Category: Beneficiaries

Estate Planning should be a Major Consideration for Small Business Owners

Estate Planning should be a Major Consideration for Small Business Owners

Estate planning should be a major consideration for successful small business owners, especially if they intend to build generational wealth and create a legacy. The title of a recent article from Business Insider says it all: “You might not want to think about estate planning, but as a financial planner, I know it’s essential for small-business owners.”

There are more complex issues for business owners than employees for estate planning. Therefore, be sure to work with an experienced estate planning attorney who will create a plan to protect you, your family and your business. As you go through the process, keep these basics in mind:

Last Will and Testament. This document is the foundation of an estate plan, providing directions to the state probate court regarding your wishes for distributing assets. It also names a guardian responsible for minor children upon your passing. If you don’t have a will, assets are distributed according to your state’s intestacy laws, typically based on kinship. You can update and change your will throughout your lifetime, and it should be reviewed every three to five years.

Revocable Living Trust. Having a revocable living trust gives you more control over assets, which could be necessary to distribute business assets. A revocable living trust can be altered while you are living, so changes in your business can be reflected in the directions in the trust.

Financial Power of Attorney. This document is critical if you are the business owner who performs most of the financial tasks of your business. When a business owner becomes incapacitated, having someone named Power of Attorney gives the POA the ability to pay bills, make bank deposits and withdrawals, file business and personal taxes and make any other financial decisions you wish. POA can be limited if you only want someone to pay bills, or they can be broad, allowing the agent to do anything you would do to keep the business running while you are incapacitated. Your estate planning attorney can craft a POA to suit your needs.Benefi

Business Succession Plan. A business succession plan should be in place as soon as your business gains traction and becomes successful. Distributing shares of the business after you pass is fine. However, what if your heirs don’t have a clue how the business works? Do you want them to sell it after you pass or maintain it for the next generation? A succession plan requires the help of an estate planning attorney, CPA and financial professionals to create a management team, define roles, set performance guidelines, etc.

Digital Estate Plan. We spend so much time online. However, few have plans for our digital assets. If your business is online, has a website, and uses social media, online finances, and cell phones, you need a digital estate plan to identify assets and provide instructions on what you want to be done with those assets after you have passed.

Review Beneficiary Designations. Any account that can name a beneficiary, such as retirement plans, investment accounts, or life insurance policies, must be reviewed every few years or whenever a trigger event, including birth, death, divorce, or remarriage. Upon your passing, these assets will be passed directly to the beneficiary. Be sure the person you named twenty years ago on your life insurance policy is still the right person to receive proceeds upon your passing.

Estate planning should be a major consideration for successful small business owners. An experienced estate planning attorney can review your current estate plan to ensure that it covers all bases for you and your business. If you would like to learn more about planning for business owners, please visit our previous posts.

Reference: Business Insider (March 22, 2024) “You might not want to think about estate planning, but as a financial planner, I know it’s essential for small-business owners”

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How Does an Estate Plan Address Young Beneficiaries?

How Does an Estate Plan Address Young Beneficiaries?

How does an estate plan address young beneficiaries? Certain beneficiaries require more intentional estate planning than others. While the law sets the age of adulthood at 18, specific testamentary instruments can redefine at what age a beneficiary is considered an adult. A recent article from The News-Enterprise, “When planning for young beneficiaries, consider all options,” explains how this works.

Young beneficiaries, especially 18-year-olds still in high school, are still immature, and their brains are still developing. Add a strong dose of grief to a teenager’s life, and even a bright, stable adolescent may not make good decisions.

Young adult beneficiaries are categorized in two ways: primary and contingent.

A primary beneficiary is one who the testator or grantor expects to be a young beneficiary at the time of distribution of assets or who is young when the estate planning documents are executed. This is typically the parents of young children or grandparents who intend to leave property to young grandchildren.

Contingent beneficiaries are those who are not anticipated to receive property as young beneficiaries. However, they could inherit if a primary beneficiary dies, such as when a grandchild receives an inheritance following their parent’s death.

Even for contingent beneficiaries, some level of planning needs to be done to define the age of majority and provide options for distribution. This is done through an immediate split of assets, with assets going into a general needs trust or a common pot trust.

