Category: Financial Planning

Single Parents Need Estate Planning

Single Parents Need Estate Planning

For single parents, estate planning is an even greater need than for married couples, advises a recent article, “Estate planning 101 for single parents,” from The Orange County Register. However, even single parents blessed with a strong support system need an estate plan to protect their children. Single parents need estate planning. Here’s why.

An estate plan names a guardian in the will. Who will raise your children and become their guardian if you unexpectedly die or become incapacitated? If the other parent is surviving and has not lost parental rights, they will have custody of the child or children as a matter of law. This is not guardianship.  They are the legal parent.

However, if the other parent is deceased or their parental rights have been terminated, the court will need to grant guardianship. You need two documents to name a person whom you would want to raise your child. One is your will. It’s a good idea to list more than one person, in case someone named cannot or doesn’t wish to serve.

For example, “My mother, Sue Sandler, and if she cannot serve, then my brother Mike Sandler, and then my friend Leslie Strong.” There’s no guarantee that the court will appoint any of these people.  However, the court may consider the parent’s preferences.

Depending upon your state, you could have a “Nomination of Guardian” document separate from your will. Remember that your will becomes effective only upon your death. If you become incapacitated, this document would be considered when determining who will be named guardian.

You’ll also want a health care directive. This document states who is authorized to make health care decisions for you, if you cannot, and provides general directions about what kind of care you want to receive.

If there are minor children, a “Nomination of Health Care Agent” should also be in place, where you nominate another person to make healthcare decisions for your children if you cannot. For example, if you and your children are in a car accident and you are incapacitated and can’t respond to authorize health care, hospitalization, or other care for your child.

A will and a trust are critical if you have minor children. The will sets forth your nomination of guardians, and a trust can hold your assets, including life insurance proceeds and any other significant assets for the benefit of your children as directed in the trust. The trust is managed by the successor trustee appointed in the trust document. Even if the other parent lives and the child lives with them, the trust is controlled by the trustee, so your ex cannot access the money and the children receive the funds according to your wishes.

If you have only a will and die, your estate will go through probate and assets will effectively be put into a trust for the child and be given to the child when they become of legal age. However, most 18 or 21-year-olds are not mature enough to manage large sums of money, so a trust managed by a responsible adult with a framework for distribution will ensure that the assets are protected.

Once a child reaches the age of legal majority, they are considered an adult. As a result, the nomination of a guardian is no longer necessary, nor is the nomination of a health care agent. However, this is when they need to execute their health care directive, power of attorney and HIPAA form. If they were to become seriously sick, even as their parent, you would not have any legal right to discuss their care or treatment with health care providers without these documents. Single parents need estate planning to ensure the future care of their children. If you would like to learn more about estate planning for single parents, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: The Orange County Register (March 12, 2023) “Estate planning 101 for single parents”

The Estate of The Union Podcast

 

Read our Books

Safeguarding Digital Assets in Estate Planning

Safeguarding Digital Assets in Estate Planning

The highly secure nature of crypto assets results largely from the lack of personally identifiable information associated with crypto accounts. Unfortunately, this makes identifying crypto assets impossible for heirs or executors, who must be made aware of their existence or provided with the information needed to access these new assets. Safeguarding digital assets in estate planning is critical.

The only way to access crypto accounts after the original owner’s death, as reported in the recent article “Today’s Business: Cryptocurrency and estate planning” from CT Insider, is to have the password, or “private key.” Without the private key, there is no access, and the cryptocurrency is worthless. At the same time, safeguarding passwords, especially the “seed” phrases, is critical.

The key to the cryptocurrency should be more than just known to the owner. The owner must never be the only person who knows where the passwords are printed, stored on a secreted scrap of paper, on a deliberately hard-to-find thumb drive, or encrypted on a laptop with only the owner’s knowledge of how to access the information.

At the same time, this information must be kept secure to protect it from theft. How can you accomplish both?

One of the straightforward ways to store passwords and seed phrases is to write them down on a piece of paper and keep the paper in a secure location, such as a safe or safe deposit box. However, the safe deposit box may not be accessible in the event of the owner’s death.

