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Making will revisions by hand is rarely a good idea

Posted On: MAY 2024

The laws regarding the execution of a valid will vary from state to state, but typically they require certain formalities.

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Conservation easements are under IRS scrutiny

Posted On: MAY 2024

For many years, conservation easements have been a powerful estate planning tool that enable taxpayers to receive income and estate tax benefits while continuing to own and enjoy the properties. So it’s no surprise that the IRS

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When providing for your children, one trust may be better than two

Posted On: MAY 2024

One of the most effective ways to provide for your children in your estate plan is to set up trusts for them. Trusts offer many benefits, including the flexibility of when and how to make distributions, protection of assets from beneficiaries’

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Look it up: A glossary of key estate planning terms

Posted On: APRIL 2024

Estate planning has a language all its own. While you may be familiar with common terms such as a will, a trust or an executor, you may not be as certain about others.

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A living will is an important addition to your overall estate plan

Posted On: APRIL 2024

A living will could provide peace of mind for both you and your family should the unthinkable occur. Yet many people neglect to draft this important estate planning document.

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When one trustee isn’t enough, consider appointing a trust protector

Posted On: APRIL 2024

Irrevocable trusts can allow for the smooth, tax-advantaged transfer of wealth to family members. But there’s a drawback: When you set up an irrevocable trust, you must relinquish control of the assets placed in it.

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What are your options to fund long-term care expenses?

Posted On: MARCH 2024

Few things can derail your estate plan as quickly as unanticipated long-term care (LTC) expenses. Most people will need some form of LTC — such as a nursing home or an assisted living facility stay — at some point in their lives. And the cost of this care is steep.

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April 15 is the deadline to file a gift tax return

Posted On: MARCH 2024

When creating or revising your estate plan, it’s important to take into account all of your loved ones. Because each family has its own unique set of circumstances, there are a variety of trusts and other vehicles available to specifically address most families’ estate planning objectives.

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Take care of a loved one who has special needs with a special needs trust

Posted On: FEBRUARY 2024

When creating or revising your estate plan, it’s important to take into account all of your loved ones. Because each family has its own unique set of circumstances, there are a variety of trusts and other vehicles available to specifically address most families’ estate planning objectives.

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Addressing your elderly parents in your estate plan in 5 steps

Posted On: FEBRUARY 2024

Typically, an estate plan includes accommodations for your spouse, children, grandchildren and even future generations. But some members of the family can be overlooked, such as your parents or in-laws. Yet the older generation may also need your financial assistance.

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Is it time to review your beneficiary designations?

Posted On: FEBRUARY 2024

A will or revocable trust may form the core of your estate plan, but for many people, a substantial amount of wealth bypasses these traditional estate planning tools and is transferred to their loved ones through beneficiary designations. These “nonprobate assets” may include IRAs and certain employer-sponsored retirement accounts, life insurance policies, and some bank or brokerage accounts.

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Married couples: Joint or separate trusts?

Posted On: FEBRUARY 2024

Revocable trusts are a key component of many estate plans. Among other things, these trusts allow you to minimize probate expenses, keep your financial affairs private and provide for the management of your assets in the event you become incapacitated. They also offer flexibility: You’re free to amend the terms of the trust or even revoke it altogether at any time.

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Beware of tax traps when estate planning for non-U.S. citizens

Posted On: FEBRUARY 2024

If you’re not a U.S. citizen, or if you’re married to a noncitizen, estate planning can be a bit more complicated. To avoid costly tax traps, it’s important to have a basic understanding of how the U.S. gift and estate tax laws apply to noncitizens.

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Your beneficiary designations may be obsolete: Review and update as needed

Posted On: JANUARY 2024

The chances are good that you’ve made beneficiary designations in your estate plan. Indeed, for most people, a substantial amount of wealth is transferred to their loved ones that way.

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You’ve left specific assets to specific heirs

Posted On: JANUARY 2024

When creating your estate plan, it may be tempting to leave specific assets to specific loved ones. Perhaps you want your oldest child to have the family home or a stock that has sentimental — as well as financial — value. Unfortunately, by doing so you risk inadvertently disinheriting other family members, even if you’ve gone out of your way to ensure that they’re treated fairly. Consider the following example:

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A power of attorney is a critical component of an effective estate plan

Posted On: JANUARY 2024

While much of your estate plan focuses on actions that take place after death, it’s equally important to have a plan for making critical financial or medical decisions if you’re unable to make them for yourself during your lifetime. This is why including a power of attorney in your estate plan is a must.

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Comparing inter vivos and testamentary trusts

Posted On: JANUARY 2024

Creating and adhering to an estate plan is no simple task. Generally, the end goal of estate planning is to divide up and transfer assets to loved ones at minimal or zero tax cost. Of course, a will is a good starting point, but it may be supplemented by various other estate planning techniques, including trusts.

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Pay attention to securities laws when planning your estate

Posted On: JANUARY 2024

Do your assets include unregistered securities, such as restricted stocks or interests in hedge funds or private equity funds? If so, it’s important to consider the securities laws that may be involved in various estate planning strategies.

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How planning can minimize the impact of income taxes

Posted On: JANUARY 2024

Until recently, estate planning strategies generally focused on removing as much wealth as possible from one’s estate to avoid the bite of federal estate tax. Although there were income tax advantages to retaining assets in an estate, the estate tax costs usually eclipsed any potential income tax savings.

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Preserve wealth for future generations with a spendthrift trust

Posted On: JANUARY 2024

Is protecting your wealth after it’s been transferred to beneficiaries just as important to you as reducing the tax liability on the transfers? If so, attaching spendthrift language to a trust can provide you peace of mind that your hard-earned wealth won’t be frivolously spent by your heirs or seized by their creditors. Indeed, the benefit of a spendthrift trust is that it restricts a beneficiary’s ability to access trust funds.

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Documenting charitable donations is critical

Posted On: JANUARY 2024

Taxpayers who itemize deductions are entitled to deduct charitable donations, subject to certain requirements and limitations. One of the requirements is the need to substantiate charitable gifts with documentation that satisfies the tax code and IRS regulations.

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A hybrid DAPT can offer the asset protection you need

Posted On: JANUARY 2024

Asset protection is a vital part of estate planning. Indeed, you want to pass on as much of your wealth to family and friends as possible. This can be achieved only if you shield your assets from frivolous creditors’ claims and lawsuits.

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Higher interest rates spark interest in charitable remainder trusts

Posted On: DECEMBER 2023

If you wish to leave a charitable legacy while generating income during your lifetime, a charitable remainder trust (CRT) may be a viable solution. In addition to an income stream, CRTs offer an up-front charitable income tax deduction, as well as a vehicle for disposing of appreciated assets without immediate taxation on the gain. Plus, unlike certain other strategies, CRTs become more attractive if interest rates are high. Thus, in the current environment, that makes them particularly effective.

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Year end is gift-giving time: Use the annual gift tax exclusion to the max

Posted On: DECEMBER 2023

With the holidays approaching, you might be considering making gifts of stock or cash to family members and other loved ones. By using the annual gift tax exclusion, those gifts — within generous limits — can reduce your taxable estate. Indeed, in 2023, the annual gift exclusion amount is $17,000 per recipient. (In 2024, the amount will increase to $18,000 per recipient.)

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Have you made and communicated your funeral arrangements?

Posted On: DECEMBER 2023

One aspect of estate planning that isn’t always covered is the ability to make your funeral arrangements in advance. Of course, for many people it can be difficult to think about their mortality. Indeed, it’s not surprising to learn that many put off planning their own funerals. Unfortunately, this lack of planning may result in emotional turmoil for surviving family members when someone dies unexpectedly.

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Naming a guardian is critical for parents of young children

Posted On: DECEMBER 2023

If you’re the parent of young children, you’ve probably put a lot of thought into raising your kids, ranging from their schools to their activities to their religious upbringing. But have you considered what would happen to them if you — and your spouse if you’re married — should suddenly die? Will the children be forced to live with relatives they don’t know or become entangled in a custody battle? Fortunately, you can avoid a worst-case scenario with some advance estate planning.

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Owning assets jointly with a child may not be the right estate planning strategy

Posted On: OCTOBER 2023

There’s a common misconception that owning assets jointly with a child or other heir is an effective estate planning shortcut. While this strategy has a certain appeal, it can invite a variety of unwelcome consequences that may quickly outweigh any potential benefits.

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Payable-on-death accounts require careful coordination with your estate plan

Posted On: OCTOBER 2023

Payable-on-death (POD) accounts can provide a quick, simple and inexpensive way to transfer assets outside of probate. They can be used for bank accounts, certificates of deposit and even brokerage accounts.

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Are you considering moving to a new state to minimize estate tax?

Posted On: OCTOBER 2023

With the gift and estate tax exemption amount at $12.92 million for 2023, only a small percentage of families are subject to federal estate tax. While that’s certainly a relief, state estate tax also must be considered in estate planning.