Assets are most commonly left to young beneficiaries through an immediate split of assets upon estate distribution. Assets are held in a separate trust for each beneficiary, with a trustee appointed for each trust. Assets within the trust are typically available for the child’s health, education, maintenance, or support until the child reaches the predetermined age.

Upon reaching the age defined by the trust, the child may receive the assets either outright or incrementally over a period of time.

Another option is to use a common pot trust. This is used for parents with multiple minor children. This type of trust allows the assets to remain in one trust to be used for the needs of all children until a triggering event, such as the youngest child reaching age 18. At that time, the remaining trust assets are split into as many shares as there are beneficiaries, and the shares are distributed according to the remaining instructions. Each separate share is usually left in an ongoing general needs trust until a certain age.

Leaving property in trust for young beneficiaries doesn’t cut off their ability to use the money property. The trustee can continue to use the assets for the beneficiary’s care. However, whatever is left is distributed to the beneficiary upon reaching the distribution age.

Your estate planning attorney can help you determine how to address young beneficiaries in your estate plan. He or she will let you know the best way to structure trusts for your children or grandchildren based on your wishes and their ages. By redefining the age of majority and outlining specific directions for distributions, young beneficiaries can receive the most value from their inheritance. If you would like to learn more about managing assets for your beneficiaries, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: The News-Enterprise (Feb. 10, 2024) “When planning for young beneficiaries, consider all options”

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Divorce Impacts your Estate Plan

Divorce Impacts your Estate Plan

Divorce is a life-altering event that significantly impacts various aspects of life, including your estate plan. Clients either going through a divorce or have recently finalized one often feel uncertain about how the divorce will affect their estate. This article shares crucial aspects of revising your estate plan after a divorce, ensuring that your assets and loved ones are protected according to your current wishes.

When you get divorced, updating your estate plan is imperative, as your ex-spouse may still be entitled to certain benefits. Your estate, which includes all assets owned, might still be accessible to your ex-spouse unless changes are made. Revising your estate plan ensures that your assets are distributed according to your updated preferences. Updating your will is essential after a divorce. Your ex-spouse may still be named as the executor or beneficiary. By revising your will, you can ensure that your estate is administered by someone you trust and that your assets are distributed according to your latest intentions.

Revoking your power of attorney is a critical step post-divorce. Your ex-spouse may be able to make financial and care decisions on your behalf. It’s advisable to appoint someone you trust to handle these matters, ensuring that your affairs are managed according to your current preferences.

Beneficiary designations are often overlooked during estate planning after divorce. It’s crucial to revise these as your ex-spouse might still be listed as a beneficiary on life insurance policies, retirement accounts and other financial instruments. Updating these designations is a simple yet essential step in ensuring that your estate is distributed according to your current wishes. Your ex-spouse is likely named as a trustee or beneficiary if you have a living trust. Post-divorce, you need to revise this document to reflect your current wishes. This might include appointing a new trustee or changing the beneficiaries.

If you have minor children, your estate plan probably includes guardianship designations. Post-divorce, reassess these choices. You might want to name someone other than your ex-spouse as the guardian, ensuring that your children’s care aligns with your current wishes.

State law and the terms of your divorce decree can impact your estate plan. Understanding these implications and ensuring that your estate plan complies with legal requirements is important. An experienced estate planning attorney can provide valuable insights and guidance.

Don’t wait until the divorce is finalized. Start updating your estate plan as soon as the divorce is pending. This proactive approach ensures that your interests are protected throughout the divorce process.

Divorce significantly affects your estate plan, and it’s crucial to take timely action to revise it. Remember, updating your estate plan post-divorce is not just a legal necessity; ensuring that your assets and loved ones are protected according to your current wishes is crucial. Don’t hesitate to seek professional assistance to navigate this complex process. If you would like to read more about estate planning post divorce, please visit our previous posts. 

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Integrating Retirement Accounts into your Estate Plan

Integrating Retirement Accounts into your Estate Plan

Retirement accounts, such as IRAs and 401(k)s, play a pivotal role in many estate plans. They are not just savings vehicles for retirement; they are also crucial assets that can be passed on to beneficiaries. An effective estate plan should integrate retirement accounts seamlessly, supporting your overall retirement and estate objectives.

When incorporating retirement accounts into an estate plan, it’s essential to understand the tax implications and the rules governing beneficiary designations. These factors can significantly impact how your retirement assets are distributed and taxed upon your death. Retirement accounts are subject to income tax and, in some cases, estate tax.

