Articles & Information

Put pen to paper: How a letter of instruction can benefit family harmony

Posted On: OCTOBER 15th 2020

You may view your will as the centerpiece of your estate plan. But other documents can complement it. For example, if you haven’t already done so, consider writing a letter of instruction...

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The red flags are many when borrowing from your retirement plan

Posted On: OCTOBER 1st 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in many people borrowing from their companies’ qualified retirement plans, and the CARES Act provides some temporary rule changes to this loan type. However, given the risks and costs of borrowing from a retirement plan, it should generally be viewed as a last resort. From an estate planning angle, subtracting funds from your retirement plan will leave less for your heirs if you were to unexpectedly die before you can repay the loan...

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Your revocable trust isn’t fully funded

Posted On: OCTOBER 2020

If your estate plan makes use of a revocable trust — sometimes known as a “living trust” — it’s critical to ensure that the trust is fully “funded.” Revocable trusts provide significant benefits, including the ability to avoid probate of the assets they hold and facilitating management of your assets in the event you become incapacitated....

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Estate planning in a socially distanced environment

Posted On: OCTOBER 2020

As we continue to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and much of the economy reopens, the “new normal” demands continued 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...

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What are your options to pay for long-term care?

Posted On: SEPTEMBER 2020

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has reported that nearly 70% of people over age 65 will need long-term care (LTC) services and support at some point in their lives. Needless to say, the cost of long-term home health care or an extended stay at a nursing home...

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Why tax-affecting matters

Posted On: SEPTEMBER 2020

If you own a closely held business, it likely represents a significant portion of your wealth; wealth that your loved ones will rely on as a source of income after your death. So, the valuation of the business for gift and estate tax purposes is critical to determining how much of your estate goes to your family and how much goes to the government...

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Buy-sell agreements: A smart business decision also makes estate planning sense

Posted On: SEPTEMBER 10th 2020

Do you own a business with one or more individuals? Undoubtedly, your interest in the business represents a substantial part of your net worth and is likely your “pride and joy.” So it’s normal if your fondest wish is for the business to continue long after you’re gone or for you to keep it running if a co-owner or partner dies...

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Making lifetime gifts continues to be a smart estate planning strategy

Posted On: SEPTEMBER 3rd 2020

With the federal gift and estate tax exemption now at a record high $11.58 million for 2020, most estates aren’t taxable. But that doesn’t mean making lifetime gifts isn’t without significant benefits — even if your estate isn’t taxable under the current rules. Let’s examine reasons why gifting remains an important part of estate planning...

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Oh, no, your original will is missing!

Posted On: AUGUST 27th 2020

In a world that is increasingly paperless, you are likely becoming accustomed to conducting a variety of transactions digitally. But when it comes to your last will and testament, only an original, signed document will do...

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Divorcing? Revise your estate plan

Posted On: AUGUST 20th 2020

If you are going through a divorce, you probably feel a little overwhelmed by all the legal and financial items you must attend to before the marriage termination is final. These tasks can be difficult, but revising your estate plan does not have to be...

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5 good reasons to turn down an inheritance

Posted On: AUGUST 13th 2020

You may use a qualified disclaimer to refuse a bequest from a loved one. Doing so will cause an asset to bypass your estate and go to the next beneficiary in line. What are the reasons you would take this action? Here are five reasons...

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Because of COVID-19, college-aged children need a basic estate plan

Posted On: AUGUST 6th 2020

It is August, and that means it is time to get ready to go back to school for many students. If your child recently graduated from high school and is heading to college in the next few weeks, besides assembling the essentials — such as clothing, toiletries, bedding and a laptop — consider having your child “pack” a few estate planning documents that he or she may need at this stage of life...

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Roll with the changes

Posted On: AUGUST 2020

Regardless of the stage of life you’re currently in, it’s important to bear in mind that your estate plan isn’t a static document. Reviewing and revising your estate plan is critical — because what’s important to you in your 20s or 30s likely will be different in your 60s or 70s. Let’s review some general estate planning guidelines to follow as you progress through life...

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Don’t overlook foreign assets when planning your estate

Posted On: AUGUST 2020

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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Your estate plan doesn’t treat your grandchildren equally

Posted On: July 2020

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

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Estate planning during uncertain times

Posted On: July 2020

As people continue to grapple with the fallout from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it’s important to consider the impact of the crisis on your retirement and estate plans. Few people are immune to the virus’s financial effects, but there are strategies available that can aid your recovery. These include estate planning opportunities that are especially effective in the current environment, as well as relief available under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act...