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Four ways to build flexibility into your estate plan

Posted On: OCTOBER 2023

January 1, 2026, is a significant date for estate planning. On that day, the federal gift and estate tax exemption amount set by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will sunset. Currently, the inflation-adjusted exemption stands at $12.92 million ($25.84 million for married couples). But in 2026, it’s scheduled to drop to only $5 million ($10 million for married couples). Based on current estimates, those figures are expected to be adjusted for inflation to $6.08 million and $12.16 million, respectively.

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Can you undo an irrevocable life insurance trust?

Posted On: OCTOBER 2023

For years, people have been setting up irrevocable life insurance trusts (ILITs) to avoid estate tax on the death benefits paid out under their life insurance policies. But what if you have an ILIT that you no longer need? Does its irrevocable nature mean you’re stuck with it forever? Not necessarily.

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You’re not sure whether your trust deposits are fully insured

Posted On: SEPTEMBER 2023

Recent bank failures have increased concerns about the availability of Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) coverage for bank accounts held in trust. The rules regarding insurance of trust accounts are complex, and new rules will take effect on April 1, 2024.

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The right trust for your blended family

Posted On: SEPTEMBER 2023

If you’re currently in a second marriage and have older children from your first marriage, this trust should be of interest to you: a qualified terminable interest property (QTIP) trust. It can provide future security for both your surviving spouse and your children from a prior marriage. Plus, it can provide flexibility to your estate plan. Let’s take a closer look at the ins and outs of a QTIP trust.

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An art collection is a special asset to account for in an estate plan

Posted On: SEPTEMBER 2023

Some assets pose more of a challenge than others when it comes to valuing and accounting for them in an estate plan. Take, for instance, an art collection. If you possess paintings, sculptures or other pieces of art, they may represent a significant portion of your estate. Here are a few options available to address an art collection in your estate plan.

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Did your spouse’s estate make a portability election? If not, there may still be time

Posted On: SEPTEMBER 2023

Portability helps minimize federal gift and estate tax by allowing a surviving spouse to use a deceased spouse’s unused gift and estate tax exemption amount. Currently, the exemption is $12.92 million, but it’s scheduled to return to an inflation-adjusted $5 million on January 1, 2026.

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Avoiding probate: How to do it (and why)

Posted On: AUGUST 2023

Few estate planning subjects are as misunderstood as probate. But circumventing the probate process is usually a good idea, and several tools are available to help you do just that.

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To avoid confusion after your death, have only an original, signed will

Posted On: AUGUST 2023

The need for a will as a key component of your estate plan may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised by the number of people — even affluent individuals — who don’t have one. In the case of the legendary “Queen of Soul” Aretha Franklin, she had more than one, which after her death led to confusion, pain and, ultimately, a court trial among her surviving family members.

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Yes, you still need an estate plan even if you’re single, without children

Posted On: AUGUST 2023

There’s a common misconception that only married couples with children need estate plans. In fact, estate planning may be even more important for single people without children. Why? Because for married couples, the law makes certain assumptions about who should make financial or medical decisions on their behalf should they become incapacitated and who should inherit their property if they die.

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How can an estate plan be kept vital after death?

Posted On: AUGUST 2023

When a loved one passes away, you might think that the options for his or her estate plan have also been laid to rest. But that isn’t necessarily the case. Indeed, there may be postmortem tactics the deceased’s executor (or personal representative), spouse or beneficiaries can employ to help keep his or her estate plan on track.

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Estate planning in a digital world

Posted On: AUGUST 2023

Today, virtually everyone owns (or licenses) digital assets, from email and social media accounts to digital photos and videos to online banking and brokerage accounts. Unlike traditional, physical assets, digital assets leave little or no “paper trail.”

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Contributing to a 401(k) plan

Posted On: AUGUST 2023

Most employers’ 401(k) plans give you the option of making contributions on a pre-tax (traditional) or after-tax (Roth) basis. So, how do you decide which is right for you? The answer depends on several factors, including your current and expected future tax circumstances and your estate planning goals.

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Decisions, decisions

Posted On: JULY 2023

Having a backup plan is never a bad idea. Indeed, the same line of thinking applies to your estate plan. Specifically, it’s important to name a successor fiduciary. This person can step in and take over if your executor or a trustee is no longer able to perform their duties.

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You’re considering a self-directed IRA

Posted On: JULY 2023

An IRA can be a valuable tool in your retirement and estate planning arsenal, but what if you’re not satisfied with its performance? One option is to set up a “self-directed” IRA.

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The time to make health care decisions is when you’re healthy

Posted On: JULY 2023

When it comes to estate planning, your ultimate goal likely is to provide for your family after your death. To achieve this goal, consider placing assets in an irrevocable trust to protect against creditors and drafting a will to clearly state who gets what.

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How to address your frequent flyer miles in your estate plan

Posted On: JULY 2023

If you’re a frequent traveler, you may have accumulated hundreds of thousands or even millions of frequent flyer miles. The value of these miles may be significant, so it’s important to determine whether you can include them in your estate plan and share them with your loved ones.

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The time to make health care decisions is when you’re healthy

Posted On: JULY 2023

When it comes to estate planning, your ultimate goal likely is to provide for your family after your death. To achieve this goal, consider placing assets in an irrevocable trust to protect against creditors and drafting a will to clearly state who gets what.

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How to address your frequent flyer miles in your estate plan

Posted On: JULY 2023

If you’re a frequent traveler, you may have accumulated hundreds of thousands or even millions of frequent flyer miles. The value of these miles may be significant, so it’s important to determine whether you can include them in your estate plan and share them with your loved ones.

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Prepare for an uncertain federal gift and estate tax exemption amount with a SLAT

Posted On: JUNE 2023

For 2023, the federal gift and estate tax exemption amount stands at $12.92 million ($25.84 million for married couples). But without action from Congress, on January 1, 2026, it’s scheduled to drop to only $5 million ($10 million for married couples). Based on current estimates, those figures are expected to be adjusted for inflation to a little over $6 million and $12 million, respectively.

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If your family owns a vacation home, address it carefully in your estate plan

Posted On: JUNE 2023

For many people, the disposition of a family home is an emotionally charged estate planning issue. And emotions may run even higher with vacation homes, which often evoke even fonder memories. So, it’s important to address your vacation home carefully in your estate plan.

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What should you consider when choosing a guardian?

Posted On: JUNE 2023

What’s arguably the most common reason people put off estate planning? It’s naming a guardian for their minor children. No doubt this is a difficult decision for parents to make. However, if you and your spouse don’t name a guardian for your minor children and you both die unexpectedly, a court will name one.

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SECURE 2.0 provides a boost to your retirement and estate plans

Posted On: JUNE 2023

The SECURE 2.0 Act of 2022 (SECURE 2.0) expands on the changes made by the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act of 2019 (SECURE Act). Enacted in late 2022, SECURE 2.0 can help you save more for retirement, which, in turn, can provide more wealth to share with your loved ones. Let’s take a closer look at the new law’s highlights.

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Update your will with a codicil

Posted On: JUNE 2023

On the completion of your will, you knew there would come the day when you’d need to make a change. Perhaps you recently welcomed a new grandchild to the family or maybe recently went through a divorce. Whatever the case, after a major life change, your will may need a quick fix.

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You revised your will by hand

Posted On: MAY 2023

The laws regarding the execution of a valid will vary from state to state, but typically they require certain formalities. These may include signing the will in the presence of witnesses and a notary public. But what happens if, after your will and other estate planning documents are fully executed, you need to make a change? Perhaps you’ve welcomed a new grandchild to the family or need to change the way your assets are distributed.

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Providing for your children

Posted On: MAY 2023

One of the most effective ways to provide for your children in your estate plan is to set up trusts for them. Trusts offer many benefits, including, among other things, the flexibility over when and how to make distributions, protection of assets from beneficiaries’ creditors and protection of assets from being divided as part of a beneficiary’s divorce. They can also help protect the funds from depletion by a beneficiary with a substance abuse problem, a gambling addiction or bad spending habits.

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Ease the burden of being a member of the Sandwich Generation with these action steps

Posted On: MAY 2023

If you’re currently taking care of your children and elderly parents, count yourself among those in the “Sandwich Generation.” Although it may be personally gratifying to help your parents, it can be a time-consuming and financial burden.

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If you’re married, ensure that you and your spouse coordinate your estate plans

Posted On: MAY 2023

Estate planning can be complicated enough if you don’t have a spouse. But things can get more difficult for married couples. Even if you and your spouse have agreed on most major issues in the past — such as child rearing, where to live and other lifestyle choices — you shouldn’t automatically assume that you’ll both be on the same page when it comes to making estate planning decisions.

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You’ve received a sizable inheritance: Now what?

Posted On: MAY 2023

If you’ve received, or will soon receive, a significant inheritance, it may be tempting to view it as “found money” that can be spent freely. But unless your current financial plan ensures that you’ll comfortably reach all your goals, it’s a good idea to have a plan of action for managing your newfound wealth.

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Have you planned for long-term health care expenses?

Posted On: APRIL 2023

No matter how diligently you prepare, your estate plan can quickly be derailed if you or a loved one requires long-term home health care or an extended stay at an assisted living facility or nursing home. Long-term care (LTC) expenses aren’t covered by traditional health insurance policies or Medicare. So it’s important to have a plan to finance these costs, either by setting aside some of your savings or purchasing insurance. Let’s take a closer look at three options.

