Category: Estate Planning

Avoid leaving Co-op Ownership to Heirs

Avoid leaving Co-op Ownership to Heirs

If you own a co-op you might be tempted to include it in your planning. It is wise to avoid leaving your co-op ownership to your heirs. Here is a cautionary tale.

Parents bought a studio apartment in a New York City co-op for their adult son with special needs. He’s able to live independently with the support of an agency.

The couple asked the co-op board to let them transfer the property to an irrevocable trust, so when they die, the son will still have a place to live. However, the board denied their request.

An individual with special needs can’t inherit property directly, or he’ll no longer be able to receive the government benefits that support him. What should the parents do?

The New York Times’ recent article entitled “Can I Leave My Co-op to My Heirs?” explains that parents can leave a co-op apartment to their children in their will or in a trust. However, that doesn’t mean their heirs will necessarily wind up with the right to own or live in that apartment.

In most cases, a co-op board has wide discretion to approve or deny the transfer of the shares and the proprietary lease.

If the board denied the request, the apartment will be sold and the children receive the equity. Just because the will says, ‘I’m leaving it to my children,’ that doesn’t give the children the absolute right to acquire the shares or live there.

In some instances, the lease says a board won’t unreasonably withhold consent to transfer the apartment to a financially responsible family member. However, few, if any, leases extend that concept to include trusts.

The parents here could wait to have the situation resolved after their deaths, leaving clear directives to the executor of their estate about what to do should the board reject a request to transfer the property into a trust for their son. However, that leaves everyone in a precarious position, with years of uncertainty.

It is safer to avoid leaving your co-op ownership to your heirs. Another option is to sell the co-op apartment now, put the proceeds in a special-needs trust and buy a condo through that trust. The son would then live there.

Unlike co-ops, condos generally allow transfers within estate planning, without requiring approval.

While this route would involve significant upheaval, the parents would have more peace of mind.

However, before buying the condo, an experienced estate planning attorney should review the building’s rules on transferring the unit. If you would like to read more about leaving real property to your heirs, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: New York Times (Oct. 1, 2022) “Can I Leave My Co-op to My Heirs?”

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Which Bills are Paid by Estate and which by Beneficiaries?

Which Bills are Paid by Estate and which by Beneficiaries?

Settling an estate can be complex and time-consuming—it all depends on how much “estate planning” was done. According to a recent article from yahoo! Finance titled “What Expenses Are Paid by the Estate vs. Beneficiary?,” the executor is the person who creates an inventory of assets, determines which expenses need to be paid and distributes the remainder of the estate to the deceased’s beneficiaries. How does the executor know which bills are paid by the estate and which by the beneficiaries?

First, let’s establish what kind of expenses an estate pays. The main expenses of an estate include:

Outstanding debts. The executor has to notify creditors of the decedent’s death and the creditors then may make a claim against the estate. Because a person dies doesn’t mean their debts disappear—they become the debts of the estate.

Taxes. There are many different taxes to be paid when a person dies, including estate, inheritance and income tax. The federal estate tax is not an issue, unless the estate value exceed the exemption limit of $12.92 million for 2023. Not all states have inheritance taxes, so check with a local estate planning attorney to learn if the beneficiaries will need to pay this tax. If the decedent has an outstanding property tax bill for real estate property, the estate will need to pay it to avoid a lien being placed on the property.

Fees. There are court fees to file documents including a will to start the probate process, to serve notice to creditors or record transfer of property with the local register of deeds. The executor is also entitled to collect a fee for their services.

Maintaining real estate property. If the estate includes real estate, it is likely there will be expenses for maintenance and upkeep until the property is either distributed to heirs or sold. There may also be costs involved in transporting property to heirs.

Final expenses. Unless the person has pre-paid for all of their funeral, burial, cremation, or internment costs, these are considered part of estate expenses. They are often paid out of the death benefit associated with the deceased person’s life insurance policy.

What expenses does the estate pay?

The estate pays outstanding debts, including credit cards, medical bills, or liens.

  • Appraisals needed to establish values of estate assets
  • Repairs or maintenance for real estate
  • Fees paid to professionals associated with settling the estate, including executor, estate planning attorney, accountant, or real estate agent
  • Taxes, including income tax, estate tax and property tax
  • Fees to obtain copies of death certificates

The executor must keep detailed records of any expenses paid out of estate assets. The executor is the only person entitled by law to see the decedent’s financial records. However, beneficiaries have the right to review financial estate account records.

What does the beneficiary pay?