Some people use password managers, a software tool for password storage. The information is encrypted, and a single master password is all your executor needs to gain access to secret seed phrases, passwords and other stored information. However, storing the master password in a secure location becomes challenging, as information cannot be retrieved if lost.

You should also never store seed phrases or passwords with the cryptocurrency wallet address, which makes crypto assets extremely vulnerable to theft.

This information needs to be stored in a way that is secure from physical and digital threats. Consider giving your executor, a trusted friend, or relative directions on retrieving this stored information.

Another option is to provide your executor or trusted person with the passwords and seed phrases, as long as they can be trusted to safeguard the information and are not likely to share it accidentally.

Passwords and seed phrases should be regularly updated and occasionally changed to ensure that digital assets remain secure. If you’ve shared the information, share the updates as well.

A side note on digital assets: the IRS now treats cryptocurrency as personal property, not currency. The property transaction rules applying to virtual currency are generally the same as they apply to traditional types of property transfers. There may be tax consequences if there is a capital gain or loss.

Properly safeguarding seed phrases and other passwords for your digital assets is critical in estate planning. Include digital assets in your estate plan just as a traditional asset. If you are interested in reading additional posts regarding digital assets, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: CT Insider (March 18, 2023) “Today’s Business: Cryptocurrency and estate planning”

The Estate of The Union Podcast

 

Read our Books

TODs can Derail an Estate Plan if not Coordinated

TODs can Derail an Estate Plan if not Coordinated

Transfer on-Death (TOD) and Payable-on-Death (POD) designations on financial accounts appear to be a simple way to avoid probate. However, TODs can still derail an estate plan if not coordinated with the overall plan, says a recent article from mondaq, “Transfer-on-Death Designations: A Word of Warning.”

Using a TOD or POD benefits the beneficiary and the account administrator, since both avoid unnecessary delays and court oversight of probate. In addition, designating a beneficiary on a TOD/POD account is usually fairly straightforward. Many financial institutions ask account owners to name a beneficiary whenever a new account is opened. However, the potential for undoing an estate plan can happen in several ways.

TOD/POD designations remove assets from the probate estate. If family members or trusts are included in an estate plan, but the TOD/POD designations direct most of the decedent’s assets to beneficiaries, the provisions of the estate plan may not be implemented. However, when thoughtfully prepared in tandem with the rest of the estate plan with an estate planning attorney, TOD/POD can be used effectively.

TOD/POD designations impact tax planning. For example, when an estate plan includes sophisticated tax planning, such as credit shelter trusts, marital trusts, or generation-skipping transfer (GST) trusts, a TOD/POD designation could prevent the implementation of these strategies.

If an estate plan provides for the creation of a GST trust, but the decedent’s financial account has a TOD/POD naming individuals, the assets will not pass to the intended trust under the terms of the estate plan. In addition to contradicting the estate plan, such a mistake can lead to unused tax exemptions.

TOD/POD designations can create liquidity problems in an estate. For example, suppose all or substantially all of an individual’s financial accounts pass by TOD/POD, leaving only illiquid assets, such as real estate or closely held business interests in the estate. In that case, the estate may not have enough cash to pay estate expenses or federal or estate taxes. If this occurs, the executor may need to recover necessary funds from the beneficiaries of TOD/POD accounts.

TOD/POD designations can undermine changes made to an estate plan. During the course of life, people’s circumstances and relationships change. It is easy to forget to update TOD/POD designations, especially if one’s estate planning attorney is not informed of assets being titled this way. An inadvertent omission increases the risk that a person’s wishes will not be fulfilled upon death.