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Breathe new life into a trust by decanting it

Posted On: APRIL 2023

Building flexibility into your estate plan using various strategies is generally advised. The reason is that life circumstances change over time, specifically evolving tax laws and family situations. One technique that provides flexibility is to provide your trustee with the ability to decant a trust.

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Plan carefully to avoid GST tax surprises

Posted On: APRIL 2023

If you want to share some of your wealth with your grandchildren or great grandchildren — or if your estate plan is likely to benefit these generations — it’s critical to consider and plan for the generation-skipping transfer (GST) tax. Designed to ensure that wealth is taxed at each generational level, the GST tax is among the harshest and most complex in the tax code. It’s also among the most misunderstood.

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Should you move your trust to another state?

Posted On: APRIL 2023

There are several reasons why you may want to move a trust to a more favorable jurisdiction. For instance, to avoid or reduce state income tax on the trust’s accumulated ordinary income or capital gains. However, before doing so, it’s critical to understand the risks.

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An estate planning “road map” can act as a catchall for your final thoughts

Posted On: APRIL 2023

No matter how much effort you’ve invested in crafting an estate plan, your will, trusts and other official documents may not be enough. Consider also drafting a “road map.” Essentially, it’s an informal letter that guides your family in executing your plan according to your wishes.

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Funding long-term care expenses: What are your options?

Posted On: APRIL 2023

Few things can derail your estate plan as quickly as unanticipated long-term care (LTC) expenses. Most people will need some form of LTC — such as a nursing home or assisted living facility stay — at some point in their lives. And the cost of this care is steep. According to a 2021 survey by Genworth, the national median cost of a private room in a nursing home is about $9,000 per month. For assisted living facilities, the median cost for a one-month stay is about $4,500, while home health aides cost more than $5,000 per month.

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Influencing your heirs

Posted On: APRIL 2023

Estate planning isn’t just about sharing wealth with the younger generation. For many people, it’s equally important to share one’s values and to encourage their children or other heirs to lead responsible, productive and fulfilling lives. One tool for achieving this goal is an incentive trust, which conditions distributions on certain behaviors or achievements that you wish to inspire.

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You haven’t planned for the death of beneficiaries

Posted On: MARCH 2023

When planning for the disposition of your estate, it’s critical to understand what happens if a child or other beneficiary predeceases you. There’s no one right way to deal with this contingency, but to avoid unintended results your estate plan should spell out, with precise language, how your estate should be divided among loved ones.

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Estate planning and asset protection planning go hand in hand

Posted On: MARCH 2023

As a business owner, your company is likely your most valuable asset. And you know that you must account for it in your estate plan to help ensure that it remains a valuable asset for your heirs. Thus, a key goal should be to insulate your company and other assets from the claims of creditors and lawsuits.

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Enacting a spendthrift trust can be beneficial to your loved ones

Posted On: MARCH 2023

Are you concerned that some of your beneficiaries might squander their inheritances or simply aren’t equipped to handle the financial responsibilities that come with large sums of money? You don’t have to hold on to your assets until the day you die with the hope that your heirs will change their ways by that time. Instead, consider using a spendthrift trust that can provide protection, regardless of how long you live.

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Have you recently reviewed your life insurance needs?

Posted On: MARCH 2023

Once upon a time, life insurance played a much larger part in an estate plan than it does now. Why? Families would use life insurance payouts to pay estate taxes. But with the federal gift and estate tax exemption at $12.92 million for 2023, far fewer families currently are affected by estate tax.

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To file or not to file a gift tax return, that is the question

Posted On: FEBRUARY 2023

If you made gifts last year you may be wondering if you need to file a gift tax return. The short answer: There are many situations when it’s necessary (or desirable) to file Form 709 — “United States Gift (and Generation-Skipping Transfer) Tax Return” — even if you’re not liable for any gift tax. Let’s take a closer look at the reasons why.

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Provide your heirs the option of creating an inheritor’s trust

Posted On: FEBRUARY 2023

Even though it may not be top of mind when you’re developing or revising your estate plan, it’s important to consider how bequeathing assets to your family might affect them. Why? Because when your heirs receive their inheritance, it becomes part of their own taxable estates. Giving a loved one permission to create an inheritor’s trust can help avoid this outcome.

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Joint ownership isn’t right for all estate plans

Posted On: FEBRUARY 2023

Generally speaking, owning property jointly benefits an estate plan. Indeed, joint ownership offers several advantages for surviving family members. However, there are exceptions and it’s not the solution for all estate planning problems.

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Is your revocable trust fully funded?

Posted On: FEBRUARY 2023

A revocable trust — sometimes known as a “living trust” — can provide significant benefits. They include the ability to avoid probate of the assets the trust holds and facilitating management of your assets in the event you become incapacitated. To obtain these benefits, however, you must fund the trust — that is, transfer title of assets to the trust or designate the trust as the beneficiary of retirement accounts or insurance policies.

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Business owners: Now’s the time to revisit buy-sell agreements

Posted On: FEBRUARY 2023

If you own an interest in a closely held business, a buy-sell agreement should be a critical component of your estate and succession plans. These agreements provide for the orderly disposition of each owner’s interest after a “triggering event,” such as death, disability, divorce or withdrawal from the business. This is accomplished by permitting or requiring the company or the remaining owners to purchase the departing owner’s interest. Often, life insurance is used to fund the buyout.

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Helping a disabled loved one with an ABLE account

Posted On: FEBRUARY 2023

Estate planning can be tricky for a family that includes a disabled loved one. Why? Because the family doesn’t want to lose eligibility for means-tested government benefits, such as Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

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You’re taking periodic payments from an IRA or 401(k) plan

Posted On: FEBRUARY 2023

A tax-advantaged savings plan, such as an IRA or 401(k) plan, is designed to help you fund your retirement. But to the extent that you don’t need the funds during your golden years, they can be a valuable supplement to your estate plan. To preserve the tax-deferred growth of these funds, it’s best to avoid early withdrawals (before age 59½), which can trigger a 10% penalty, on top of ordinary income taxes.

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Where should you keep your estate planning documents?

Posted On: JANUARY 2023

If you’re reading this, you’ve likely put a great deal of time, effort and expense into designing and implementing an estate plan that meets your goals. But unless your loved ones know that these documents exist — and how to find and access them — your well- laid plans can be derailed. Following are some tips on how, and where, to store critical estate-planning documents.

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Pay attention to securities laws when planning your estate

Posted On: JANUARY 2023

Do your assets include unregistered securities, such as restricted stock or interests in hedge funds or private equity funds? If so, it’s important to consider the securities law implications of various estate planning strategies.

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A single parent’s estate plan should address specific circumstances

Posted On: JANUARY 2023

According to the Pew Research Center, nearly a quarter (23%) of U.S. children under the age of 18 live with one parent. This is more than three times the share (7%) of children from around the world who do so. If your household falls into this category, ensure your estate plan properly accounts for your children.

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Run the numbers before donating appreciated assets to charity

Posted On: JANUARY 2023

Are you charitably inclined? If so, you probably know that donations of long-term appreciated assets, such as stocks, have an advantage over cash donations. But in some cases, selling appreciated assets and donating the proceeds may be a better strategy.

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Addressing IP in an estate plan can be tricky

Posted On: JANUARY 2023

Over your lifetime, you may have accumulated a wide variety of tangible assets, including automobiles, works of art and property, that you’ve accounted for in your estate plan. But intangible assets can easily be overlooked.

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Should you consider a psychiatric advance directive?

Posted On: DECEMBER 2022

Many people include health care powers of attorney or living wills in their estate plans so they have some influence over critical medical decisions in the event they’re incapacitated and unable to make decisions themselves. A psychiatric advance directive (PAD) is less well known, but worth considering, especially if your family has a history of mental illness.

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Rising rates spark interest in charitable remainder trusts

Posted On: DECEMBER 2022

If you wish to leave a charitable legacy while generating income during your lifetime, a charitable remainder trust (CRT) may be a viable solution. In addition to an income stream, CRTs offer an up-front charitable income tax deduction, as well as a vehicle for disposing of appreciated assets without immediate taxation on the gain. Plus, unlike certain other strategies, CRTs become more attractive as interest rates rise. In the current environment, that makes them particularly effective.

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Shield life insurance proceeds from estate tax with an ILIT

Posted On: DECEMBER 2022

Life insurance can provide peace of mind, but it’s important to not own the policy at death. The policy’s proceeds will be included in the taxable estate and may be subject to estate tax. To avoid this result, a common estate planning strategy is to draft an irrevocable life insurance trust (ILIT) to hold the policy.

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Should you use retirement accounts to fund gifts?

Posted On: DECEMBER 2022

If you’re like many people, a significant portion of your wealth can be found in IRAs and other tax-deferred retirement accounts. Traditionally, these accounts have been viewed as off limits when it comes to funding lifetime gifts, given the negative income tax implications.