This depends on how the estate was structured and if any special provisions are included in the person’s will or trust. Generally, expect to pay:

  • Final expenses not covered by the estate
  • Personal travel expenses
  • Legal expenses, if you decide to contest the will
  • Property maintenance or transportation costs not covered by the estate

Some of the expenses are deductible, and the executor must use IRS Form 1041 on any estate earning more than $600 in income or which has a nonresident alien as a beneficiary.

An estate planning attorney is needed to create a comprehensive estate plan addressing these and other issues in advance. If little or no planning was done before the decedent’s death, an estate planning attorney will also be an important resource in navigating through the estate’s settlement. He or she will be able to address which bills are paid by the estate and which by the beneficiaries. If you would like to learn more about the role of the executor, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: yahoo! finance (Dec. 29, 2022) “What Expenses Are Paid by the Estate vs. Beneficiary?”

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Tips to Reduce Size of your Taxable Estate

Tips to Reduce Size of your Taxable Estate

The current lifetime estate and gift tax exemption is set to be cut by half after 2025, unless Congress acts to extend it, which doesn’t seem likely in the current financial environment. There are tips to help reduce the size of your taxable estate, reported in a recent article “Smarter Ways To Make Estate Planning Gifts” from Forbes.

It’s generally better to give property than to give cash, especially investment property. Recipients are less likely to sell these gifts and spend the proceeds. It’s more likely that cash will be spent rather than invested for the long term. Investment property is almost always a better gift for the long term.

However, property gifts come with potential taxes. To help reduce the size of your taxable estate, make gifts of the correct properties. There are a few principals to follow.

Don’t give investment property with paper losses. The recipient of a gift of property gets the same tax basis in the property as the person making the gift. The appreciation occurring during the holding period is taxed when the gift recipient sells the property.

If the property didn’t appreciate when the owner had it, the beneficiary’s tax basis will be the lower of the owner’s basis and the current market value. When the investment lost value, the beneficiary reduces the basis to the current fair market value. The loss incurred for the owner won’t be deductible by anyone. There is no winner here. It is best for the owner to hold the loss property or sell it, so at least they can deduct the loss and gift the after-tax proceeds.

Give appreciated investment property after a price decline. This makes maximum use of the annual gift tax exclusion and minimizes the use of the giver’s lifetime estate and gift tax exemption. You can give more shares of a stock or mutual fund by making the gift when prices are lower.

Let’s say shares of a mutual fund were at $60—you could give 266.67 shares tax free under the annual gift tax exclusion ($17,000 in 2023). If the price dropped to $50, you could give 320 shares without exceeding the exclusion limit.

When the recipient holds the shares and the price recovers, they will have received more long-term wealth. The giver would not have incurred estate and gift taxes or used part of their lifetime exemption.

This is also an example of why families should consider gift giving throughout the year and not just at year’s end. An even better way: determine early in the year how much you intend to give, and then look for a good time during the year to maximize the tax-free value of the gift.

It’s good to give property most likely to appreciate in value. If the goal is to remove future appreciation from the estate, gift property you expect to appreciate. This also serves to maximize the wealth of loved ones, especially appreciated when the beneficiary is in a lower tax bracket. When the property is eventually sold, the beneficiary likely will pay capital gains taxes on the appreciation at a lower rate than the giver would. You pass on more after-tax wealth and reduce the family’s overall taxes.

Retain property if it has appreciated significantly. When it’s time to sell the property and the loved one is in the 0% capital gains tax bracket, it’s best to make a gift of the property and let them sell it. Even if the loved one is in the 10% capital gains tax bracket, this still make sense if you’re in the higher capital gains tax bracket. But there are some things to consider. If the gain pushes the recipient into a higher tax bracket and triggers higher taxes on all their income, it won’t be a welcome gift. If there’s no urgent need to sell the property, you can ensure a 0% capital gain by simply holding onto the investment.

Give income-generating assets. If you hold income-generating investments and you don’t need the income, consider giving those to family members in a lower tax bracket. This reduces taxes on the income and the recipient is also less likely to sell the asset to raise cash when it’s generating income.

Remember the Kiddie Tax. Heirs who are age 19 or under (or under 24 if they are full-time college students) are hit with their parents’ highest tax rate on investment income they earn above a certain amount, which was $2,300 in 2022. At this point, gifts of income-producing property create tax liabilities, not benefits.