Whenever considering putting a TOD/POD on a financial account, you must consider the impact doing so will have on your overall estate plan. Therefore, be sure the TOD is coordinated with your estate plan so you do not derail all the excellent planning that has been done to achieve your wishes. If you would like to learn more about TODs or PODS and how the interact with your planning, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: mondaq (March 15, 2023) “Transfer-on-Death Designations: A Word of Warning”

The Estate of The Union Podcast

 

Read our Books

Asset Protection Trusts can address Long Term Care

Asset Protection Trusts can address Long Term Care

Asset protection trusts can address long term care costs. As the number of people aged 65 plus continues to increase, more seniors realize they must address the cost of long-term health care, which can quickly devour assets intended for retirement or inheritances. Those who can prepare in advance do well to consider asset protection trusts, says the article “Asset protection is major concern of aging population” from The News Enterprise. 

Asset protection trusts are irrevocable trusts in which another person manages the trust property and the person who created the trust—the grantor—is not entitled to the principal within the trust. There are several different types of irrevocable trusts used to protect assets. Still, one of the more frequently used irrevocable trusts for the purpose of protecting the grantor’s assets is the Intentionally Defective Grantor Trust, called IDGT for short.

As a side note, Revocable Living Trusts are completely different from Irrevocable Trusts and do not provide asset protection to grantors. Grantors placing their property into Revocable Living Trusts maintain the full right to control the property and use it for their own benefit, meaning any assets in the trust are not protected during the grantor’s lifetime.

IDGTs are irrevocable, and grantors have no right to principal and may not serve as a trustee, further limiting the grantors’ access to the property in the trust. Grantors may, however, receive any income from trust-owned property, such as rental properties or investment accounts.

During the grantor’s lifetime, any trust income is taxed at the grantor’s tax bracket rather than at the much higher trust tax bracket. Upon the grantor’s death, beneficiaries receive appreciated property at a stepped-up tax basis, avoiding a hefty capital gains tax.

While the term “irrevocable” makes some people nervous, most IDGTs have built-in flexibility and protections for grantors. One provision commonly included is a Testamentary Power of Appointment, which allows the grantor to change beneficiary designations.

IDGTs also include clauses providing for the grantors’ exclusive right to reside in the primary residence. However, if the grantor needs to change residences, the trustee may buy and sell property within the trust as needed.

IDGTs provide for two different types of beneficiaries: lifetime and after-death beneficiaries. Lifetime beneficiaries are those who will receive shares of the total estate upon the death of the grantor. Lifetime beneficiary provisions are important because they allow the grantor to make gifts from the trust principal. Hence, there is always at least one person who can receive the trust principal if need be.

Asset protection trusts are complicated and require the help of an experienced estate planning attorney. However, when used properly, asset protection trusts can address unanticipated creditors, long-term care costs and even unintended tax liabilities. If you would like to learn more about asset protection, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: The News Enterprise (March 4, 2023) “Asset protection is major concern of aging population”

Photo by Karolina Grabowska

The Estate of The Union Podcast

 

Read our Books

 

New changes to 529 Plans provide more Options

New changes to 529 Plans provide more Options

There are new changes to 529 plans that will provide more options to families. Forbes’ recent article titled “529 Plans Just Became More Flexible: Here’s Everything You Need To Know” explains that the Secure Act 2.0 changed 529 savings plans, which will make the funds easier to use when college expenses aren’t as high as planned. In addition, the law allows families to roll over up to $35,000 from a 529 plan to an IRA. However, the changes do not become permanent until 2024.

After 15 years in the plan, unused funds up to $35,000 can be rolled into a Roth IRA to save for retirement, subject to the annual IRA contribution limit. There’s also no penalty for using this money for IRA contributions instead of college expenses. Previously, a 10% penalty would have applied to the growth if funds were withdrawn for non-qualifying expenses.

There’s a 15-year waiting period, which might affect the benefit many people can get from this change. Therefore, you cannot open a 529 plan now, fund it and start moving money immediately. You have to wait at least 15 years.

The money transferred to an IRA goes to the account’s beneficiary or the student, not the account owner.

529 plan rules are created on the state level for each plan. Therefore, while federal law now allows529 plans to roll over to IRAs, your state may not conform to these rules. Currently, the 529 to IRA rollover is considered a “rollover” for tax purposes, and most states consider outbound rollovers taxable events. Therefore, states will need to update their state tax laws to conform with this new federal rule. Check your state’s law as well before you proceed with a rollover.