Retirement accounts, such as IRAs and 401(k)s, typically bypass the probate process, as they are transferred directly to the named beneficiaries. This direct transfer can simplify the estate settlement process and provide quicker access to funds for your beneficiaries. It’s important to understand that while retirement accounts may avoid probate, they are still part of your overall estate for tax purposes. Proper planning can help ensure that your retirement assets are distributed efficiently and tax-advantaged.

Roth IRAs are unique retirement accounts that offer tax-free growth and withdrawals. They can be a valuable tool in estate planning, particularly for those looking to leave tax-free assets to their beneficiaries. Unlike traditional IRAs, Roth IRAs do not require minimum distributions during the account owner’s lifetime, allowing the assets to grow tax-free for a longer period.

When including Roth IRAs in your estate plan, consider the potential tax benefits for your beneficiaries. Since distributions from Roth IRAs are generally tax-free, they can provide a significant financial advantage to your heirs. Tax-deferred retirement accounts, like traditional IRAs and 401(k)s, allow contributions to grow tax-free until withdrawal. This feature can lead to significant tax savings over time. However, it’s essential to consider the tax implications for your beneficiaries.

Beneficiary designations are a critical aspect of retirement planning. These designations determine who will inherit your retirement accounts upon your death. It’s crucial to regularly review and update your beneficiary designations to ensure that they align with your current estate plan and wishes. Failure to update beneficiary designations can lead to unintended consequences, such as an ex-spouse or a deceased individual being named as the beneficiary. Beneficiaries are generally subject to income tax on the distributions upon inheriting a tax-deferred retirement account. Planning for these tax implications is crucial in ensuring that your beneficiaries are not burdened with unexpected taxes.

Retirement assets are considered part of your estate and can impact your overall estate value and tax liability. Properly integrating retirement accounts into your estate plan can help achieve a balanced and tax-efficient distribution of your entire estate. This includes considering the impact on federal and state estate taxes and the income tax implications for your beneficiaries.

In conclusion, integrating retirement accounts into your estate plan is a complex but essential task. Understanding the nuances of how these accounts work in the context of estate and tax planning can ensure that your financial legacy is preserved and passed on according to your wishes. Consultation with financial and legal professionals is key to navigating this intricate aspect of estate planning effectively. If you would like to learn more about retirement accounts, please visit our previous posts. 

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When and How to get Letters of Testamentary

When and How to get Letters of Testamentary

The executor manages assets until the probate process is complete. They also need proof of their authority to do so. The court-issued Letter of Testamentary provides evidence of their authority and explains a recent article from Forbes, What Is A Letter Of Testamentary?” The article details how this document works and when and how to get Letters of Testamentary.

A decedent’s last will and testament names their executor, who will manage their estate. Their duties include filing probate paperwork with the court, notifying potential heirs and creditors of the probate process and managing assets, including paying bills from the estate’s bank account. The executor is also the one to set up the estate’s bank account. When the estate is nearly completed, assets are distributed to beneficiaries.

Third parties need to know who the executor is. The executor also needs proof of their authority to carry out their job tasks. The letter is a simple document issued by the probate court and typically includes the following information:

  • The court issuing the letter.
  • The name and contact details of the executor (also referred to as a “personal representative” of the estate).
  • That the personal representative was named in the will of the decedent
  • The date the executor was granted authority to manage the decedent’s estate.

What is the difference between a Letter of Testamentary and a Letter of Administration? A letter of administration can be used during the probate process. However, it serves a different process. The court uses the letter of administration if a person dies without having named a personal representative or executor. The court appoints a person to manage the estate and probate process, and the court then creates a Letter of Administration giving this individual the authority to act.

There is no guarantee or requirement for the court to appoint a family member to serve in this role. This is another reason why having a will that names an executor is essential if the family wishes to be involved in settling the estate.

What if there is no will? Without a will, there is no executor. Someone is still needed to manage the decedent’s assets and take care of the steps in probate. A surviving family member or loved one may open a probate case after death, even when there is no will. This involves filing court documents and attending a hearing. The court will then appoint an administrator, determining who has the desire and ability to serve in the role.