These are just a few tips to help you reduce to size of your taxable estate. Work with your estate planning attorney to identify any additional tax reductions available. If you would like to learn more about tax planning, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Forbes (Dec. 27, 2022) “Smarter Ways To Make Estate Planning Gifts”

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Prevent some Common Beneficiary Errors

Prevent some Common Beneficiary Errors

Planning for one’s eventual death can be a somber task. However, consider what would occur if you failed to plan: loved ones trying to figure out your intentions, a long and expensive legal battle with unintended heirs and instead of grieving your loss, wondering why you didn’t take care of business while you were living. Planning suddenly becomes far more appealing, doesn’t it? There are ways to prevent some common beneficiary errors.

A recent article from yahoo! finance, “5 Retirement Plan Beneficiary Mistakes to Avoid,” explains how to avoid some of the issues regarding beneficiaries.

You haven’t named a beneficiary for your retirement accounts. This is a common estate planning mistake, even though it seems so obvious. A beneficiary can be a person, a charity, a trust, or your estate. Your estate planning attorney will be able to help you identify likely beneficiaries and ensure they are eligible.

You forgot to review your beneficiary designations for many years. Most people have changes in relationships as they move through the stages of life. The same person who was your best friend in your twenties might not even be in your life in your sixties. However, if you don’t check on beneficiary designations on a regular basis, you may be leaving your retirement accounts to people who haven’t heard from you in decades and disinheriting loved ones. Every time you update your estate plan, which should be every three to five years, check your beneficiary designations.

You didn’t name your spouse as a primary beneficiary for a retirement account. When Congress passed the 2019 SECURE Act, the bill removed a provision allowing non-spousal beneficiaries to stretch out disbursements from IRAs over their lifetimes, also known as the “Stretch IRA.” A non-spouse beneficiary must empty any inherited IRA within ten years from the death of the account holder. If a minor child is the beneficiary, once they reach the age of legal majority, they are required to follow the rules of a Required Minimum Distribution. Having a spouse named as beneficiary allows them to move the inherited IRA funds into their own IRA and take out assets as they wish.

You named an estate as a beneficiary. You can name your estate as a beneficiary. However, it creates a significant tangle for the family who has to set things right. For instance, if you have any debt, your estate could be attached by creditors. Your estate may also go through probate court, a court-supervised process to validate your will, have your final assets identified and have debts paid before any remaining assets are distributed to heirs.

You didn’t create a retirement plan until late in your career. Retirement seems very far away during your twenties, thirties and even forties. However, the years pass and suddenly you’re looking at retirement without enough money set aside. Creating an estate plan early in your working life shifts your focus, so you understand how important it is to have a retirement plan.

An experienced estate planning attorney can help you prevent some common beneficiary errors as part of your overall estate plan. The best time to start? How about today? If you would like to learn more about beneficiary designations, please visit our previous posts.

Reference: yahoo! finance (Dec. 19, 2022) “5 Retirement Plan Beneficiary Mistakes to Avoid”

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Secure 2.0 Act has new features

SECURE 2.0 Act has New Features

SECURE 2.0 Act of 2022 is an extension of the original SECURE Act, which was enacted in 2019, reports Forbes’ recent article, entitled “SECURE 2.0 Passes—Here’s What It Means To Your Retirement.” An American Retirement Association press release notes the Secure 2.0 Act has new features including:

  • A Starter 401(k)—that could provide more than 19 million new American workers with access to the workplace-based retirement system through a brand new super simple, safe harbor 401(k) plan
  • A 100% tax credit for new plans to incentivize the creation of new workplace retirement programs by small businesses; and
  • A Saver’s Match Program that would incentivize retirement savings by giving a 50% match on up to $2,000 in retirement savings annually for lower- and middle-income Americans.

About 108 million Americans would be eligible for the Saver’s Match that would be directly deposited into their retirement account—upping the savings of moderate-income earners.

“We are grateful to the many members of Congress and staff who worked tirelessly to get SECURE 2.0 included in the omnibus legislation enacted this week,” noted Brian Graff, CEO of the American Retirement Association in Washington, DC.

“This important legislation will enhance the retirement security of tens of millions of American workers—and for many of them, give them the opportunity for the first time to begin saving.”

The Pension Protection Act of 2006 first introduced the concept of automatic 401(k) enrollment. This shifted the then-current 401(k) practice of requiring workers to opt-in before being allowed to participate in their company’s 401(k) plan to requiring them to opt-out only if they did not want to participate.

The new legislation now has a number of provisions meant to encourage companies to create retirement savings plans for their workers.