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You own property jointly with a child or other family member

Posted On: DECEMBER 2022

There’s a common misconception that owning assets jointly with a child or other heir is an effective estate planning shortcut. While this strategy has a certain appeal, it can invite a variety of unwelcome consequences that may quickly outweigh any potential benefits.

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In your own words: A letter of instruction complements a will

Posted On: DECEMBER 2022

A smart estate plan should leave no doubt as to your intentions. Writing a letter of instruction can go a long way toward clearly communicating all of your thoughts and wishes. Even though the letter, unlike a valid will, isn’t legally binding, it can be valuable to your surviving family members.

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What’s the difference between a springing and a nonspringing power of attorney?

Posted On: DECEMBER 2022

Estate planning typically focuses on what happens to your children and your assets when you die. But it’s equally important (some might say even more important) to have a plan for making critical financial and medical decisions if you’re unable to make those decisions yourself.

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Don’t overlook foreign assets when planning your estate

Posted On: DECEMBER 2022

You’d be surprised how often people fail to disclose foreign assets to their estate planning advisors. They assume that these assets aren’t relevant to their “U.S.” estate plans, so they’re not worth mentioning. But if you own real estate or other assets outside the United States, it’s critical to address these assets in your estate plan.

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Instill family values with a FAST

Posted On: NOVEMBER 2022

You create an estate plan to meet technical objectives, such as minimizing gift and estate taxes and protecting your assets from creditors’ claims. But it’s also important to consider “softer,” yet equally critical, goals.

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Understand your spouse’s inheritance rights if you’re getting remarried

Posted On: NOVEMBER 2022

If you’re taking a second trip down the aisle, you may have different expectations than you did when you got married the first time — especially when it comes to estate planning. For example, if you have children from a previous marriage, your priority may be to provide for them. Or perhaps you feel that your new spouse should have limited rights to your assets compared to those of your spouse from your first marriage.

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Annual gift tax exclusion amount increases for 2023

Posted On: NOVEMBER 2022

Did you know that one of the most effective estate-tax-saving techniques is also one of the simplest and most convenient? By making maximum use of the annual gift tax exclusion, you can pass substantial amounts of assets to loved ones during your lifetime without any gift tax. For 2022, the amount is $16,000 per recipient. In 2023, the amount will increase by $1,000, to $17,000 per recipient.

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Estate planning vocab 101: Executor and trustee

Posted On: NOVEMBER 2022

Among the many decisions you’ll have to make as your estate plan is being drafted is who you will appoint as the executor of your estate and the trustee of your trusts. These are important appointments, and, in fact, both roles can be filled by the same person. Let’s take a closer look at the duties of an executor and a trustee.

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Should you file a joint tax return for the year of your spouse’s death?

Posted On: OCTOBER 2022

The death of a spouse is a devastating, traumatic experience. And when it happens, dealing with taxes and other financial and legal obligations are probably the last things on your mind. Unfortunately, many of these obligations can’t wait and may have to be addressed in the months to follow. One important issue for the surviving spouse to consider is whether to file a joint or separate income tax return for the year of death.

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Drafting your estate plan isn’t a do-it-yourself project

Posted On: OCTOBER 2022

There’s no shortage of online do-it-yourself (DIY) tools that promise to help you create an “estate plan.” But while these tools can generate wills, trusts and other documents relatively cheaply, they can be risky except in the simplest cases. If your estate is modest in size, your assets are in your name alone, and you plan to leave them to your spouse or other closest surviving family member, then using an online service may be a cost-effective option. Anything more complex can expose you to a variety of costly pitfalls.

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Life insurance still plays an important role in estate planning

Posted On: OCTOBER 2022

Because the federal gift and estate tax exemption amount currently is $12.06 million, fewer people need life insurance to provide their families with the liquidity to pay estate taxes. But life insurance can still play an important part in your estate plan, particularly in conjunction with charitable remainder trusts (CRTs) and other charitable giving strategies.

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Trust in a trust to keep assets secure

Posted On: OCTOBER 2022

Whether the economic climate is stable or volatile, one thing never changes: the need to protect your assets from risk. Hazards may occur as a result of factors entirely outside of your control, such as the stock market or the economy. It’s even possible that dangers lie closer to home, including the behavior of your heirs and creditors. In any case, it’s wise to consider taking steps to mitigate potential peril. One such step is to set up a trust.

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If you’re moving out of state, review your estate plan

Posted On: OCTOBER 2022

Are you planning to move to a different state? It may be due to a change in jobs, a desire for a better climate, an opportunity to downsize or to be closer to your kids. In any event, you’ll have to cope with some hassles, including securing motor vehicle registrations, finding new physicians and updating financial records.

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What does “probate” mean?

Posted On: SEPTEMBER 2022

The term “probate” is one you have probably heard and might associate with negative connotations. But you may not fully understand what it is. For some people, the term conjures images of lengthy delays waiting for wealth to be transferred as well as bitter disputes among family members. Others, because the probate process is open to the public, worry about their “dirty laundry” being aired out. The good news is that there are strategies you can employ to keep much or all of your estate out of probate.

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2 estate planning options for families with disabled loved ones

Posted On: SEPTEMBER 2022

If you have a family member who’s disabled, financial and estate planning can be tricky. You don’t want to jeopardize his or her eligibility for means-tested government benefits such as Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). A special needs trust (SNT) is one option to consider. Another is to open a Section 529A account, also referred to as an ABLE account, because it was created by the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act.

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Does your trust provide for the removal of a trustee?

Posted On: SEPTEMBER 2022

To ensure that a trust operates as intended, it’s critical to appoint a trustee that you can count on to carry out your wishes. But to avoid protracted court battles in the event that the trustee isn’t doing a good job, consider giving your beneficiaries the right to remove and replace a trustee. Without this option, your beneficiaries’ only recourse would be to petition a court to remove the trustee for cause.

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Complete your estate plan by adding powers of attorney

Posted On: AUGUST 2022

As you create your estate plan, your main objectives likely revolve around your family, both current and future generations. Your goals may include reducing estate tax liability so that you can pass as much wealth as possible to your loved ones.

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Leave a lasting legacy with a family education trust

Posted On: AUGUST 2022

Providing for the educational needs of your children, grandchildren and even future generations is an honorable estate planning objective. What are your options for achieving this goal? A 529 plan can be a highly effective tool for funding tuition and other educational expenses on a tax-advantaged basis. But after your death, there’s no guarantee that subsequent plan owners will continue to use it to fulfill your original vision. An alternative strategy is to create a family education trust that invests in one or more 529 plans.

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Avoid these 4 estate planning pitfalls

Posted On: AUGUST 2022

No one likes to contemplate his or her own mortality. But ignoring the need for an estate plan or procrastinating in the creation of one is asking for trouble. If you haven’t started the process, don’t delay any longer. For your estate plan to achieve your goals, avoid these four pitfalls:

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You shouldn’t amend a will yourself

Posted On: AUGUST 2022

Let’s assume you have a legally valid will but you’ve decided that it should be revised because of a change in your family’s circumstances. Perhaps all you want to do is add a newborn grandchild to the list of beneficiaries or remove your adult child’s spouse after a divorce. These are both common reasons to revise your will. However, resist the temptation to revise your will yourself.

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Making annual exclusion gifts can be a deceptively powerful estate planning strategy

Posted On: AUGUST 2022

In 2022, for most people, it may seem like planning for gift and estate taxes is unnecessary because of the $12.06 million federal gift and estate tax exemption. But even if your net worth is only a fraction of the current exemption amount, there are good reasons to adopt strategies — such as making regular annual exclusion gifts — to reduce the size of your taxable estate.

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Asset protection

Posted On: AUGUST 2022

Much of estate planning focuses on transferring your wealth to loved ones in a tax- efficient manner. But for many people, it’s equally important to protect that wealth against frivolous lawsuits or baseless creditors’ claims.

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Moving abroad can upset your tax and estate plans

Posted On: AUGUST 2022

If you and your spouse have decided to retire to another country, or perhaps you’re pulling up stakes to move overseas for a job opportunity, it’s in your best interest to consider the income, gift and estate planning tax consequences of making such a move.

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You’ve been asked to serve as executor

Posted On: JULY 2022

If you’ve been named as executor of the estate of a friend or family member, be sure you understand the responsibilities and potential risks before you agree to serve. You’re not required to accept the appointment, of course, but once you do it’s more difficult to extricate yourself should you change your mind.

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Single? No kids? Here’s why you still need an estate plan

Posted On: JULY 2022

There’s a common misconception that only married couples with children need an estate plan. In fact, estate planning may be even more important for single people without children. Why? Because for married couples, the law makes certain assumptions about who should make financial or medical decisions on their behalf should they become incapacitated and who should inherit their property if they die.

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When little things mean a lot: Estate planning for personal property

Posted On: JULY 2022

Personal items — which may have modest monetary value but significant sentimental value — may be more difficult to address in an estate plan than big-ticket items. Squabbling over these items may lead to emotionally charged disputes and even litigation. In some cases, the legal fees and court costs can eclipse the monetary value of the property itself.