What about assets held in trust? If assets have been placed in a trust, a trustee has been named and is in charge of following the trust’s directions. There is no probate court involvement, which is why so many opt to place their assets in a trust as part of their estate plan. The trust becomes the legal owner of the assets once they are placed in the trust. The trust creator often acts as the trustee during their lifetime and names a successor trustee who takes over in case of incapacity or death. That person has the authority to manage the trust assets and transfer them through the trust administration process without any involvement from the court.

However, if assets were not placed in the trust, they must go through the probate process, and an executor or personal representative will need a letter to manage them.

If you have lost a loved one, or are choosing an executor, ensure you have a complete understanding of when and how to get letters of testamentary. Work with an experienced estate planning attorney familiar with your state’s laws and the court process of probate. If you are interested in learning more about probate, please visit our previous posts.

Reference: Forbes (Jan. 17, 2024) “What Is A Letter Of Testamentary?”

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Texas Trust Law Attorney Zachary Wiewel discusses the Corporate Transparency Act

Texas Trust Law Attorney Zachary Wiewel discusses the Corporate Transparency Act

Texas Trust Law Attorney Zachary Wiewel discusses the Corporate Transparency Act

We are always thrilled when one of our attorneys is featured in industry leading publications. Recently Zachary Wiewel was featured in a NAV.com article discussing the increasing importance of the Corporate Transparency Act.

The Corporate Transparency Act (CTA) became effective on January 1, 2021, but has just now entered its implementation phase. It is a federal law that imposes stringent reporting requirements on business entities. Zach discusses who must make the required reporting and what they must report. He also breaks down the potential penalties for non-compliance. This act and its requirements may have a significant impact on those individuals and families that maintain LLCs and other corporate vehicles in their estate planning.

We hope you take a moment to read this informative article.

Texas Trust Law Attorney Zachary Wiewel discusses the Corporate Transparency Act can be found at the link below:

https://www.nav.com/business-formation/navigating-corporate-transparency-act-insights-small-businesses/

If you would like to learn more about Zachary Wiewel, JD, LL.M. (Tax) please visit his bio.


WHY WE DO WHAT WE DO

Meetings with attorneys always seem to deal with the WHAT and HOW of estate planning and probate. At Texas Trust Law we call ourselves The Peace of Mind People®. We want to take a moment and tell you WHY we do what we do.

Here is the WHY of Texas Trust Law: We LOVE taking complex legal concepts and making those understandable to our clients and their advisors so they can take action. That then allows us to bring peace of mind to our clients and their family if they become incapacitated, at death, and when they are concerned about protecting themselves, their wealth, and their loved ones from predators, problematic family members and the IRS.

Life Insurance is vital to Estate Planning

Life Insurance is vital to Estate Planning

Life insurance is vital to comprehensive estate planning. Integrating life insurance policies into estate planning can provide financial security for your heirs and ensure that your estate is distributed according to your wishes. When used effectively, life insurance can solve a range of estate planning challenges, from providing immediate cash flow to beneficiaries to helping cover estate tax liabilities.

Incorporating life insurance into your estate plan requires careful consideration of the type of policy that best suits your needs, whether term life insurance for temporary coverage or whole life insurance for permanent protection. It’s essential to understand the insurance company’s role in managing these policies and ensuring that they align with your overall estate objectives.

Life insurance can play a crucial role in estate planning. It can provide a death benefit to cover immediate expenses after your passing, such as funeral costs and debts, thereby alleviating financial burdens on your heirs. Furthermore, life insurance proceeds can be used to pay estate taxes, ensuring that your beneficiaries receive their inheritance without liquidating other estate assets.

When selecting life insurance for estate planning purposes, it’s important to consider the different types of policies available, such as term insurance for short-term needs and permanent insurance for long-term planning. An insurance agent can be a valuable resource in this process, helping to determine the right policy type for your estate planning goals.

Term life insurance offers coverage for a specified period and is often used for short-term estate planning needs, such as providing financial support to minor children. On the other hand, permanent life insurance policies, like whole life or universal life insurance, offer lifelong coverage and can build cash value over time, which can be an asset in your overall estate.

Life insurance trusts, particularly irrevocable life insurance trusts (ILITs), play a significant role in estate planning. By placing a life insurance policy within a trust, you can exert greater control over how the death benefit is distributed among your beneficiaries. The trust owns the policy, removing it from your taxable estate and potentially reducing estate tax liabilities.