For older workers who find themselves behind in their savings, SECURE 2.0 grants them higher “catch-up” provisions. The new features in the Secure 2.0 Act may be a benefit to you or your loved ones. If you would like to learn more about the SECURE Act, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Forbes (Dec. 23, 2022) “SECURE 2.0 Passes—Here’s What It Means To Your Retirement”

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How the Guardianship Process Works

How the Guardianship Process Works

For family members of the estimated 6.5 million dementia patients in the U.S., it is crucial to understand whether guardianship may be an option for their loved one. A recent article from Next Avenue titled “Thinking of Becoming a Guardian?” explains how the guardianship process works and what factors go into the decision-making process.

Guardianship is the position of being responsible for someone else. State courts usually appoint a guardian to make decisions for a person, if the court finds that person to be incapacitated or unable to make safe and reasonable decisions for themselves. People who are placed under guardianship, known as “wards,” often lose their independence in making financial, legal and health care decisions.

If full guardianship is awarded, the person cannot make decisions about whether they may vote, marry, where they live, or make their own end-of-life decisions.

Two tasks that are evaluated when considering guardianship are a person’s ability to manage personal finances and to take medications as prescribed.

The court may call on a geriatrician or psychiatrist to evaluate the person’s functional behavior, cognitive function, disabling conditions and ability to meet their essential needs.

There are benefits to guardianship for someone who is not able to care for themselves. It ideally creates a safety net for a person who cannot make informed decisions for themselves.

this, of course, assumes that the guardian is honest and accountable, which is not always the case. The inconsistencies plaguing the guardianship system include minimum standards for guardians, lack of regular independent reviews of the need for guardianship and lack of educational requirements for guardians.

Once guardianship is assigned, there is a tendency for the person to become lost when no follow-up is done. The very same person who lacks capacity to care for themselves is not going to be able to advocate for themselves, contact an attorney or access funds for court proceedings.

There is also a tendency to assign full guardianship for a person, rather than less restrictive alternatives.

There are alternatives, but they require planning and discussion. More than 40% of Americans have not discussed their wishes for end-of-life care with their loved ones, according to an article in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Families should have a conversation at the first sign of memory loss or when preparing for retirement regarding wishes for end-of-life care and write them down as part of an Advanced Directive—also known as a Living Will and Health Care Power of Attorney—when preparing their estate plan.

Another important document, although not legally binding, is a “Value History,” where you share your values and beliefs as they may impact care choices.

Designate a Power of Attorney and list two or even three back-up candidates. This person will be responsible for financial, legal and personal matters, avoiding the need for guardianship.

Appointing a family member or friend as a guardian is the ideal solution. However, there are instances when the best person to be a guardian is not a family member, but a court-appointed outsider. This relieves the family of being the ones who need to inform a person suffering from dementia with the news of having to move into a nursing home facility or sifting through financial records to learn that the family home is in foreclosure. The family can focus on being supportive and loving, while the guardian deals with the sometimes harsh realities of the person’s life.

Speak with your estate planning attorney to learn about how the guardianship process works, and whether it may be the right move for your family. If you would like to learn more about guardianships, please visit our previous posts.

Reference: Next Avenue (Dec. 23, 2022) “Thinking of Becoming a Guardian?”

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Qualified Charitable Distributions Reduce Tax Burden

Qualified Charitable Distributions Reduce Tax Burden

Assets held in Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) are unquestionably the best assets to gift to charity, since IRAs are loaded with taxes. One way to relieve this tax burden is by using the IRA for charitable giving during your lifetime, says a recent article, “Giving funds in IRAs to charity with QCDs,” from Investment News. Qualified charitable distributions can help reduce your tax burden.

Most people who give to charity don’t receive the taxable benefit because they don’t itemize deductions. They instead use the higher standard deduction, which offers no extra tax deduction for charitable giving.

Older taxpayers are more likely to use the standard deduction, since taxpayers aged 65 and older receive an extra standard deduction. In 2022, the standard deduction for a married couple filing jointly when each of the spouses are 65 and older is $28,700. The exceptions are couples with large medical expenses or those who make large charitable gifts.

Here’s where the IRA for charitable giving comes in. IRAs normally may not be given to charity or anyone in the owner’s life (except in the case of divorce). There is one exception: giving IRAs to charity with a QCD.