If you use up all the money for college, that’s super. However, if you don’t, you can transfer some money to your beneficiary’s IRA based on annual limits, until you reach the $35,000 cap. These new changes to 529 plans provide more options for families worried about saving too much money and like the idea of funneling that cash into their child’s retirement accounts instead. If you would like to learn more about college savings plans, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Forbes (Feb. 20, 2023) “529 Plans Just Became More Flexible: Here’s Everything You Need To Know”

The Estate of The Union Podcast

 

Read our Books

Take Care when using a Self-Directed IRA

Take Care when using a Self-Directed IRA

For some people, a self-directed IRA could be a great vehicle in which to invest tax-advantaged retirement funds in real property. However, there are rules governing everything from property ownership and usage to how you cover expenses and take profits. If they aren’t followed, you can easily run afoul of the IRS. Take care when using a self-directed IRA.

Forbes’ recent article entitled “How To Use A Self-Directed IRA For Real Estate Investing” explains that a real estate IRA is just another name for a self-directed IRA that’s designed to hold investment property. You can own a wide range of property types in a real estate IRA. This includes land, single and multi-family homes, international property, boat docks, commercial properties and more. Because this is a type of self-directed IRA, the custodian—the company safeguarding your account and enforcing IRS regulations—allows you to hold alternative asset classes, like real estate.

First, find a custodian that allows or even specializes in real estate IRAs. Next, you need to fund your account—typically with a rollover from an existing IRA. With your cash in place, you can buy real estate and have it titled in the name of your IRA. You can finance real estate in your IRA with an investment property-specific mortgage. You can then pay the mortgage using additional cash from your self-directed IRA. When you sell a property held in a real estate IRA, the funds stay in the account. Depending on the type of IRA you’ve selected, those funds grow tax-deferred (traditional IRA) or tax-free (Roth IRA).

A real estate IRA allows you to diversify away from stocks and bonds. However, there are many rules governing this specialized type of account. Let’s look at some of the key rules you must know:

Property Title. Real estate that is held in a self-directed IRA is owned by the account, rather than by you personally. Therefore, the title documents that confirm ownership of the property are in the name of your IRA, rather than in your name.

Expenses and Income. All expenses and income flow into and out of your real estate IRA. All property taxes, utility bills and other expenses are paid by your account. All rental income or other income is paid back into your account.

Limitations on Use. Real estate held in a self-directed IRA can only be an investment property. You and any member of your family—plus any of your beneficiaries or fiduciaries—are referred to as disqualified persons. Since the purpose of an IRA is retirement investing, these disqualified persons can’t make use of the real estate assets.

No DIY. If you need to fix up or repair property held in a real estate IRA, the account must pay for the work. It can’t be performed by a disqualified person (you).

Prior Property Ownership. You can’t sell, lease, or exchange property you already own to your real estate IRA. That’s called “self-dealing,” which the IRS strictly prohibits.

Watch Out for the UBIT. If you take out a loan that’s secured by the property itself (a non-recourse loan), you will be required to pay unrelated business income tax (UBIT) on any profits related to the financed portion. However, you can use depreciation and operating costs to reduce your tax bill, which can allow you to reduce your UBIT or eliminate it altogether.

A self-directed IRA can be a wonderful tool to utilize retirement funds for real estate, but take care when using it. If you would like to learn more about retirement accounts and estate planning, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Forbes (Feb. 13, 2023) “How To Use A Self-Directed IRA For Real Estate Investing”

The Estate of The Union Podcast

 

Read our Books

Corporate Transparency Act May Impact Estate Planning

Corporate Transparency Act May Impact Estate Planning

A recent federal law, the Corporate Transparency Act may have a have an impact on your estate planning. The law mandates reporting to the government that may affect many of those who’ve done estate planning, asset protection planning, or own real estate. Forbes’s recent article entitled “Corporate Transparency Act Affects Your Estate Plan” explains that, while users of this information are supposed to be carefully limited to governing agencies, its breadth and disclosures, may seem invasive.