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Estates now have an additional three years to file for a portability election

Posted On: JULY 2022

Portability allows a surviving spouse to apply a deceased spouse’s unused federal gift and estate tax exemption amount toward his or her own transfers during life or at death. To secure these benefits, however, the deceased spouse’s executor must have made a portability election on a timely filed estate tax return (Form 706). The return is due nine months after death, with a six-month extension option.

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Take a balanced approach to retirement and estate planning using a split annuity

Posted On: JULY 2022

If you’re approaching retirement or have already retired, one of the biggest challenges is balancing the need to maintain your standard of living with your desire to preserve as much wealth as possible for your loved ones. This balance can be difficult to achieve, especially when retirement can last decades. One strategy to consider is the split annuity, which creates a current income stream while preserving wealth for the future.

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The GST tax and your estate plan: What you need to know

Posted On: JULY 2022

Here’s a not-so-fun fact: The generation-skipping transfer (GST) tax is among the harshest and most complex in the tax code. So, if you’re planning to share some of your wealth with your grandchildren or great grandchildren — or if your estate plan is likely to benefit these generations — it’s critical to consider and plan for the GST tax.

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When should you turn down an inheritance?

Posted On: JUNE 2022

“Thanks, but no thanks.” If you expect to receive an inheritance from a family member, you might want to use a qualified disclaimer to refuse the bequest. As a result, the assets will bypass your estate and go directly to the next beneficiary in line. It’s as if the successor beneficiary, not you, had been named as the beneficiary in the first place.

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Add estate planning flexibility with a power of appointment

Posted On: JUNE 2022

The best laid plans can go awry. After your death, events may transpire that you hadn’t anticipated or couldn’t have reasonably foreseen. There’s no way of predicting the future, but you may want to supplement your existing estate plan with a trust provision that gives a designated beneficiary a “power of appointment” over some or all of the trust property. Essentially, this person will have the discretion to change distributions from the trust or even add or subtract beneficiaries.

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You’ve received an inheritance: Now what?

Posted On: JUNE 2022

If you’ve received, or will soon receive, a significant inheritance, it may be tempting to view it as “found money” that can be spent freely. But unless your current financial plan ensures that you’ll comfortably reach all your goals, it’s a good idea to have a plan for managing your newfound wealth.

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Health care directive

Posted On: JUNE 2022

A health care directive is a critical piece of your overall estate plan. Why? It allows you to communicate your preferences in advance for medical care in the event you’re incapacitated and cannot express your wishes.

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Avoiding challenges to your estate plan

Posted On: JUNE 2022

A primary goal of estate planning is to ensure that your wishes are carried out after you’re gone. So, it’s important to design your estate plan to withstand potential will contests or other challenges down the road. The most common grounds for contesting a will are undue influence or lack of testamentary capacity. Other grounds include fraud and invalid execution.

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Estate Planning Red Flag

Posted On: JUNE 2022

For many business owners, estate planning and succession planning go hand in hand. As the owner of a closely held business, you likely have a significant portion of your wealth tied up in the business. If you don’t take the proper estate planning steps to ensure that the business lives on after you’re gone, you may be placing your family at risk.

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Estate planning and business succession planning: The lines blur with a family business

Posted On: JUNE 2022

For many business owners, estate planning and succession planning go hand in hand. As the owner of a closely held business, you likely have a significant portion of your wealth tied up in the business. If you don’t take the proper estate planning steps to ensure that the business lives on after you’re gone, you may be placing your family at risk.

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Understanding the terms of health care directives

Posted On: JUNE 2022

Estate planning experts usually cite the need to include advance health care directives in a comprehensive estate plan. But there may be different legal names given to those directives, depending on one’s jurisdiction.

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Are you and your spouse considering “splitting” gifts?

Posted On: JUNE 2022

Gift splitting can be a valuable estate planning tool, allowing you and your spouse to maximize the amount of wealth you can transfer tax-free. But in some cases, it can have undesirable consequences, so be sure that you understand the implications before making an election to split gifts.

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The HSA: A healthy supplement to your wealth- building regimen

Posted On: JUNE 2022

A Health Savings Account (HSA) can be a powerful tool for financing health care expenses while supplementing your other retirement savings vehicles. And it offers estate planning benefits to boot.

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You’ve received an inheritance: Now what?

Posted On: JUNE 2022

For those who’ve received, or will soon receive, a significant inheritance, it may be tempting to view it as “found money” that can be spent freely. But unless one’s current financial plan ensures that he or she will comfortably reach all their goals, it’s a good idea to have a plan for managing the newfound wealth. This article answers several questions that should be considered after receiving an inheritance. A brief sidebar explains how to handle an inherited retirement plan.

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Health care directive — An important part of any estate plan, but the terminology can get complex

Posted On: JUNE 2022

A health care directive is a critical piece of one’s overall estate plan. Why? It allows a person to communicate their preferences in advance for medical care in the event of incapacitation and the loss of the ability to communicate health care wishes. However, depending on one’s jurisdiction, a directive can go by several different names, including living wills, advance medical directives and directives to physicians. This article defines various terms associated with a health care directive.

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Avoiding challenges to your estate plan

Posted On: MAY 2022

A primary goal of estate planning is to ensure that a person’s wishes are carried out after he or she is gone. So, it’s important to design one’s estate plan to withstand potential will contests or other challenges down the road. The most common grounds for contesting a will are undue influence or lack of testamentary capacity. Other grounds include fraud and invalid execution. This article details strategies to use to reduce the chances of one’s will being challenged after death.

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Estate Planning Red Flag — You own one or more guns

Posted On: MAY 2022

When it comes to estate planning, not all assets are created equal. For those who own one or more guns, careful planning is required to avoid running afoul of complex federal and state laws. Without proper planning, there’s a risk that the government will confiscate the guns or that an estate’s executor, trustees or beneficiaries will inadvertently commit a felony. This brief article explores the complications of incorporating one’s gun collection in his or her estate plan.

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Addressing adopted children or stepchildren in your estate plan

Posted On: MAY 2022

Families that have children who are adopted, or stepchildren who haven’t been legally adopted, may face unique estate planning challenges. Additional consideration must be taken when a family includes an unmarried couple in a long-term relationship and one person has biological or adopted children. If your family’s makeup is as such, it’s important to understand your estate planning options.

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Understanding the terms of health care directives

Posted On: APRIL 2022

Estate planning experts usually cite the need to include advance health care directives in a comprehensive estate plan. But there may be different legal names given to those directives, depending on one’s jurisdiction.

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Careful planning required for beneficiaries to borrow from a trust

Posted On: APRIL 2022

Intrafamily loans allow you to provide financial assistance to loved ones — often at favorable terms — while potentially reducing gift and estate taxes. But what about families that lack the liquid assets to make such loans? Are there other options if they have a trust?

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What estate planning strategies are available for non- U.S. citizens?

Posted On: APRIL 2022

Are you, or is your spouse, a non-U.S. citizen? If so, several traditional estate planning techniques won’t be available to you. However, if you’re a U.S. resident, but not a citizen, the IRS will treat you similarly to a U.S. citizen.

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Plan carefully to avoid surprises

Posted On: APRIL 2022

If you wish to share some of your wealth with your grandchildren or great grandchildren — or if your estate plan is likely to benefit these generations — it’s critical to consider and plan for the generation-skipping transfer (GST) tax. Designed to ensure that wealth is taxed at each generational level, the GST tax is among the harshest and most complex in the tax code.

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To file or not to file a gift tax return, that is the question

Posted On: APRIL 2022

If you made gifts last year you may be wondering if you need to file a gift tax return. The short answer is that there are many situations in which it’s necessary (or desirable) to file Form 709 — “United States Gift (and Generation-Skipping Transfer) Tax Return” — even if you’re not liable for any gift taxes. Let’s take a closer look at the reasons why.

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Think twice before splitting charitable bequests

Posted On: MARCH 2022

When you leave property to charity in your will or revocable trust, it’s reasonable to assume that it won’t be subject to estate tax. After all, the charitable estate tax deduction excludes the value of donated property from your estate. But if you split a charitable bequest of property among two or more charities, your heirs may be in for an unpleasant tax surprise.

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You haven’t reviewed your life insurance needs recently

Posted On: MARCH 2022

Life insurance is a powerful tool for providing for your loved ones in the event of your untimely death. The amount of life insurance that’s right for you depends on your personal circumstances, so it’s critical to review your life insurance needs regularly in light of changing circumstances.

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Power up your trust with Crummey powers

Posted On: MARCH 2022

The unified gift and estate tax exemption is set at an inflation-adjusted $12.06 million for 2022, up from $11.7 million for 2021. This means that for many families, estate tax liability isn’t a factor. However, for others, the annual gift tax exclusion continues to be an important estate planning strategy — especially since future tax law changes could lower the gift and estate tax exemption. For this reason, using a Crummey trust in your estate plan remains an important estate planning strategy.

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A beneficiary designation or joint title can override your will

Posted On: MARCH 2022

Inattention to beneficiary designations and jointly titled assets can quickly unravel your estate plan. Suppose, for example, that your will provides for all of your property to be divided equally among your three children. But what if your IRA, which names the oldest child as beneficiary, accounts for half of the estate? In that case, the oldest child will inherit half of your estate plus a one-third share of the remaining assets — hardly equal.