The QCD is a direct transfer of traditional IRA funds to a qualified charity. The QCD is an exclusion from income, which reduces Adjusted Gross Income. AGI is the most significant number on the tax return because it determines the availability of many tax deductions, credits and other benefits. Lowering AGI with a QCD could also work to reduce “stealth” taxes–taxes on Social Security benefits or Medicare premium surcharges.

QCDs are limited to $100,000 per person, per year (not per IRA). They can also satisfy RMDs up to the $100,000, but only if the timing is right.

There are some limitations to discuss with your estate planning attorney. For instance, QCDs are only available to IRA owners who are 70 ½ or older. They can only be made once you turn age 70 ½, not anytime in the year you turn 70 ½. The difference matters.

QCDs are not available from 401(k) or other employer plans. They also aren’t allowed for gifts to Donor Advised Funds (DAFs) and private foundations, and they can’t be made from active SEP or SIMPLE IRAs, where contributions are still being made.

Appreciated stocks can also be gifted to qualified charities and itemized deductions taken for the fair market value of the stock, if it was held for more than one year. There’s no tax on appreciation, as there would be if the stock were sold instead of gifted.

There are some tax traps to consider, including the SECURE Act, which allows traditional IRAs to be made after age 70 ½. However, it pairs the provision with a poison pill. If the IRA deduction is taken in the same year as a QCD, or any year before the QCD, the QCD tax exclusion could be reduced or lost. This can be avoided by making Roth IRA contributions instead of tax-deductible IRA contributions after age 70 ½.

Speak with your estate planning attorney about whether using qualified charitable distributions to help reduce your tax burden makes sense for your estate planning and tax situation. If you would like to learn more about charitable giving, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Investment News (Dec. 9, 2022) “Giving funds in IRAs to charity with QCDs”

The Estate of The Union Season 2|Episode 5 - Bad Moon Rising: The Corporate Transparency Act

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The Estate of The Union Season 2|Episode 5 - Bad Moon Rising: The Corporate Transparency Act

The Estate of The Union Season 2|Episode 5 is out now!

The Estate of The Union Season 2|Episode 5 is out now!

Happy New Year! To kick off the first episode of 2023, host Brad Wiewel, sits down to discuss the Corporate Transparency Act and how it relates to trusts.

There is a Bad Moon Rising (to quote Creedence Clearwater Revival). The bad moon is the Corporate Transparency Act which is going to REQUIRE all LLCs, corporations and Limited Partnerships to register with the federal government! The law becomes effective January 1, 2024.

This podcast focuses on some of the provisions of the new law and the consequences and penalties for failure to comply. It is a MUST LISTEN if you or someone you know or work with has an entity, because this is SERIOUS STUFF!

In the podcast we mention that we have a new service we are providing called Business Shield . It is designed to maintain entities and keep them in compliance with both state, and now federal law. Simply click on Business Shield™ to be taken to the page on our website. Please let us know if you would like to discuss Business Shield™ with us and we’ll be happy to schedule a complimentary phone consultation with one of our attorneys.

In each episode of The Estate of The Union podcast, host and lawyer Brad Wiewel will give valuable insights into the confusing world of estate planning, making an often daunting subject easier to understand. It is Estate Planning Made Simple! The Estate of The Union Season 2|Episode 5 is out now! The episode can be found on Spotify, Apple podcasts, or anywhere you get your podcasts. If you would prefer to watch the video version, please visit our YouTube page. Please click on the link below to listen to the new installment of The Estate of The Union podcast. We hope you enjoy it.

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Texas Trust Law focuses its practice exclusively in the area of wills, probate, estate planning, asset protection, and special needs planning. Brad Wiewel is Board Certified in Estate Planning and Probate Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. We provide estate planning services, asset protection planning, business planning, and retirement exit strategies.

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Digital Assets need to be Included in Planning

Digital Assets need to be Included in Planning

Most of us don’t even realize just how much of our life is lived online, from streaming services and banking to apps to monitor our front door. All of these online accounts are digital assets and need to be included in estate planning says a recent article, “Estate planning and online accounts,” from American Legion.

Start by making a complete list of all of your online accounts, together with information about each account. Your list should include username, password, account number and a description of what each account includes. If you change passwords frequently, as recommended by cybersecurity experts, you’ll need to update your inventory every time.

Digital assets fall into four major types: personal, business, financial and social media. Personal accounts including emails, photos, videos, music and apps used on smart phones or tablets. This information is typically backed up on a computer hard drive or cloud-based storage account.

Financial assets include savings and checking accounts, retirement accounts, investment accounts, utility accounts and shopping and frequent flyer accounts. If you do banking or investing online, or if you own cryptocurrency, you’ll want to include these accounts.