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Avoid “bad blood” among family members: Protect your will from legal challenges

Posted On: July 30th 2020

You have probably seen it in the movies or on TV: A close-knit family gathers to find out what is contained in the will of a wealthy patriarch or matriarch. When the terms are revealed, a niece, for example, benefits at the expense her uncle, causing a ruckus. This “bad blood” continues to boil between estranged family members, who will not even speak to one another...

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Fortify your assets against creditors with a trust

Posted On: July 23rd 2020

You may think of trusts as estate planning tools — vehicles for reducing taxes after your death. While trusts can certainly fill that role, they are also useful for protecting assets, both now and later...

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Zeros and ones: Estate planning for your digital assets and accounts

Posted On: July 16th 2020

Nearly everyone owns at least some digital assets, such as online bank and brokerage accounts, bill-paying services, cloud-based document storage, digital...

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Family matters: Estate planning considerations if you have adopted children or unadopted stepchildren

Posted On: July 9th 2020

If you have adopted children or unadopted stepchildren, estate planning is critical to ensure that your property is distributed the way you desire...

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A win-win proposition: A CRT can benefit you and your favorite charity

Posted On: July 2nd 2020

Are you a multitasker? If so, you may appreciate an estate planning technique that can convert assets into a stream of lifetime income, provide a current tax deduction and leave the remainder to your favorite charity — all in one fell swoop. It is the aptly named charitable remainder trust (CRT)...

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Avoid pitfalls when splitting gifts with your spouse

Posted On: June 25th 2020

The annual gift tax exclusion allows you to transfer up to $15,000 per beneficiary gift-tax-free for 2020, without tapping your lifetime gift and estate tax exemption. And you can double the exclusion to $30,000 per beneficiary if you elect to split the gifts with your spouse...

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Should you “park” your vehicle in a living trust?

Posted On: June 4th 2020

Using a revocable trust — sometimes referred to as a “living trust” — is a common estate planning strategy to manage one’s assets during life and to avoid probate at death. For the trust to be effective, you must “fund” it, meaning transferring ownership of your assets to the trust...

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The SECURE Act

Posted On: June 2020

The Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act is one of the most significant pieces of retirement plan legislation in years. In addition to affecting your retirement planning strategies, the new law may also impact your estate plan, especially if your beneficiaries will inherit IRAs or employer-provided retirement accounts....

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Your powers of attorney are stale

Posted On: June 2020

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

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Sidestep the probate process to avoid the public eye

Posted On: May 2020

Probate can be time consuming and expensive, and perhaps its biggest downside is that it is public. In fact, anyone who is interested can find out what assets you owned and how they are being distributed after your death...

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Estate planning in the FAST lane

Posted On: May 2020

Traditionally, estate planning has focused on more technical objectives, such as minimizing estate and gift taxes and protecting assets against creditors’ claims or frivolous lawsuits. These goals are still important, but affluent families are increasingly turning their attention to “softer,” yet equally critical, aspirations, such as educating the younger generation and preparing...

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Looking for a trust that can also act as a financial backup plan? Consider a SLAT

Posted On: May 21st 2020

Some of the most effective estate planning strategies involve setting up irrevocable trusts. For a trust to be deemed irrevocable, you, the grantor, lose all incidents of ownership of the trust’s assets. In other words, you are effectively removing those assets from your taxable estate...

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Build flexibility into your estate plan with powers of appointment

Posted On: May 14th 2020

There are several tools you can use to build flexibility into your estate plan. Flexibility is especially important now because of an uncertain estate planning environment...

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Drafting your will using online tools can lead to unwanted outcomes

Posted On: May 7th 2020

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has refocused people’s thoughts on the health and safety of their families. In addition to taking the necessary steps today to protect your loved ones, it is equally important to consider their financial security in the future....

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Now may be the time to forgive intrafamily loans

Posted On: April 30th 2020

If you have outstanding loans to your children, grandchildren or other family members, consider forgiving those loans to take advantage of the current, record-high $11.58 million gift and estate tax exemption. Bear in mind that in 2026, the exemption amount will revert to $5 million ($10 million for married couples), indexed for inflation...

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The rules have changed regarding your IRAs, RMDs and estate plan

Posted On: April 23rd 2020

Many people’s estates typically include IRAs. Be aware that two major laws passed into law recently, the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, have had a direct effect on IRAs...

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Your legacy: Charitable giving is vital during the COVID-19 crisis

Posted On: April 16th 2020

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the resulting economic fallout is dealing a crushing blow to charitable organizations. Indeed, during a time when food banks, disaster relief and other nonprofit services are needed most by the public, their funding is suffering due to cancelled fundraising events and other factors...