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Defined-value gifts: Plan carefully to avoid unpleasant tax surprises

Posted On: MARCH 2022

For 2022, the federal gift and estate tax exemption has reached its highest level ever. In fact, you can transfer up to $12.06 million by gift or bequest without triggering federal transfer taxes. This is a limited time offer, however, as the exemption amount is scheduled to drop to $5 million (adjusted for inflation) in 2026. (However, Congress could pass legislation to reduce it even sooner or to extend it longer.)

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Clarity counts when it comes to estate planning documents

Posted On: MARCH 2022

Precise language is critical in wills, trusts and other estate planning documents. A lack of clarity may be an invitation to litigation. An example of this is the dispute that arose after Tom Petty’s death, between his widow and his two daughters from a previous marriage. (The two parties have since resolved their differences and dismissed all litigation matters.)

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Owning real estate in more than one state may multiply probate costs

Posted On: MARCH 2022

One goal of estate planning is to avoid or minimize probate. This is particularly important if you own real estate in more than one state. Why? Because each piece of real estate titled in your name must go through probate in the state where the property is located.

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Use the net gift technique to reduce your gift tax rate

Posted On: FEBRUARY 2022

If you’re concerned about the impact of transfer taxes on your gifts, consider making “net gifts” to your loved ones. A net gift is simply a gift for which the recipient agrees to pay the gift tax, thereby reducing the value of the gift for tax purposes. It may also be possible to reduce its value further through the “net, net gift” technique.

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The donor-advised fund: A powerful vehicle for charitable giving

Posted On: FEBRUARY 2022

If charitable giving is important to you, consider a donor-advised fund (DAF). A DAF — typically sponsored and managed by a community foundation or commercial investment company — offers many of the benefits of a private foundation at a fraction of the cost.

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The 2021 gift tax return deadline is almost here, too

Posted On: FEBRUARY 2022

The deadline for filing your federal income tax return is April 18, 2022. Keep in mind that the gift tax return deadline is on the very same date. So, if you made large gifts to family members or heirs last year, it’s important to determine whether you’re required to file Form 709.

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Business owners: Now’s the time to revisit buy-sell agreements

Posted On: FEBRUARY 2022

If you own an interest in a closely held business, a buy-sell agreement should be a critical component of your estate and succession plans. These agreements provide for the orderly disposition of each owner’s interest after a “triggering event,” such as death, disability, divorce or withdrawal from the business. This is accomplished by permitting or requiring the company or the remaining owners to purchase the departing owner’s interest. Often, life insurance is used to fund the buyout.

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Provide your heirs the option of creating an inheritor’s trust

Posted On: FEBRUARY 2022

Even though it may not be top of mind when you’re developing or revising your estate plan, it’s important to consider how bequeathing assets to your family might affect them. Why? Because when your heirs receive their inheritance, it becomes part of their own taxable estates. Giving a loved one permission to create an inheritor’s trust can help avoid this outcome.

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You’re donating appreciated assets to charity

Posted On: JANUARY 2022

If you’re charitably inclined, you probably know that donations of long-term appreciated assets, such as stock, have an advantage over cash donations. But in some cases, selling appreciated assets and donating the proceeds may be a better strategy. That’s because adjusted gross income (AGI) limitations on charitable deductions are higher for cash donations. Plus, if the assets don’t qualify for long-term capital gain treatment, the deduction rules are different.

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Should you consider a psychiatric advance directive?

Posted On: JANUARY 2022

Many people include health care powers of attorney or living wills in their estate plans to have some influence over critical medical decisions in the event they’re incapacitated and unable to make those decisions themselves. A psychiatric advance directive (PAD) is less well known, but worth considering if your family has a history of mental illness. Or, you may simply want to memorialize your wishes in the event a psychiatric episode renders you unable to make decisions about your treatment.

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Does your trust need protection?

Posted On: JANUARY 2022

Designing an estate plan can be a delicate balancing act. On the one hand, you want to preserve as much wealth as possible for your family by protecting it from estate taxes and creditors’ claims. On the other hand, you want to have some control over your assets during your life.

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Educate your children on wealth management

Posted On: JANUARY 2022

If you’ve worked a lifetime to build a large estate, you undoubtedly would like to leave a lasting legacy to your children and future generations. Educating your children about saving, investing and other money management skills can help keep your legacy alive.

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Avoiding undue influence claims

Posted On: JANUARY 2022

A primary purpose of estate planning is to ensure that your wealth is distributed according to your wishes after you die. But if a family member challenges the plan, that purpose may be defeated. If the challenge is successful, a judge will decide who’ll inherit your property.

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Making funeral arrangements in advance can ease family turmoil after your death

Posted On: JANUARY 2021

It’s difficult for many people to think about their mortality, so it’s not surprising to learn that many put off planning their own funerals. Unfortunately, this lack of planning may result in emotional turmoil for surviving family members when someone dies unexpectedly.

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With proper planning, a charitable remainder trust can replicate a “stretch” IRA

Posted On: JANUARY 2022

The “stretch” IRA generally no longer exists. But if you have a substantial balance in a traditional IRA, a properly designed charitable remainder trust (CRT) can allow you to replicate many of its benefits.

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Have you named contingent beneficiaries?

Posted On: DECEMBER 2021

Although your will or revocable trust governs the distribution of many or most of your assets, certain assets — such as retirement plans, insurance policies, and bank or brokerage accounts — require you to name a beneficiary (or beneficiaries). This can be an advantage, because when you die, the funds can pass directly to your beneficiaries without going through probate. But to avoid unpleasant surprises, it’s critical not only to choose your beneficiaries carefully, but to also name contingent beneficiaries in case a primary beneficiary dies before you.

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Is your estate plan up to date following a divorce?

Posted On: DECEMBER 2021

If you’ve recently divorced, your time likely has been consumed with attorney meetings and negotiations, even if everything was amicable. Probably the last thing you want to do is review your estate plan. But you owe it to yourself and your children to make the necessary updates to reflect your current situation.

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Should you file a joint tax return for the year of death?

Posted On: DECEMBER 2021

The death of a spouse is a devastating, traumatic experience, and if it happens, dealing with taxes and other financial and legal obligations are probably the last things on your mind. Unfortunately, many of these obligations can’t wait and must be addressed in the months to follow. One important issue for the surviving spouse to consider is whether to file a joint or separate tax return for the year of death.

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Getting remarried?

Posted On: DECEMBER 2021

If you’re getting remarried, you may have very different expectations than you did when you married the first time, especially when it comes to estate planning. For example, if you have children from a previous marriage, your priority may be to provide for them. You may feel that your new spouse should have more limited rights to your assets than your children from your first marriage.

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You named your child or grandchild as beneficiary of your IRA

Posted On: NOVEMBER 2021

If you have a traditional IRA that designates your child or grandchild as beneficiary, be sure to consider the potential tax impact of the SECURE Act, which took effect in 2020. Previously, if you named someone other than your spouse as beneficiary, the recipient would have the ability to spread distributions over his or her life expectancy. He or she could then maximize tax-free growth while deferring, and often reducing, income taxes on distributions.

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Estate planning vocab 101: Executors and trustees

Posted On: NOVEMBER 2021

Among the many decisions you’ll have to make as your estate plan is being drafted is who’ll you appoint as the executor of your estate and the trustee of your trusts. These are important appointments, and, in fact, both roles can be filled by the same person. Let’s take a closer look at the duties of an executor and a trustee.

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Your trust doesn’t provide for removal of a trustee

Posted On: NOVEMBER 2021

To ensure that a trust operates as intended, it’s critical to appoint a trustee that you can count on to carry out your wishes. But to avoid protracted court battles in the event things don’t work out as planned, it’s a good idea to give your beneficiaries the right to remove and replace a trustee. Without this option, your beneficiaries’ only recourse would be to petition a court to remove the trustee for cause.

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Express final wishes to heirs using your own words

Posted On: NOVEMBER 2021

An estate plan is a legal document, and because of that its language can be rather technical. If you wish to communicate your estate planning intentions in plain language, consider writing a letter of instruction to your family and including it with your plan.

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Deducting a trust’s charitable donations

Posted On: NOVEMBER 2021

If you’re charitably inclined, it may be desirable to donate assets held in a trust. Perhaps you’re not ready to let go of assets you hold individually. Or maybe the tax benefits of donating trust property would be more attractive than an individual donation. Before making such a donation, it’s important to understand the differences, for tax purposes, between individual and trust donations and the circumstances under which donations by a trust are deductible.

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Why a gifting strategy still matters

Posted On: NOVEMBER 2021

The IRS recently announced next year’s cost-of-living adjustment amounts. For 2022, the federal gift and estate tax exemption has cracked the $12 million mark: $12.06 million to be exact. Arguably more notable, the annual gift tax exemption has increased by $1,000 to $16,000 per recipient ($32,000 for married couples). It’s adjusted only in $1,000 increments, so it typically increases only every few years.

