Estate Planning Articles
Some of these articles have been written by our law firm and other articles are written by the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys and compliments of our law firm. Any feedback or questions about the articles can be addressed by contacting our office.
Just because you receive an inheritance does not mean you have to accept the assets. You have the right to disclaim the inheritance, which can be beneficial in some circumstances.
Selecting your trustee is a critical decision because that person will be responsible for making sure your wishes are carried out in your estate plan. But what should you do if there’s tension between that person and other family members? Find out why relationships matter when selecting your trustee.
Loaning Family Money – What You Need To Know Loaning Family Money – What You Need To Know Written By: The American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys People lend money to family members for a variety of reasons.
Compliments of Our Law Firm,
Written By: The American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys
Every year, about 6,000 babies with Down syndrome are born in the United States. Over their lifetimes, many of these children will contend with serious medical conditions including heart defects, gastrointestinal problems, visual or hearing impairment, dementia, and early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. As a result, the costs associated with Down syndrome can be astronomical and many of those with the condition receive public benefits, such as Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
All parents want their children to be happy and to enjoy long-term financial stability, and parents whose children have Down syndrome often believe the best way to accomplish this is to leave money to their children using a Will, a life insurance policy, or a retirement account. However, leaving money directly to the child can disqualify him or her from receiving much-needed benefits. For example, under SSI rules, a recipient is limited to $2,000 in assets. If a recipient has property valued more than this amount, his or her benefits are suspended until those assets are “spent down” below the $2,000 threshold.
This means that the unintended consequence of an inheritance or even a big gift from grandma could result in a loss of valuable benefits.
What is the best way to plan for long-term financial security for your child? One solution is to establish a Special Needs Trust.
Under the terms of a Special Needs Trust, a Trustee manages trust property to ensure that it will remain a long-term source of funds for the child. The Trustee has discretion to distribute trust assets to (or on behalf of) the child, as long as he or she follows strict rules that forbid the use of Special Needs Trusts for any of the services covered by government benefits. In a nutshell, Medicaid and SSI benefits continue to cover the basics, while trust assets can be used to provide a child with the “extras” that enhance quality of life.
Often, parents opt for a Special Needs Trust that goes into effect when they die, but this isn’t the only choice. You can also establish a trust that takes effect during your lifetime. There are a number of advantages to establishing such a trust. For instance:
- Substantial gifts to your child from grandparents and other family members can be paid into the trust without fear that they’ll interrupt your child’s benefits.
- Funds you have earmarked for your child’s care can be transferred to the trust. After the transfer, they’ll be treated as separate assets – not yours and not your child’s. This way, the funds will be out of reach of your creditors and safe in the event of divorce. The Trustee you’ve selected will manage them on behalf of your child, so you can rest assured the funds will be put to their best possible use.
For more information about Special Needs Trusts, talk to an experienced estate planning attorney. He or she can help you sort through all your options and establish a comprehensive plan that meets the needs of your child and your entire family.
For most people, dying without an estate plan means burdening loved ones with added inconvenience, delay and expense. For same-sex couples, however, dying without an estate plan can spell disaster. Find out why and learn what you can do about it.
A little nervous about your first estate planning consultation? Don’t be. Here’s what to expect.
Women’s roles in society and within the family have shifted dramatically over the past several generations and women have more earning power than ever before, yet too many wives take a backseat to their husbands when the subject of estate planning comes up. Here are five things every woman should know when it comes to estate planning.
Congress pulled America back from the fiscal cliff when it passed the American Taxpayer Relief Act on New Year’s Day. The law covers a range of issues, form income taxes to the estate tax. Learn the specifics and find out how the new law will affect you and your family.
Estate planning is only for wealthy people who want to reduce their estate taxes, right? Wrong! Only a tiny percentage of Americans need to worry about estate taxes but every adult needs an estate plan. Find out why.
It’s time to make your New Year’s resolutions. This year, consider adding a review of your estate planning options to your list. Whether or not you already have an estate plan in place, a careful review of your planning options will ensure that you protect your family and assets and leave a lasting legacy. This article reviews some estate planning information for you to consider for this New Year.
Have you ever been invited to an estate planning seminar, but been hesitant to attend? When a seminar is conducted by a licensed estate planning attorney, it can be the perfect way to learn about your planning options. Here’s how an estate planning seminar can help you.
Giving to charity is wonderful way to support your favorite cause, and it makes you feel great. But what if you want to go the extra mile and make a larger than usual contribution? Here are three ways the IRS rewards you for including philanthropy in your estate plan.
What would you do if you suddenly became wealthy? Did you know that there are certain steps you should take if you win the lottery, inherit a fortune, or receive some other form of a windfall? Find out how to make the most of sudden riches – and how to avoid financial trouble.
Your home is likely your family’s most valuable asset, not only emotionally, but also financially. Read this article to learn how you can take advantage of the tax, estate planning, and asset protection benefits available to you as a homeowner.