Since the trust is irrevocable, it provides a layer of protection against creditors and legal judgments, ensuring that the life insurance payout is used solely for the benefit of your designated beneficiaries.

When considering life insurance in estate planning, it’s important to evaluate how the death benefit of a life insurance policy will impact your estate’s overall financial picture and the inheritance your heirs will receive. The proceeds from a life insurance policy are typically not subject to federal income tax. However, they can still be included in your gross estate for estate tax purposes, depending on the ownership of the policy.

One of the primary uses of life insurance in estate planning is to provide funds to pay estate taxes. This is especially relevant for larger estates that may face significant federal and state estate taxes. The death benefit from a life insurance policy can be used to cover these taxes, ensuring that your heirs do not have to liquidate other estate assets to meet tax obligations. In planning for estate taxes, working with professionals, such as estate attorneys and tax advisors, is essential to ensure that your life insurance coverage aligns with your anticipated tax liabilities.

Life insurance can offer substantial financial support to your heirs and beneficiaries upon your passing. Whether providing for a spouse, children, or other dependents, life insurance can ensure that your loved ones are cared for financially. This is particularly important in cases where other estate assets are not readily liquid or if you wish to leave a specific inheritance to certain beneficiaries.

When selecting life insurance for this purpose, consider the needs of your heirs, their ability to manage a large sum of money and how the death benefit will complement other aspects of your estate plan.

In conclusion, life insurance plays a vital role in comprehensive estate planning. By carefully selecting the right type of policy, designating appropriate beneficiaries and considering the use of trusts, you can ensure that your estate plan effectively addresses your financial goals and provides for your loved ones after your passing. If you would like to learn more about life insurance and estate planning, please visit our previous posts. 

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A Subtrust is a Multi-Tool that serves various Purposes

A Subtrust is a Multi-Tool that serves various Purposes

A subtrust is a separate entity created under the umbrella of a primary trust or a will. A subtrust becomes active based on the terms of the trust or will when certain events happen, such as the death of the primary grantor, or creator. Subtrusts are used by estate planning attorneys to help families pass on inheritances and protect their heirs from creditors or issues such as lawsuits or divorce. A Subtrust is a multi-tool that serves various purposes, depending on the beneficiaries’ specific needs and the grantor’s goals.

A subtrust is created as part of a primary trust, often a revocable trust. The primary trust acts as a container for your assets, answering critical questions about who gets them, what they receive, when and how. The subtrust, on the other hand, is like a specialized compartment within this container, designed for specific purposes or beneficiaries. Subtrusts remain dormant within the primary trust until a triggering event, typically the death of the grantor. Upon this event, the subtrust becomes active and, in most cases, irrevocable. This means that the terms of the subtrust cannot be changed.

The activation of a subtrust initiates a process known as trust administration. This process involves naming the subtrust, obtaining a tax ID and setting up a bank account. In addition, an appointed trustee will need to manage the trust assets, including making distributions to beneficiaries, filing tax returns and ensuring that the trust operates according to the trust provisions and the grantor’s intentions.

How Do Subtrusts Work If Created Under a Will?

Subtrusts can also be effectively created under a will, offering a flexible approach to estate planning. The will itself can directly establish these trusts or designate a revocable trust as the beneficiary in what is known as a “pour-over” will. This method ensures that the assets are transferred into the trust upon the grantor’s death.

How are Subtrusts Different from Revocable Trusts?

Subtrusts offer enhanced protection for your assets and beneficiaries. Unlike a revocable trust, which can be altered during the grantor’s lifetime, a subtrust becomes irrevocable upon activation, providing a firmer legal structure. This irrevocability protects the assets from the beneficiary’s creditors and in cases of legal challenges, such as divorce or lawsuits.

What are Subtrusts Commonly Used for?

Subtrusts serve various purposes, depending on the beneficiaries’ specific needs and the trustor’s goals. They can be used to protect beneficiaries who are minors, financially irresponsible, or have special needs. Subtrusts can also safeguard assets from beneficiaries’ creditors, ensuring that the inheritance is used as intended by the grantor.

Subtrusts have many different names and types, each serving a unique purpose in estate planning, as outlined in an article by the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys titled Basics of Estate Planning: Trusts and Subtrusts.

How Do Subtrusts Avoid Probate?

