ESTATE PLANNING UPDATES: NOT JUST “SET IT AND FORGET IT”
Over 70 percent of all Americans have no estate planning documents whatsoever. Of the 30 percent that do, most have only basic documents like a Last Will and Testament, with no regard to probate avoidance, estate tax reduction or asset protection. Of those people that do incorporate a Revocable Living Trust into their foundational estate plan, over 90 percent will leave the trust underfunded or unfunded at death, causing the unnecessary loss of assets and unnecessary delay of distribution. Some basic estate planning upkeep could alleviate all of these concerns.
Your estate plan should be reviewed with an attorney at least once every 3 to 5 years. I review my clients’ estate plans each year to determine if any changes need to be made due to a change in tax law (as happened in 2010), legal drafting requirements (as happened in 2005) or the Probate Code (as happens most years). However, the more pressing changes almost always occur on the personal side of the equation.
Over the course of every 5 year period, most families will see a birth, a death, a marriage or a divorce and this event could cause the need for an amendment to the estate plans of the individual members of that family. Additionally, the beneficiaries might be at different ages or competency levels and the Trustees, Personal Representatives and Guardians might be in different stages in life, areas of the country or financial levels than they were when you originally drafted your plan, which would cause the immediate need to revise and choose new role players.
Another consideration is the age of your attorney. Your estate planning attorney needs to be able to walk your children or other beneficiaries through the administration process. Is your attorney still alive? Is he still practicing? Will he still be practicing when you die? Does he practice in the state in which you currently live?
Any estate planning attorney should give you a free consultation for the review of your estate plan. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. A simple review and possible amendment to your estate plan today will save your family large amounts of money and time after you are gone
THE NEED FOR A PROPER BUSINESS STRUCTURE
There are a variety of business entities that can be incorporated into your wealth preservation plan. A Limited Liability Company (LLC) is a commonly used structure that provides its “members” (owners) with control over assets, without the risks associated with having title in their own personal names.
By owning your assets in an LLC, you are safeguarding them from being pulled into a lawsuit brought against you, as you do not “own” them. The LLC provides higher liability protection than a corporation and, if organized correctly, any potential creditor or litigant would be limited to gaining only a charging lien against the LLC. Your home and other assets (bank account, etc.) may not be touched, because you do not own the business directly, thus you are not personally liable. It’s like being a stockholder in a corporation.
Due to the fact that there are several requirements to properly forming an LLC, you will want to seek an attorney (that has a thorough understanding of such asset protection) to assist you in ensuring that the LLC is valid; otherwise, your safeguarding efforts will be futile. Also, keep in mind, the timing of the asset transfer cannot be done to actively avoid a present creditor, as it may be considered a “fraudulent conveyance.” Therefore, it is important to partake in these asset protection strategies prior to any legal or financial problems.
By utilizing estate-planning techniques, you can protect yourself and your family from unnecessary hassles, while safeguarding your assets. With the help of an estate-planning attorney, there are a variety of tools that can be customized to your goals, and implemented to ensure that you get to enjoy your assets and investments without that pesky law suit target that comes when you own them in your own name.
TAX DAY BE DAMNED: GIVE OR IT SHALL BE TAKEN
Tax day just passed and you may have made a commitment that you will make better tax decisions for 2016; just like you promised for 2015. The time has come to introduce this resolution to your inner humanitarian, as you can make donations to a good cause, while reducing your tax liability. This year, be sure to find an organization that is qualified by the IRS, so you can make an itemized deduction on your tax return. Use the following tips to ensure that you can receive a deduction for your charitable donation.
1. Itemized Deduction: First of all, you cannot make a qualified charitable deduction under the “standard deduction,” as they can only be reported through itemized deductions.
2. Determine whether your donation is qualified for a deduction: To receive a deduction for your donation, it must be made to a “qualified organization.” The “Exempt Organizations Select Check” is an online tool provided by the IRS to help you determine whether your donation was made to a qualified organization. If you don’t want to do the research, you can always count on larger charitable organizations like Red Cross.