Owning assets outside the United States raises a number of estate planning questions: Who gets your property when you pass away? What taxes are due? And how should your estate plan in the U.S. be tailored to ensure that all your property – here and abroad – is transferred as efficiently and effectively as possible?
Joint tenancy is a popular form of property ownership, primarily because when one owner dies, title to the property automatically re-vests in the surviving joint tenants. But using joint tenancy to avoid probate can create more problems than it solves.
People tend to think of estate planning as something that only the wealthy or the elderly need to do. In truth, regardless of your age, your situation in life, or your level of wealth, estate planning accomplishes a few universal goals.
You might not realize the advantages a low interest rate environment can offer for estate tax planning. Let’s take a look at just a few.
Sometimes, in an attempt to avoid thinking about the worst, we miss the opportunity to do the best for our loved ones. A comprehensive estate plan can help you confront your fears in a way that will ease your family’s responsibilities, should the unexpected happen.
Keeping your special needs child secure after you are gone takes special planning. The right techniques can ensure both your child’s well-being and your peace of mind.
Insurance has a number of uses as an estate planning tool. It helps protect and preserve your estate, giving you more to pass on to your loved ones. It also has special characteristics that allow you to position your estate for sophisticated estate planning. Learn about the basic categories of insurance and how they strengthen your estate plan.
The draft of your new Trust makes you wonder if your estate planning attorney gets paid by the word. Is all this verbiage really necessary? In fact, a good plan has many points to cover.
It can be a surprise to find yourself caring for elderly parents at the same time that you’re raising your own children. The emotional demands of these multiple roles are often coupled with financial challenges as well. That’s why it’s important to know when you can claim your aging or ill parent as a dependent for income tax purposes.
As Trusts gain popularity, a question comes up more and more often: who pays the income tax on a Trust? It seems like a simple inquiry, but the answer can be hard to pin down. So, who does pay income tax on a Trust? Here is the answer, in a nutshell.
You might have heard the word basis used in reference to taxes. Learn the definition of basis and how it can make a big difference in your estate plan.
If you’ve been chosen to serve as a Trustee, what responsibilities can you expect? Learn about the basic duties that come with this important and sometimes daunting job, and find out where you can go for guidance.
The estate planning process presents a number of opportunities for using asset protection strategies to protect yourself and your loved ones. Learn about asset protection, and avoid these four common pitfalls.
Although your Will or Trust might be the last thing on your mind as you prepare to move, this is actually an ideal time to review and update your estate plan. Find out why.
Life is full of surprises. None of us have a crystal ball, and this means it is unreasonable to create an estate plan without flexibility regarding your long-term wishes for your loved ones. When you build flexibility into your estate plan with a power of appointment, you can empower your spouse or children to stand in your place and make decisions based on your family’s changed circumstances.
Could you be married and not even realize it? If you live in a state that recognizes common law marriage, you could be married even without a marriage license or an official ceremony. Find out how common law marriage affects your estate plan and what you can do about it.
Your estate plan is prepared. Your Living Trust is in place and properly funded, you have a Pour-Over Will just in case, and your incapacity plan is ready and waiting in the event you need it. Is it time to part ways with your attorney? Not at all! In fact, your relationship with your estate planning attorney has just started.
If your children have reached adulthood, you might assume it’s best to leave them their inheritances outright, with no restrictions. However, you want to make sure your children enjoy flexibility in accessing and using their inheritances while minimizing the impact of taxes, divorce, lawsuits, and other threats. Therefore, it might be better to leave their inheritances in a Trust.
When you use a Will to plan your estate, much of your personal information becomes public after your death. A Trust can help you accomplish your estate planning goals while shielding your personal affairs from prying eyes.
If you want to leave a true legacy, a traditional estate plan is not enough. With Legacy Planning, you can pass on your values, wisdom, and family heritage along with your nest egg. You can also provide your children’s inheritances with just the right amount of protection from the threats and challenges of life.
Your mom and dad have always been there to guide you through life’s challenges. Now, the tables are turning. Learn some strategies for gently helping your parents plan for the challenges they’re likely to face as they age.
Most of us have daydreamed about inheriting money, but the reality of inheriting often doesn’t match our dreams. In the real world, an inheritance can bring with it a number of questions and worries. Here we address four common concerns about inheritances.
Estate planning is on everyone’s “should do” list, but it rarely seems to make it to the top of the “to do” list. Perhaps this is because of all the myths surrounding the estate planning process. Here are five common estate planning myths, along with the truths behind them.
Choosing between a traditional IRA and a Roth IRA can have significant tax and estate planning consequences. Whether a Roth is the right option depends on a number of factors, including an account owner’s current income, anticipated post-retirement income, and estate planning goals.
The U.S. Congress continually debates the estate tax, often considering whether or not it should be done away with entirely. Many people think this tax is a cornerstone of estate planning, so if it’s eliminated, they don’t need an estate plan. Nothing is further from the truth. This article explains why.