Business related accounts include intellectual property, websites or blogs, written work, photos, videos, musical compositions and software. If your side gig includes selling items on eBay or Esty or similar websites, this information also needs to be included in your digital asset inventory.

Social media accounts include well-known platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Snapchat, WhatsApp and any other platform where you are actively engaged. Gaming sites, e-sports and gambling sites should also be included.

Storage and protection is the second part of a digital estate plan. This involves saving the list and backing up important files and account information. The inventory itself needs to be secured, as it could easily be used to access your identity and steal your entire online life. The inventory can be as simple as a list on a pad of paper, stored in a secure location. If it is stored in a digital manner, make sure it is encrypted. There are programs to store and encrypt passwords. However, they are only as good as the software used to create them.

Saving the information on a desktop, laptop or tablet is risky, since these devices are hacked and contents are compromised fairly often. An external thumb drive might work. However, what if it was lost?

Select a digital executor and discuss your digital assets with them. Many states have now passed laws governing digital assets. Speak with an experienced estate planning attorney to learn if yours is among them. On some platforms, the executor needs to have been named in advance as a legacy contact before they are legally permitted to access the digital asset. In many cases, having the user’s name and password doesn’t give the executor a legal right to access the accounts according to the Terms of Service Agreement (TOSA) between the user and the platform.

Your estate plan should include a letter of instruction to the digital executor to tell them specifically what you wish to happen to your online accounts and digital assets. It should include recommendations for the distribution of various accounts, assets, files and information to heirs. It may be needed to prove your wishes or directives for digital assets, if there should be a challenge to the executor.

Managing digital assets is a new and changing area of the law and need to be included in your estate planning. Making provisions for your digital estate will make it possible for your executor to protect your digital assets, as much as a traditional estate plan protects traditional, tangible property. If you would like to learn more about managing digital assets, please visit our previous posts.

Reference: American Legion (Dec. 13, 2022) “Estate planning and online accounts”

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A Joint and Survivor Annuity is an Option

A Joint and Survivor Annuity is an Option

A joint and survivor annuity is an option to consider for some spouses. An annuity is a contract between an investor and a life insurance company. The purchaser of an annuity pays a lump-sum or several installments to the insurer, which then provides a guaranteed income for a certain period—or until their death.

Forbes’ recent article entitled “What Is A Joint And Survivor Annuity?” says that understanding an “annuitant” is key to understanding how a joint and survivor annuity works. An annuitant may be either the buyer or owner of an annuity or someone who’s been selected to get the annuity payouts. A joint and survivor annuity typically benefits joint annuitants: a primary annuitant and a secondary annuitant. Under this policy, both get income payments during the lifetimes of both the annuity owner and their survivor.

With joint life annuity, you can expect payments throughout the lifetime of the primary annuitant. If that person passes away, the survivor—the other annuitant—receives payouts that are the same as or less than what the original annuitant received. However, if the secondary annuitant dies ahead of the primary annuitant, survivor benefits aren’t paid when the primary annuity dies. The annuity buyer can designate themselves and another person, like their spouse, as joint annuitants.

A joint and survivor annuity differs from a single life annuity in a few ways:

  • A single-life annuity benefits only the annuity owner, so income payouts cease when that person dies; and
  • A single-life annuity usually pays out less than a joint and survivor annuity, since a single-life annuity covers just one life, while a joint and survivor covers two.

Under some joint and survivor annuities, the amount of the payout is decreased after the death of the primary annuitant. The terms of any decrease are set out in the annuity contract.

The payout to a surviving secondary annuitant, generally a spouse or domestic partner, ranges from 50% to 100% of the amount paid during the primary annuitant’s life, if the annuity was bought through certain tax-qualified retirement plans.

A joint and survivor annuity is an option to consider, but you need to ask these three questions before setting one up:

  • How much in payout is needed for both annuitants to support themselves?
  • Do you have other assets (like a life insurance policy) to help the surviving joint annuitant after one of the annuitants dies?
  • How much would the payouts be lessened after the death of a joint annuitant?

Remember that you usually can’t change the survivor named in a joint and survivor annuity. If you are interested in learning more about annuities in estate planning, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Forbes (Dec. 19, 2022) “What Is A Joint And Survivor Annuity?”

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Information in our blogs is very general in nature and should not be acted upon without first consulting with an attorney. Please feel free to contact Texas Trust Law to schedule a complimentary consultation.
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