea.
When websites that offer do-it-yourself estate planning documents started to appear and advertise aggressively licensed attorneys began cautioning people about utilizing these downloads and worksheets. There is really no substitute for legally binding documents constructed by a licensed professional who is a member of the Bar Association right here in the state of Nevada.
We like to pass along news about the estate planning successes and failures of celebrities from time to time and there is an interesting situation unfolding around the estate of the recently deceased comedic actor Sherman Hemsley.
For many of us, how our funeral is handled when we die is important. You may have very specific ideas about what type of service you want and whether you wish to be buried or cremated. Although you may have expressed your desires to family members or loved ones, there is no guarantee that those desires will be taken into account when you actually die.
When you are looking for the facts with regard to products and services a highly respected go-to resource is Consumer Reports. Their website and their hard copy magazine are great sources of information, and their research is conducted in a totally objective and unbiased manner.
When you finally decide that it is time to make your estate plan you will have to schedule a meeting with an estate planning attorney. There will come a point when the conversation with your estate planning attorney may get uncomfortable or personal and you feel that you should not reveal everything and hold some information back.
People sometimes choose to take steps to enable the future transfer of their assets to their loved ones outside of the probate process. When you use a last will your estate must be probated, and there are certain pitfalls that go along with this course of action.
Consumer Reports magazine tackled a subject that is near and dear to estate planning attorneys recently and we would like to pass along the results. You may be aware of the fact that there are some websites on the Internet that will provide visitors with do-it yourself estate planning documents.
When it comes to honoring your last wishes regarding your funeral and burial, are you sure that your family will do so? What if you want to be buried in an Elvis costume? Or maybe you want to be cremated and your wife doesn’t believe in cremation. It could be that you have always wanted an Irish wake when you die but your family cannot imagine such a thing.
Estate planning attorneys will tell you to take pause before assuming that you can simply and easily execute your own estate plan using downloads that you purchase off the Internet. While the discerning individual may see the obvious logic here, there are those who take a more cynical approach. They suggest that attorneys would guide you away from these do-it-yourself resources because they are in the business of drawing up legally binding documents for their clients.
The average American probably spends a lot more time planning for a vacation than they do planning their estate. If you haven't already done so, vacation planning can provide you a good reason to begin your estate planning efforts. All you have to do is think about what might happen to you and your family if an emergency should arise while you are on vacation.
Question 1: Are There Different Types Of Co-Ownership of Property? Yes, and not all types of property co-ownership avoid probate. The different ownership types include tenancy in common, joint tenancy with right of survivorship and tenancy by the entirety.
If you have created a last Will and testament you know that it took some time and effort to create a document that served your individual situation and your desires. Likewise, if you have experienced a significant life change or have changed your mind about your will decisions, you should know that making changes to the will may also require the same attention to detail.
When you are a young adult you have a unique opportunity. You can make the choice to begin saving for retirement early on during your career. If you do you will be very happy about making that decision later on.
Success is the name of the game, but unfortunately the fruition of your financial goals can present some tax challenges. If your assets exceed a certain amount after you pass away your heirs are potentially subject to the Federal estate tax.
There are times when you may hear someone make the case for a simple solution to a complex problem and find yourself buying into this self-styled notion. When it comes to estate planning, you would do well to scratch below the surface and think long and hard before adopting pseudo-solutions that may be too good to be true.
There comes a time when you must decide what your estate plan will ultimately look like. Plans for your estate come in many different forms, but one key distinction to make between choices is the plan you want versus the plan you need. The plan that you want may not always be the plan that you need.
A client recently shared a story with me. He explained that when he was a young child, he used to spend a lot of time at his grandparents' house. They always treated him kindly and had fresh, homemade food. He loved his grandmother's pickles. As he got a little bit older, he started asking them about various things. They always did their best to answer his questions. Looking back, he said that many of their answers were not exactly accurate, but they were not harmful either.
Sometimes you make a decision that seems like an economical one at the moment, but this attempt to save money can actually have the reverse result. In the end unintended consequences can arise and they can sometimes be extremely costly. This is something to keep firmly in mind when you are thinking about constructing an estate plan on your own using an online download of some sort.
There are those who decide that opening a joint account or accounts is a substitute for a properly constructed estate plan. After all they reason, if you have a last will professionally drawn up you will be choosing an executor. This is going to have to be someone that you trust to take care of things in accordance with your wishes.
If you have a spendthrift heir you may want to take steps to make sure that this family member does not burn through his or her inheritance too quickly. Once you are gone this inheritance can be the only thing standing between a particular individual and extreme financial hardship, so the stakes are high.
The National Bureau of Economic Research recently took on the subject of retirement preparedness. There are some 10,000 baby boomers applying for Social Security every day and this volume is expected to continue for some 20 years. As a result, huge numbers of people are approaching retirement and experts in the elder law field are looking for answers with regard to just how these individuals will fare economically during their senior years.