You’ve heard the maxim, “It’s better to give than to receive.” Americans take this aphorism to heart, especially as it relates to contributions to charity. Did you know that our tax laws actually encourage charitable giving? This article will explain gift-giving options from small to large, each with tax-savings implications.
Ranch life comes with its own particular challenges and rewards. Therefore, ranch families have even more need for professional advice than other families when it comes to finding the most effective means of passing on their assets, which may be more substantial than they suppose. This article explores various means that can be employed to create an estate plan which minimizes taxes and distributes assets equitably.
Time passes quickly. Life brings change. While these may seem like platitudes, they reflect the truth of most people’s lives. This article will encourage you to recognize a new life stage as an opportunity to review and fine tune your estate plan.
The financial consequences of a divorce can be costly. You can do things right now to protect future generations in your family from suffering financial devastation after a breakup.
Divorce is bad enough, but did you know that your children and new spouse can suffer financial devastation if you do not remember to change your estate planning documents after a divorce?
Who should you entrust with planning your estate? Unfortunately, the estate planning industry can be a mixed bag. Along with licensed, qualified attorneys there are unqualified, or even unlicensed, individuals producing cookie-cutter estate plans that may or may not work as intended. Find out why you should choose your estate planning practitioner wisely.
You and your spouse have worked hard to save for your golden years. But have you planned for a long, secure retirement if one of you outlives the other? Here’s how paying attention to certain key financial areas can set both of you up for a secure, worry-free retirement.
When you compare a do-it-yourself living trust with one that was prepared by a qualified estate planning attorney, one of the first things you’re likely to notice is that the attorney-prepared trust is long. And it might not be so easy to read. There’s a good reason for this. This article discusses the reasons why planning for contingencies with an attorney drafted estate plan is the better choice. When it comes to estate planning, there’s any number of contingencies to prepare for.
Estate planning is not just for the wealthy. The truth is, estate planning is about achieving some pretty common goals and taking care of basic responsibilities, regardless of how big or small our investment portfolio happens to be.
We’re all exposed to invasions of our privacy, large and small, during our lifetimes and even after death. These practical strategies make it easier to shield your family’s personal affairs from prying eyes.
When you really think about it, your true wealth is much more than just your accumulated assets or material possessions. With the right plan, you can protect and preserve your true wealth and create a legacy for your family that will last for generations to come.
When you are planning your estate, it is important to remember that circumstances rarely stay the same over long periods of time. A plan that worked for your family when the kids were little may very well be obsolete by the time they’ve started families of their own. This is why it’s important to ensure that you build flexibility into your plan.
Increasingly, pet owners are not just worried about providing for our pets during our lifetimes, we want to ensure that they get all the love and care they need after we’re gone, too. This article discusses the estate planning benefits a Pet Trust can provide for your furry and feathered animal companions.
It’s not something we often stop to think about, but attorneys experience life changes like anyone else. They may change careers or experience an illness or disability, or they may retire or even pass away. This article discusses the steps you should take if your estate planning lawyer no longer practices law.
The term “estate planning” usually calls to mind the process of creating a Will, establishing a Living Trust, or naming a guardian for young children. One piece of the estate planning puzzle that might not be readily apparent, though, is insurance. Learn how insurance in its many forms plays an important role in the estate planning process.
According to data collected in the 2010 census, 4.9 million children under age eighteen live in grandparent-headed households. If you are in this growing number of grandparents returning to your “parent” role again, one of the pressing responsibilities that accompany your job as caregiver is to make sure you have a plan for your grandchildren in the event that something happens to you. And because you’re older now than you were the first time around, planning becomes even more important. This article reviews why it is imperative to have an estate plan in place and what a basic plan should include.
As a child, your parents were there to guide and support you as you faced life’s challenges and obstacles in your path growing up. Similarly, as your parents age, and become less independent, they will rely on you as they face new challenges in their twilight years. This article examines how planning well in advance is important to ensure that no matter what lies ahead, their care and financial affairs will be looked after. Regardless of their financial means, if they are wealthy or of more modest means, there is a plan that can meet the specific needs of your family.
Picture this… You’re at the end of your long, fulfilling life and you’re ready to say goodbye to your loved ones and leave this world in peace. And then… your family declares war on each other. This scenario plays out all too often even in the closest of families. This article examines helpful ways to plan and avoid divisive family disputes after you are gone.
An alarming 55% of American’s don’t have an estate plan in place. Procrastination is a common excuse. However, for many people it’s a lack of knowledge about estate planning, including the benefits, their options and the protections it offers them and their families. This article reviews 10 essential estate planning facts that will arm with you with enough knowledge to cross estate planning off your “to do” list.
A Roth IRA has some important distinctions from a traditional IRA, and, depending on your tax bracket, your retirement needs, and your estate planning goals, a Roth could be a better choice for you. So, what’s the difference between the two types of IRAs? This article explores how each IRA works and which option can best fit your personal needs and goals.