The goal of the new legislation is to wade through the entity formalities and find out who truly owns the company and its assets. The Act is part of a growing worldwide effort to thwart illegal activities, including tax evasion, money-laundering, tax fraud and other financial crimes.

This type of reporting is new to the U.S. The rules are quite different than anything that’s been around in the past. The law is designed to have the U.S. catch up to the reporting standards common in other developed countries. These reporting requirements are very different from tax returns.

The CTA reporting requirements could affect the owners or principals behind or involved in almost all business entities. This includes limited liability companies (LLCs), corporations, limited partnerships and other closely held entities. Most of the entities created as part of your planning may be subjected to the new rules:

  • Investment planning might include forming a holding company to aggregate securities and other investments. A small business or a rental real estate property are typically segregated into separate entities to avoid a domino effect, if there is a lawsuit involving the underlying asset.
  • Your estate plan might include the creation of one or more LLCs designed to hold other assets or even other entities to facilitate trust funding or trust administration. A family limited partnership might be created to hold investment assets for management or estate tax valuation discount purposes.
  • If you’re doing asset protection planning, an experienced estate planning attorney may help you to form different entities to insulate the underlying assets from claims of creditors.

Experts say there could be more than 30 million entities that will be required to file. Work closely with your estate planning attorney to see how the corporate transparency act may impact your estate planning. If you would like to learn more about the LLCs and business planning, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Forbes (Feb. 26, 2023) “Corporate Transparency Act Affects Your Estate Plan”

The Estate of The Union Podcast

Read our Books

How to Avoid Common IRA Errors

How to Avoid Common IRA Errors

To help you sidestep some of the most common blunders and get the most out of your IRA investments, Kiplinger’s recent article entitled “Don’t Make These Common IRA Mistakes” points out how to avoid the most common IRA errors.

Not Planning for the “Second Half”. It’s really about two halves. You accumulate wealth in the first half and withdraw it in the second. Many people only play the first half of the game: they focus only on saving as much as possible in their IRA account. However, with retirement saving, it’s not how much you have. It’s how much you can keep after taxes.

Converting to a Roth All at Once. If you think your tax rate will be higher when you retire than it is right now, converting a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA this year might be smart. In the end, the total tax you owe on those funds may be lower by taking that step. However, a Roth conversion has a tax bill on your next return. The “mistake” those people sometimes make is thinking they have to convert the entire account at once. Instead, you can do partial conversions.

Exceeding Roth IRA Income Limits. There are annual contributions limits for both traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs. However, for Roth IRAs only, there are also income limits. If you’re single, the amount you can contribute to a Roth IRA account in 2022 is gradually reduced to zero, if your modified adjusted gross income is between $129,000 and $144,000 ($204,000 to $214,000 for joint filers).

Doing Indirect Rollovers. Many people have trouble when they attempt to move money from one retirement account to another. If you take money out of an IRA account and the check is in your name, you only have 60 days to roll that money over into another retirement account before the withdrawn funds are deemed taxable income. This is an indirect rollover. For IRA-to-IRA transfers, you can only do one indirect rollover per year.

Forgetting to Account for All RMDs. You must start taking required minimum distributions (RMDs) when you reach 72. Some people miss an RMD or don’t take it for all of their accounts subject to the RMD rules. Other people miscalculate and don’t withdraw enough money. These can be costly mistakes, because you could be hit with a stiff penalty for violating the RMD rules.

These are simply the most common IRA errors to avoid, but there can be additional issues that you need to be aware of. Take the time out to consult with your financial advisor and your estate planning attorney to make sure you are covered. If you would like to learn more about retirement accounts, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Kiplinger (July 25, 2022) “Don’t Make These Common IRA Mistakes”

The Estate of The Union Podcast

 

Read our Books

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”

The Estate of The Union Podcast

Read our Books

The Estate of The Union Season 3|Episode 2

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.

The Estate of The Union Season 2|Episode 4 – How To Give Yourself a Charitable Gift is out now!

 

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.

www.texastrustlaw.com/read-our-books

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.
Categories
View Blog Archives
View TypePad Blogs