A Subtrust is a multi-tool that serves various purposes, but one of the primary reasons is to avoid the lengthy and often costly process of probate. Having assets in a subtrust bypasses the court-supervised distribution process, making things smooth, quick and easy for your family and heirs after your death.

Subtrusts provide a layer of protection for beneficiaries against their creditors or their own irresponsibility. This is particularly important in cases where a beneficiary may face financial difficulties, divorce, legal disputes, or even car accidents. The subtrust provides a shield for the assets to protect them from external claims. If you would like to learn more about trusts, please visit our previous posts. 

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Appointing a Trust Protector is a Critical Decision

Appointing a Trust Protector is a Critical Decision

Serving as the trustee of a special needs trust (SNT) can be particularly challenging because it often requires long-term financial management of the trust, while maintaining a good relationship with the beneficiary. Furthermore, because trustees wield great financial power over the trust assets, oversight of their investment and distribution decisions is helpful. Trust protectors can add an additional layer of protection to oversee the management of a trust, supervise the trustee’s actions and remove and replace the trustee when needed. This article delves into why appointing a trust protector is a critical decision that can significantly impact the management of a SNT and guard the beneficiary’s rights.

The Case of Senator Feinstein: A Cautionary Tale

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s lawsuit against the trustees of her late husband Richard Blum’s trust, as related in The Hill’s article, “Feinstein accuses trustees of husband’s estate of financial abuse”, highlights one reason why a trust protector may be helpful. Before her death in September 2023, Feinstein accused the trustees of withholding funds and breaching their fiduciary duties.

Through three separate lawsuits, Feinstein claimed that the trustees breached their fiduciary duties to honor the terms of the trust by not making the anticipated distributions of $5 million that were supposed to be placed into her trust in quarterly installments. She argued that the trustees’ inaction in their administration of the trust was intended to benefit Blum’s daughters at her expense, who were slated to receive $22 million each from the trust without Feinstein’s distribution.

For the late Sen. Feinstein, a trust protector may have provided the needed control over the trust assets to leverage the distribution intended by her late husband, who was the settlor. In the context of a special needs trust, where disabled beneficiaries may not be able to supervise their trustees, the role of a trust protector becomes even more critical in managing the trust.

What is a Trust Protector?

Special Needs Alliance explains in the article “Trust Protectors for Special Needs Trusts” that a trust protector is a person appointed to oversee the actions of the trustee and ensure that a trust is administered in line with the settlor’s intentions. Suppose a trustee performs in a manner that is unsatisfactory or even mismanages the trust assets. In that case, the trust protector can be empowered by the trust document to replace that person with a successor trustee. This role is particularly important in special needs trusts, where beneficiaries might not fully understand or be able to manage their financial affairs due to the nature of their disabilities.

How Does a Trust Protector Oversee the Trustee?

A trust protector works alongside the trustee, providing an extra layer of oversight in managing the trust assets according to the instructions in the trust document. They can resolve disputes, guide trustees and ensure that the trust’s administration aligns with the settlor’s intent. Trust protectors are granted various powers, including the ability to review trustee actions, including distribution decisions, replace the trustee and amend trust terms to adapt to changing laws and beneficiary needs. Their primary responsibility is to act in the best interests of the beneficiaries.

How Do Grantors Choose the Right Trust Protector?

Naming a trust protector involves considering their expertise, impartiality and understanding of the beneficiary’s needs. A third party, such as an attorney, accountant, or other professional, can often serve in this role. Family members who may be too challenged by the role of trustee also make a good choice for the trust protector. Selecting a family member who has a good relationship with the beneficiary, understands the nature of their disability and can serve as a good mediator between the trustee and beneficiary is a wise choice.

What Role Do Trust Protectors Play in Special Needs Trusts?

In special needs trusts, trust protectors play a vital role in ensuring that the trust caters to the unique needs of the beneficiary, considering their disability and inability to manage financial affairs. Their role can vary based on the trust agreement terms and state laws. The trust protector can review financial decisions or investments and sometimes force large distributions for purchases, like a house or car, based on the impact on the beneficiary. They can also help the beneficiary understand financial statements and tax documents provided by the trustee.

Is a Trust Protector Also Important to Consider for General Estate Planning?