3. Keep a record: When you make a charitable donation to a qualified organization, you must maintain a record in the form of a bank record or a written communication from the qualified organization containing name of the organization, the date and amount of the contribution. If your contribution has a value of $250 or more, you must get a contemporaneous written acknowledgment from the qualified organization indicating the amount of the cash, a description of any property contributed, and whether your received a benefit in return (if so, it must include the estimated value of the benefit received).
4. Submit a Form 8283: If your charitable donation deductions exceed $500, you must submit a Form 8283 with your return. It’s a Wild World, are you protected?
Thanks to the cautiousness that was brought on April Fool’s Day, we are more careful to decide what we take as fact and fiction. The same goes for estate planning: you want to dispel all those false truths, and learn the truth.
False: Estate Planning and Wealth Preservation Techniques are only for Millionaires.
If you are not bringing in at least eight figures, you simply have no possible use for a wealth preservation plan, right? Wrong. If you have anything to lose, it is worth protecting. In fact, if you have air in your lungs, you will benefit from standard health related estate planning documents. A wealth preservation plan can ensure that what large or little amount of wealth that you do have, is preserved in both life and death. Wealth preservation is not just about concerns associated with extreme wealth; but also with the human element. You have a legacy, and the property and relationships that you acquire throughout your life warrant protection. Furthermore, such techniques allow you to maintain control in situations where you would ordinarily have none.
False: Estate Planning is strictly for senior citizens.
If you still have to pay $12 at the movie theater, in stead of the discounted $8 reserved for senior citizens, you are not precluded from the benefits of an estate plan. In fact, the earlier you start planning, the better. Creating a cohesive estate plan earlier in life provides many benefits over those initiated later down the road; especially when it comes to shielding your assets from the claims of creditors. Florida has adopted the Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act, meaning you cannot transfer your assets to intentionally avoid a creditor. Timing is among the many factors that the court will look at, as well as the purpose for your transfers. If you protect your property on the onset, for the purpose of achieving standard estate planning benefits, you will be effectively protecting your property from the claims of others. Furthermore, there are many strategies that are used to insulate income from unnecessary taxes; as a result, their benefits accrue through time.
False: Estate Plans are like the energizer bunny, they last forever.
While, technically, estate plans do last forever, the problem is that they may not “keep going & going” effectively. There are a variety of life events that warrant a reevaluation of your estate plan, especially those regarding relationships and property. Divorce and remarriage require alterations within your documents to ensure that your properties, and appointed persons, are in unison with your wishes. Changes in your wealth and property should also merit a second look at your documents, and whether they parallel with your goals. Thus, it is incredibly important to have your attorney look over your estate planning documents, following any significant changes in relationships or wealth.
April Fools is one week away and for some this means it’s time to brace yourself. Maybe you have children that scheme all year or perhaps you are married to the ultimate prankster – whatever your situation may be, it’s time to prepare for a possible heart attack and get your estate plan in place today.
A properly executed estate plan will allow you to remain in control, to some degree, either during times of incapacity or even after you’re long gone. By executing some important documents, you can rest easy knowing who will raise your children, how your children’s inheritance will be managed and where everything will be going. Some important documents to consider include:
- Revocable Living Trust – Whatever assets held in trust will avoid probate, saving your loved ones the money and hassle. The trust will also direct the trustee to manage and distribute your assets according to your terms.
- Last Will & Testament – Nominate your Personal Representative, choose a Guardian for any minor child, and add any burial or cremation requests.
- Durable Power of Attorney – Nominate an individual to make financial decisions on your behalf or qualify you for public benefits, should you not be able to do so yourself.
- Living Will – Advanced directive or “pull the plug” document. Allows your healthcare surrogate to give the doctor the “ok” to pull the plug if you are being kept alive by artificial means.
- Designation of Healthcare Surrogate & HIPAA Release – Designate the individual of your choosing to make important healthcare decisions on your behalf, in the event you cannot do so yourself.
Don’t just prepare for the anticipated pranks coming next week – prepare for your future and family today! Call (954) 944-2855 for your free consultation.