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Review your estate plan in the midst of a major life shock

Posted On: April 9th 2020

Generally, it’s recommended that you review your estate plan at year’s end. It’s a good time to check whether any life events have taken place in the past 12 months or so that affect your plan.
However, with a life shock as monumental as the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, now is a good time to review your estate planning documents to ensure that they’re up to date — especially if you haven’t reviewed them in a number of years...

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Creating an education legacy

Posted On: March 2020

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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E-wills: Are they ready for prime time?

Posted On: March 2020

Today, most people communicate, shop, bank and even sign documents online. But one area that hasn’t yet embraced the digital revolution is estate planning. Most people continue to execute wills and related documents with paper and ink at a lawyer’s office in the presence of witnesses and a notary public...

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Wealth preservation and estate planning go hand-in-hand

Posted On: March 2020

A central tenet of any estate plan is the protection of your assets. You’ve worked a lifetime to build your wealth, and you undoubtedly want to pass as much of it to your loved ones as possible...

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Your spouse failed to designate you as beneficiary of his or her IRA

Posted On: March 2020

One advantage of inheriting an IRA from your spouse is that you’re 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...

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Get smart when tackling estate planning for intellectual property

Posted On: March 26th 2020

If you’ve invented something during your lifetime and had it patented, your estate includes intellectual property (IP). The same goes for any copyrighted works. These assets can hold substantial value, and, thus, must be addressed by your estate plan. However, bear in mind that these assets are generally treated differently than other types of property...

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Have you coordinated your payable-on-death accounts with your estate plan?

Posted On: March 5th 2020

Payable-on-death (POD) accounts provide a quick, simple and inexpensive way to transfer assets outside of probate. They can be used for bank accounts, certificates of deposit or even brokerage accounts. Setting one up is as easy as providing the bank with a signed POD beneficiary designation form. When you die, your beneficiaries just need to present a certified copy of the death certificate and their identification to the bank, and the money or securities are theirs...

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2 trust types to consider when estate planning for a blended family

Posted On: February 27th 2020

No one said estate planning is easy, and this is especially true if you have a “blended family.” The good news is that there are two trust types — a qualified terminable interest property (QTIP) trust and an irrevocable life insurance trust (ILIT) — that can provide for your children from a previous marriage while also taking care of your current spouse and any children from your current marriage...

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Take steps to curb power of attorney abuse

Posted On: February 13th 2020

A financial power of attorney can be a valuable planning tool. The most common type is the durable power of attorney, which allows someone (the agent) to act on the behalf of another person (the principal) even if the person becomes mentally incompetent or otherwise incapacitated....

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Determining whether you need to file a gift tax return can be tricky

Posted On: February 6th 2020

For 2020, the lifetime gift and estate tax exemption has reached a whopping $11.58 million ($23.16 million for married couples). As a result, few people will be subject to federal gift taxes...

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If you’re a non-U.S. citizen, the estate planning rules are different

Posted On: January 23rd 2020

Virtually everyone needs an estate plan, but it isn’t a one-size-fits-all proposition. Even though each person’s situation is unique, general guidelines can be drawn depending on your current stage of life...

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Time passages: Estate planning through the years

Posted On: January 16th 2020

Virtually everyone needs an estate plan, but it isn’t a one-size-fits-all proposition. Even though each person’s situation is unique, general guidelines can be drawn depending on your current stage of life...

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Nondeductible IRA contributions require careful tracking

Posted On: January 2nd 2020

If, like many people, your traditional IRA holds a mixture of deductible (after-tax) and nondeductible (pretax) contributions, it’s important to track your contributions carefully to avoid double taxation of distributions. Why? Because the IRS treats distributions as a blend of pretax and after-tax dollars. If you treat distributions as fully taxable, you’ll end up overpaying...

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Qualified Opportunity Funds: A new weapon in the estate planning arsenal

Posted On: December 26th 2019

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act created a new program to encourage investment in economically distressed areas through generous tax incentives. The Qualified Opportunity Zone (QOZ) program relies on investments in Qualified Opportunity Funds (QOFs) — funds that can provide wealthy taxpayers with some new avenues for estate planning...

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Estate planning and your art collection

If you’re an art collector, it’s critical for your estate plan to address your collection separately from other types of assets. Investments in artwork may be motivated in part by financial gain, but for most collectors the primary motivation is a passion for the art itself...

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ABLE accounts and special needs trusts 2 options for families with disabled loved ones

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)...

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