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Consider all the angles of joint ownership

Posted On: NOVEMBER 2021

Estate planners generally tout the virtues of owning property jointly — and with good reason. Joint ownership offers several advantages for surviving family members. But this shouldn’t be viewed as a panacea for every estate planning concern. You must also be aware of all the implications.

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Do you have a will?

Posted On: NOVEMBER 2021

The need for a will as a key component of your estate plan may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised by the number of people — even affluent individuals — who don’t have one. A reason for this may be a common misconception that a revocable trust (sometimes called a “living trust”) obviates the need for a will.

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Opportunities and challenges: Valuation in the age of COVID-19

Posted On: OCTOBER 2021

Valuation and estate planning go hand in hand. After all, the tax implications of various estate planning strategies depend on the value of your assets at the time they’re transferred.

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Estate planning for the young and affluent can be tricky

Posted On: OCTOBER 2021

Events of the last decade have taught us that tax law is anything but certain. So how can young, affluent people plan their estates when the tax landscape may look dramatically different 20, 30 or 40 years from now — or even a few months from now? The answer is by taking a flexible approach that allows you to hedge your bets.

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Don’t choose your executor too hastily

Posted On: OCTOBER 2021

Haste makes waste. Or, in the case of estate planning, it can lead to other problems and, possibly, financial loss. Notably, if you don’t take enough time to choose the best executor for your estate, this “wrong call” can cost your family.

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Don’t forget to take state estate taxes into account

Posted On: OCTOBER 2021

A generous gift and estate tax exemption means only a small percentage of families are currently subject to federal estate taxes. But it’s important to consider state estate taxes as well. Although many states tie their exemption amounts to the federal exemption, several states have exemptions that are significantly lower — in some cases $1 million or less.

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Estate planning pitfalls exist if a significant portion of your wealth is concentrated in a single stock

Posted On: OCTOBER 2021

Your estate plan may include a power of attorney for property that appoints another person to manage your investments, pay your bills, file your tax returns and otherwise handle your property if you’re unable to do so. But not all powers of attorney are created equal. Thus, it’s a good idea to periodically review your power of attorney with us to ensure that it continues to serve its intended purpose. Questions to consider can include:

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Is your power of attorney for property powerful enough?

Posted On: SEPTEMBER 2021

Your estate plan may include a power of attorney for property that appoints another person to manage your investments, pay your bills, file your tax returns and otherwise handle your property if you’re unable to do so. But not all powers of attorney are created equal. Thus, it’s a good idea to periodically review your power of attorney with us to ensure that it continues to serve its intended purpose. Questions to consider can include:

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Annual exclusion gifts

Posted On: SEPTEMBER 2021

In 2021, the federal lifetime gift and estate tax exemption amount is a whopping $11.7 million. So, for most people, it may seem like planning for gift and estate taxes is unnecessary. But even if your net worth is only a fraction of the current exemption amount, there are good reasons to adopt strategies — such as making regular annual exclusion gifts — to reduce the size of your taxable estate.

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Avoid these 6 estate planning pitfalls

Posted On: SEPTEMBER 2021

No one likes to contemplate his or her own mortality, but ignoring the need for an estate plan or procrastinating in the creation of one is asking for trouble. If you haven’t started the process, don’t delay any longer. However, for your estate plan to achieve your goals, there are six pitfalls that must be avoided:

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The split annuity: A balanced approach to retirement and estate planning

Posted On: SEPTEMBER 2021

If you’re approaching retirement or have already retired, one of the biggest challenges is balancing the need to maintain your standard of living with your desire to preserve as much wealth as possible for your loved ones. This balance can be difficult to achieve, especially when retirement can last decades. One strategy that can offer greater peace of mind is the split annuity, which creates a current income stream while preserving wealth for the future.

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Your college-aged child doesn’t have an estate plan

Posted On: SEPTEMBER 2021

As your child heads off to college, with little or no assets in his or her name, estate planning is probably the last thing on your mind. But while it may be difficult to think about, it’s a good idea for your child to have at least a basic plan in place to ensure that his or her wishes are carried out should the unthinkable happen.

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3 essential estate planning strategies not to be ignored

Posted On: SEPTEMBER 2021

With most tax planning, there are certain strategies that are generally effective and shouldn’t be ignored. The same holds true for estate planning. Here are three essential estate planning strategies to consider that may help you achieve your goals.

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Estate planning in a socially distanced environment

Posted On: SEPTEMBER 2021

As many states remain struggling with the current surge in COVID-19 cases, the “new normal” demands social distancing in many areas of life. What does this mean for estate planning? Clearly, estate planning is as important today — or arguably more important — than ever. But how do you plan your estate and execute critical documents if you’re uncomfortable with face-to-face meetings or are required to self-quarantine?

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A tenancy-in-common interest can ease distribution of real estate

Posted On: SEPTEMBER 2021

If your estate includes significant real estate investments, the manner in which you own these assets can have a dramatic effect on your estate plan. One versatile estate planning option to consider is tenancy-in-common (TIC) ownership.

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Is recording my will signing on video a good idea?

Posted On: AUGUST 2021

Some people make video recordings of their will signings in an effort to create evidence that they possess the requisite testamentary capacity. For some, this strategy may help stave off a will contest. But in most cases, the risk that the recording will provide ammunition to someone who wishes to challenge the will outweighs the potential benefits.

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With a self-directed IRA, you choose your own investments

Posted On: AUGUST 2021

If you’re the type who would rather order ala carte rather than a set entree, you might prefer a “self- directed” IRA. With this option, you may be able to amp up the benefits of a traditional or Roth IRA by enabling them to hold nontraditional investments of your choosing that can potentially offer greater returns. However, self-directed IRAs present pitfalls that can lead to unfavorable tax consequences.

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You and your spouse have elected to “split” gifts

Posted On: AUGUST 2021

Gift splitting can be a valuable estate planning tool, allowing you and your spouse to maximize the amount of wealth you can transfer tax-free. But in some cases, it can have undesirable consequences, so be sure that you understand the implications before making an election to split gifts.

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Charitable giving in 2021

Posted On: AUGUST 2021

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, lawmakers enacted the CARES Act to provide some relief to the ailing economy. One of its provisions, meant to encourage charitable giving, temporarily suspended limits on tax deductions for certain charitable gifts made in 2020.

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Is it time to review your beneficiary designations?

Posted On: AUGUST 2021

A will or revocable trust may form the core of your estate plan, but for most people, a substantial amount of wealth bypasses these traditional estate planning tools and is transferred to their loved ones through beneficiary designations. These “non-probate assets” may include IRAs and certain employer-sponsored retirement accounts, life insurance policies, and some bank or brokerage accounts.

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What a difference six months can make

Posted On: AUGUST 2021

If you have money invested in the stock market, you’re well aware of potential volatility. Needless to say, this volatility can affect your net worth, thus affecting your lifestyle. Something you might not think about is the potential effect on your estate tax liability. Specifically, your family might unexpectedly owe estate tax on your death if it occurs before the value of stocks or other assets drops precipitously. One strategy to ease estate tax liability is to allow your executor to elect to use an alternate valuation date.

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A family bank professionalizes intrafamily lending

Posted On: AUGUST 2021

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic turndown in some areas, you may have family members in need of financial support. If you’re interested in lending money to loved ones in need, consider establishing a “family bank.” These entities enhance the benefits of intrafamily loans, while minimizing unintended consequences.

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Keep family matters out of the public eye by avoiding probate

Posted On: AUGUST 2021

Although probate can be time consuming and expensive, one of its biggest downsides is that it’s public — anyone who’s interested can find out what assets you owned and how they’re being distributed after your death. The public nature of probate may also draw unwanted attention from disgruntled family members who may challenge the disposition of your assets, as well as from other unscrupulous parties.

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Does your estate plan address your grandchildren in a fair manner?

Posted On: JULY 2021

Many people, when planning their estates, simply divide their assets equally among their children. But “equal” may not necessarily mean “fair.” It all depends on your family’s circumstances. Specifically, providing for grandchildren is one area where equal treatment may inadvertently result in unfairness.

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Make health care decisions while you’re healthy

Posted On: JUNE 2021

Estate planning isn’t just about what happens to your assets after you die. It’s also about protecting yourself and your loved ones. This includes having a plan for making critical medical decisions in the event you’re unable to make them yourself. And, as with other aspects of your estate plan, the time to act is now, while you’re healthy. If an illness or injury renders you unconscious or otherwise incapacitated, it’ll be too late.

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Members of the sandwich generation find themselves in a unique situation

Posted On: JUNE 2021

The “sandwich generation” is a large segment of the population. These are people who find themselves caring for both their children and their parents at the same time. As a result, estate planning — which traditionally focuses on providing for one’s children — has expanded in many cases to include one’s aging parents as well.

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Help guide your family with a road map for your estate plan

Posted On: JUNE 2021

You’ve likely spent a lot of time working with your advisor to plan your estate. While documents such as your will, various trusts and a power of attorney are essential, consider adding a “road map” to your plan.