For more information on Estate Planning, Asset Protection, and Probate Administration visit our website at www.wfplaw.com.
It’s A Wild World. Are You Protected?
Every St. Patrick’s Day enthusiast is aware of the cardinal rule: spilling your green beer is a celebratory taboo, that of which can only be recovered through another round of green beer. In the world of wealth preservation, however, we encourage the act of spilling all of your property into a trust, through the use of a “pour-over” Last Will & Testament. The pour-over will effectively takes all of the property that passes through the will, and funnels it into a revocable living trust. That property is then distributed to the trust beneficiaries pursuant to the terms of the trust. “Separate share trusts” are used to provide that all of the property in your trust will preserve all of its protections, by requiring that all distributions continue in trust for your beneficiaries. Consider the pour over will to be a tap of green beer. The tap pours the contents into a pitcher, ordered by you, the Grantor. The pitcher is like a Living Trust. Once the pitcher makes it to your table of beneficiaries (aka, the Grantor is deceased), it is poured into separate glasses. These glasses are considered the separate share trusts, as they continue to hold the contents for the benefit of the beneficiaries. Whether it is green beer, or your wealth, be sure to take the necessary precautions to ensure maximum preservation. It’s a Wild World – is your Green Beer Protected?
FOUR LEAF CLOVERS DON’T EQUAL FOUR YEARS OF COLLEGE
It’s almost that time of year again: the 2015 NCAA tournament brackets will soon be set up, and you’ll be counting on the Luck of the Irish when you make your selections. While the function of college sports is high on the charts for education selection, that’s only half of the battle. What’s left? Funding. Fortunately, if you start planning early, you can ensure that the top four selection is your child’s greatest concern when it comes to a college education. Consider the following estate planning resource as a means of both providing for your child’s college planning, while maximizing tax savings. The Florida 529 Savings Plan allows any U.S. citizen to contribute to a savings account for the benefit of any other. The account is then managed by a professional fund manager who will invest according to your investment option of choice. All federal and state income taxes are then deferred until a withdrawal is made from the account. If such withdrawal is made for a “qualified higher education expense,” there are no income tax consequences. There is no set time for using the plan, and it can be rolled over from one beneficiary to another. Not only does the plan allow you to make monthly payments that are invested to create tax exempt income; you can also use it as a strategy to decrease your gross estate, and avoid gift and estate taxes. The 529-Plan allows the owner to maintain complete control over the account, including the right to terminate and withdrawal, while removing all of its contents from the owner’s taxable gross estate. As a result, it is an incredibly useful tool in reducing taxes, while maintaining control and investing in the future of a loved one It is important to consult with an estate planning attorney and/or financial advisor, as there are a variety of wealth management strategies associated with this plan, and it is important to ensure that such strategy compliments each estate plan.
February is American Heart Health Month. A full month dedicated to spreading awareness about heart disease, which happens to be the leading cause of death among men and in women in the United States. This is a scary reality for most Americans who love their pizza, hot dogs and beer but the good news is that this disease is preventable. You can decrease your chances of suffering from heart disease by making healthier choices, such as exercising more, choosing healthier foods and creating an estate plan! Well, maybe an estate plan can’t prevent heart disease but it will ensure that your family is taken care should anything happen to you.
Estate planning is important for individuals of all ages, from all backgrounds – no matter if you’re married or single. By planning today, you eliminate any possible arguments about who gets what, can plan for your children’s future, and even provide for your grandchildren! A solid estate plan should include the following:
The Revocable Living Trust is a great option for those who wish to avoid probate and provide asset protection for their beneficiaries. The trust can keep your beneficiaries’ inheritance safe against unsecured creditors and allow them to receive what’s held in trust free of probate. This is a real advantage since Florida’s probate system is both time consuming and costly. In addition to probate avoidance, the living trust allows the Grantor to retain control during their life. They may amend as many times as they wish or revoke entirely. As life changes, so should your estate plan!