Appointing a trust protector into any trust is a critical decision. It adds an extra layer of protection and adaptability, ensuring that the trust remains effective and relevant over time. Only a few states have specific laws authorizing and regulating trust protectors. Therefore, it’s essential to work with an experienced estate planning attorney to carefully draft the trust to define the role and anticipate potential issues in exercising the power of the trustee or trust protector.

The Future of Trust Protectors in Estate Planning

As laws and family dynamics evolve, the role of trust protectors is becoming increasingly important in estate planning, offering flexibility and protection for beneficiaries.

Conclusion

Trust protectors offer an essential safeguard in trust administration, especially for special needs trusts. Their oversight ensures that the trust remains effective, adaptable and true to the settlor’s intentions, providing peace of mind for both settlors and beneficiaries.

  • Trust protectors provide essential oversight and adaptability.
  • They ensure that the trust’s administration aligns with the settlor’s intent.
  • Their role is crucial in special needs trusts for beneficiaries who cannot manage their affairs.
  • Trust protectors are becoming increasingly important in modern estate planning.

If you would like to learn more about trust protectors, and trusts generally, please visit our previous posts. 

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Wise Strategies to manage an Inheritance

Wise Strategies to manage an Inheritance

If you’ve ever read an article about what someone dies with a financial windfall, it’s probably been about a truly life-changing amount of money. A recent article from CNBC, “Receiving an inheritance? Here’s how experts say to handle any windfall,” says the average American inheritance across all age groups and incomes between 2001 and 2019 was just over $12,000. These numbers are from the University of Pennsylvania’s analysis of data from the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances. Whether it is a large sum or more modest, there are wise strategies to manage an inheritance.

The number is skewed down by the vast majority of Americans who don’t receive any inheritance. Looking just at those who did receive an inheritance, the average amount was about $184,000—a healthy amount, but not enough to retire.

You’ll likely fold that money into your current financial plan if you receive an inheritance. Inheritances usually come in three different forms: cash, real estate and investments.

A cash investment is the easiest to handle if you’re not receiving an enormous amount. In 2023, you won’t owe any federal taxes on inherited cash up to $12.92 million. However, depending on where you live, there may be state estate or state inheritance taxes.

Unless you grew up in a palace, it’s not likely you’ll need to deal with the insurance tax limit on a real estate inheritance. With the rule known as “step-up in basis,” you likely won’t owe any tax on property you inherit—not initially, anyway.

The value of an inherited home resets when the owners die. If your parents paid $100,000 for a house and gave it to you when its fair market value is $500,000, and you sold it the next day, you’d owe tax on the $400,000 gain. However, if they die and leave the house to you, the value of the house, known as your basis, is the fair market value of the house—$500,000. If you sold it for this amount, as far as the IRS is concerned, you would not realize a gain. However, there are time limits. There’s a step-up in basis at the time of death, but the estate settlement process can drag on for six or twelve months.

A house can’t be divided up as neatly as cash. If you have siblings, one may want to sell the home for cash. Another might want to rent it out. Another might want to move in.

Get the property appraised as soon as possible and get at least two appraisals. This will make life easier for everyone. If one sibling wants to buy the other’s share of the home, you’ll all know exactly what the shares will be. It also gives you the number when determining when or if to sell it.

Remember, real estate requires maintenance, so until the house is sold, there is an obligation to pay the mortgage, property taxes and upkeep.

Like real estate, any investments inherited in taxable accounts come with a step-up in basis. If your parents paid $10 for Apple stock, you’re inheriting it at its current market value. You can sell it at its basis, and it’s cash. If you decide not to sell it and hang onto the investments, the rules apply as if you bought the stocks at market value, and you’ll owe tax on any gains realized.

The rules are tricky when it comes to inheriting retirement accounts. Plans funded with pre-tax dollars, like 401(k)s and traditional IRAs, are taxable when money comes out for the owners. For heirs, the IRS now gives a ten-year window to empty some of these accounts. If you’re in your peak earning years when you inherit, this can significantly affect your income tax liability.

It is wise of heirs and their benefactors to sit down with an estate planning attorney to map out the best strategies to manage an inheritance. Both benefactors and heirs would benefit in terms of taxes and a smooth transition of assets passing from one generation to the next. It’s something to consider. If you would like to learn more about managing an inheritance, please visit our previous posts.

Reference: CNBC (Oct. 16, 2023) “Receiving an inheritance? Here’s how experts say to handle any windfall”

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