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Stephanie Keating Attorney

Posted On: JUNE 2021

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Are you holding a joint title to property with a family member or friend?

Posted On: JUNE 2021

Owning assets jointly with one or more of your children or other heirs is a common estate planning “shortcut.” But like many shortcuts, it may produce unintended — and costly — consequences.

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Protect your assets with a “hybrid” DAPT

Posted On: MAY 2021

One benefit of the current federal gift and estate tax exemption amount ($11.7 million in 2021) is that it allows most people to focus their estate planning efforts on asset protection and other wealth preservation strategies, rather than tax minimization.

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A difficult decision: Choosing a guardian for your children

Posted On: MAY 2021

If you have minor children, choosing a guardian to care for them should you die unexpectedly is one of the most important estate planning decisions you must make. It’s also one of the most difficult. So difficult, in fact, that avoiding it is one of the most common reasons people put off drafting an estate plan.

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4 reasons to revisit your powers of attorney

Posted On: MAY 2021

Although much of estate planning deals with what happens after you die, it’s equally important to have a plan for making critical financial or medical decisions if you’re unable to make them for yourself.

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Plan carefully to avoid unpleasant tax surprises

Posted On: MAY 2021

For 2021, the federal gift and estate tax exemption has reached its highest level ever. Individuals may transfer up to $11.7 million by gift or bequest without triggering federal transfer taxes, while married couples can shield up to $23.4 million from tax.

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You own real estate in more than one state

Posted On: MAY 2021

One goal of estate planning is to avoid or minimize probate. This is particularly important if you own real estate in more than one state. Why? Because each piece of real estate titled in your name must go through probate in the state where the property is located.

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Taking steps to protect your will from being contested

Posted On: MAY 2021

Well-crafted, up-to-date estate planning documents are an imperative for everyone. They also can help ease the burdens on your family during a difficult time. Arguably, the most important document is your will.

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Can beneficiaries borrow from a trust?

Posted On: MAY 2021

Interest rates remain extremely low, enhancing the benefits of intrafamily loans. These loans allow you to provide financial assistance to loved ones — often at favorable terms — while potentially reducing gift and estate taxes. But what about families that lack the liquid assets to make such loans? Are there other options?

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Should a tax apportionment clause be in your estate plan?

Posted On: MAY 2021

Even though the federal gift and estate tax exemption is currently very high ($11.7 million for 2021), there are families that still have to contend with significant federal estate tax liability. Plus, the exemption is scheduled to drop significantly in 2026, and reducing it sooner has been proposed.

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Together Towards Tomorrow Virtual Mini Symposium

Posted On: APRIL 2021

Our Virtual Symposium Last October was such a success and we received overwhelming feedback from our members to create two virtual symposiums this year as an opportunity for members to gain credits, learn and network with one another.

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Spendthrift trusts aren’t just for spendthrifts

Posted On: APRIL 2021

Now that the federal gift and estate tax exemption has reached an inflation-adjusted $11.7 million for 2021, fewer estates are subject to the federal tax. And even though President Biden has proposed reducing the exemption to $3.5 million, it’s uncertain whether that proposal will pass Congress. If nothing happens, the exemption is scheduled to revert to an inflation-adjusted $5 million on January 1, 2026. Nonetheless, estate planning will continue to be essential for most families. That’s because tax planning is only a small component of estate planning — and usually not even the most important one.

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What happens if your spouse fails to designate you as beneficiary of his or her IRA?

Posted On: APRIL 2021

One advantage of inheriting an IRA from your spouse is that you are entitled to transfer the funds to a spousal rollover IRA. The rollover IRA is treated as your own IRA for tax purposes, which means you need not begin taking required minimum distributions (RMDs) until you reach age 72. This differs from an IRA inherited from someone other than a spouse, when the entire IRA balance must be withdrawn within 10 years of the original owner’s death. (Note that different rules apply to IRAs inherited before January 1, 2020.)

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Keep it all in the family: Transferring your vacation home

Posted On: APRIL 2021

If your family owns a vacation home, you know what a relaxing refuge it can be. This is especially true these days due to the limited travel options you may have because of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. However, without a solid plan and ground rules that all family members agree to, conflict and tension may result in a ruined vacation — or worse yet, selling the home.

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A revocable living trust works only if you properly fund it

Posted On: MARCH 2021

A revocable living trust is often used to complement a will. For instance, you might transfer specific securities to the trust. Notably, these assets generally don’t have to go through the probate process, which can be time-consuming and expensive.

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Do you need to file a gift tax return?

Posted On: MARCH 2021

It’s tax-filing season and you’re likely focused on your income or business tax returns. But don’t forget about another type of return. In 2020, if you made substantial gifts of wealth to family members you may have to file a gift tax return.

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Dissecting the contents of a will

Posted On: MARCH 2021

For many people, the first thing they think of when they hear the words “estate plan” is a will. And for good reason, as it’s the cornerstone of any estate plan. But do you know what provisions should be included in a will and what are best to leave out? The answers to those questions may not be obvious.

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Creating an education legacy using a family education trust

Posted On: MARCH 2021

For many people, an important goal of estate planning is to leave a legacy for their children, grandchildren and future generations. And what better way to do that than to help provide for their educational needs? A 529 plan can be a highly effective tool for funding tuition and other educational expenses on a tax-advantaged basis. But when the plan’s owner (typically a parent or grandparent) dies, there’s no guarantee that subsequent owners will continue to use it to fulfill the original owner’s vision.

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Take control of your charitable donations using restrictions

Posted On: MARCH 2021

Did you know that you can put restrictions on charitable donations you make through your estate? If you want the peace of mind that your donations are used to fulfill your intended charitable purposes, you’ll need to take the steps to add restrictions.

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Not disclosing all of your assets helps no one

Posted On: FEBRUARY 2021

People sometimes keep assets hidden without letting their families know about their location or even that they exist. Similarly, they may have life insurance policies no one knows about. Using a fictional example, here’s why full disclosure of your assets to your family is recommended.

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Now or later: When is the right time to transfer your wealth?

Posted On: FEBRUARY 2021

To gift or not to gift? It’s a deceptively complex question. The temporary doubling of the federal gift and estate tax exemption — to an inflation-adjusted $11.7 million in 2021 — is viewed by some people as a “use it or lose it” proposition. In other words, you should make gifts now to take advantage of the exemption before it sunsets at the end of 2025 (or sooner if lawmakers decide to reduce it earlier).

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Reduce gift and estate tax exposure by making direct payments of tuition and medical expenses

Posted On: JANUARY 2021

Now that the gift and estate tax exemption has risen to $11.7 million for 2021, you may be less concerned about these taxes. But if you have children or grandchildren in college or with medical expenses, you may want to take advantage of the exemption for direct payments of tuition and medical expenses. It can provide a valuable opportunity to reduce your potential gift and estate tax exposure down the road.

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4 questions single parents should ask about their estate plans

Posted On: JANUARY 2021

Did you know that the United States has the highest rate of children living in single parent households? According to the Pew Research Center, nearly a quarter (23%) of U.S. children under the age of 18 live with one parent. This is more than three times the share (7%) of children from around the world who do so. If your household falls into this category, ensure your estate plan properly accounts for your children.

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A SPA trust can improve the flexibility of your estate plan

Posted On: DECEMBER 2020

We live in uncertain times. There’s uncertainty about the economy as well as the possibility of tax increases to address the rising federal debt. For example, there’s renewed interest in proposals that would slash the historically high gift and estate tax exemption. In light of this uncertainty, it’s a good idea to consider estate planning tools that offer asset protection as well as flexibility to adjust your plans to changing circumstances. One such tool is the special power of appointment (SPA) trust.

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Valuation in the age of COVID-19

Posted On: DECEMBER 2020

Valuation and estate planning go hand-in-hand. After all, the tax implications of various estate planning strategies depend on the value of your assets at the time they’re transferred.

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Appointing a guardian for your children can be a difficult task

Posted On: DECEMBER 2020

It’s often said that a main reason people put off creating an estate plan is because of the difficulty in choosing a guardian for their children. However, that decision is one of the most important estate planning decisions you must make.

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You don’t have a will

Posted On: DECEMBER 2020

The need for a will as a key component of your estate plan may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised by the number of people — even affluent individuals — who don’t have one. A reason for this may be a common misconception that a revocable trust — sometimes called a “living trust” — obviates the need for a will.

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Make your legacy last by educating your children about wealth management

Posted On: DECEMBER 31st 2020

If you’ve worked to build a large estate, you undoubtedly would like to leave a lasting legacy to your children and future generations. Educating your children about saving, investing and other money management skills can help keep your legacy alive.

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Estate Planning And Maximizing Modern Technology For Seniors

Senior Living Options, Knowing When Is The Right Time And Getting Prepared.

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Does your estate plan clearly communicate your wishes?

Posted On: DECEMBER 23rd 2020

Precise language is critical in wills, trusts and other estate planning documents. A lack of clarity may be an invitation to litigation. An example of this is the dispute that arose after Tom Petty’s death between his widow and his two daughters from a previous marriage. (The two parties have since resolved their differences and dismissed all litigation matters.)

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