The Last Will and Testament will be included in your plan. In your will, you will appoint minors on behalf of your children, nominate a personal representative on behalf of your estate and specify your wishes regarding cremation or burial.
The Durable Power of Attorney is a powerful document that is only valid for the duration of your life. Once signed it will allow the designated individual to make important financial decisions on your behalf in the event you are unable to do so yourself.
The Healthcare Surrogate will allow the designated individual to speak with medical staff and assist in making important medical decisions on your behalf if you are incapacitated and unable to do so yourself. The HIPPA release is included as well to allow for your healthcare surrogate to review medical documents and receive information on your behalf.
You may have the healthiest heart around but that shouldn’t stop you from creating an estate plan. Call the South Florida Office of Wild, Felice & Partners today at (954) 944-2855 for your free consultation and prepare yourself for the unforeseen.
The probate process is necessary to wind up the affairs the decedent leaves behind. It is necessary whether or not a decedent drafted a will. If someone dies without a will, he or she dies intestate. This means that Florida statutes determine the distribution of assets. On the other hand, a will determines how assets will be allocated to beneficiaries based on the wishes of the decedent. A Circuit Court Judge supervises the probate proceedings. The Last Will and Testament is validated and a personal representative is appointed to administer the estate. Creditors, including the IRS, must be properly paid before any beneficiary gets his or her share. Probate can easily cost between 3% and 7% of the total estate value. A will can also be contested which can delay the distribution for years adding to the expenses of the estate in the form of attorney fees and court costs.
There are some web programs that allow you to make “quick and easy” plans. However, “do-it yourself” wills can cause more harm than good. When it comes to estate planning, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Planning ahead does not mean go to the office supply store and get a “fill-in the blank” will or download it from an unknown source. For a will to be valid, it must adhere to the Florida laws and requirements. There are very specific formalities for properly executing this legal document, such as, who can or should be a witness and, where and when you and your witnesses may sign. Improper execution can also cause a will to be contested. Also, certain family members may have rights given by statute. Minimize the possibility of your will being contested or invalidated by seeking a South Florida Estate Planning attorney. In addition, you may have certain desires that cannot be achieved with a “cookie cutter” document.
Even if you already have an estate plan, making the time to see your probate attorney to review documents is a high priority. Estate planning is not a one time process that is done once and never revisited. It is an ongoing activity because life can be capricious and people change. Don’t be that person who leaves loved ones with the extra burden of straightening your financial affairs. Unforeseen snares lie in wait to snag even the most carefully constructed estate plans. Many circumstantial changes may arise that affect major impact upon your life- without a moment’s notice. Is it not better to take some time to consult your attorney and be safe than sorry? A South Florida estate planning attorney has the requisite training and skill to shield clients against such uncertainties in life and construct a comprehensive plan on your behalf and for the protection of those you love most. Don’t delay and let another minute pass you by. Ward off the potential for disaster by calling your attorney today.
If January has brought you a winter baby, an important dimension has been added to your estate plan. It is critical to plan for the care of your child in case of parental incapacity or death. A guardian should be appointed to look after your child in the event something tragic happens to you or your spouse. If you are a single parent, this need becomes even more pressing.
Failure to select a guardian for your child will result in a lengthy judicial process to determine the guardianship of your little one. Undesirable candidates may become his or her new caregiver. Your little one might even become ward of the state.
There are two kinds of guardians to consider. The first is known as a guardian of the estate. This is someone who manages the money or assets held by a child. On the other hand, a guardian of the person, is someone who becomes a substitute parent for the child. For example, your accountant brother-in-law may be the ideal candidate as guardian of your child’s estate, but his unceasing workaholic nature may not make him the preferred choice for guardian of the person.When selecting a guardian for your child, consider the two types and select the ideal candidate with the skills and attributes that best suit those roles.
Another important matter to consider is protecting your minor child from probate and a hefty estate tax bill by establishing a contingent trust. Don’t risk having your little one left with nothing. Protect assets from any predators or even the whims of an immature child with a spendthrift nature by consulting with your South Florida attorney now.