Category: Inheritance

Topics You need to Address before a Mid-Life Marriage

Topics You need to Address before a Mid-Life Marriage

Today’s wedding couple is as likely to be 30 or 50 years old as they are to be in their twenties. This trend underscores the importance of having open discussions about finances and retirement before exchanging vows. A recent article from Next Avenue, “The Talk Over-50s Should Have Before Tying the Knot.” Whether you’re getting married for the first time or the second, being closer to retirement has major financial implications. There are topics you need to address before a mid-life marriage.

The most important thing is to disclose each person’s financial situation completely. For some people, this includes their retirement goals and lifestyle choices. What are the potential healthcare issues? Is there debt to be considered? How are each managing their investments?

If both people own homes, a plan for going forward needs to ask a simple question: where will the couple live? Will one sell their home or turn it into a rental property? If it is sold, will the seller retain all the income, or will they buy into ownership of the joint residence? Emotional attachments to homes can make this a difficult discussion, but it needs to be addressed.

Getting married changes each spouse’s legal status, meaning estate plans must be updated. If both have an existing estate plan, it needs to be reviewed. Powers of Attorney, Healthcare Proxy, and other estate planning documents must also be updated.

While reviewing and revising estate plans, don’t neglect to check on any accounts with named beneficiaries. More than a few ex-spouses have received insurance proceeds or accounts because someone neglected to update these accounts. The named beneficiary overrides anything in your will, which is critical to updating the estate plan.

If you both have children from prior marriages, meeting with an estate planning attorney to determine how to manage property distribution is another critical step before getting married. You may wish to create and fund trusts before marriage, so assets remain separate property. There are as many different types of trusts as there are family situations, from keeping assets separate to providing for a surviving spouse while ensuring biological children receive their inheritance (SLAT), or family trusts where assets are moved into the trust for the surviving spouse to allocate assets to heirs based on their needs.

Social Security planning should also be part of the discussion. If one spouse is a widow who was receiving survivor benefits, they could lose those benefits when they get married.

Talk with an estate planning attorney to address these topics before a mid-life marriage. That way you fully understand your situation and ensure you and your spouse are ready for the changes and challenges of your senior years together. If you would like to learn more about mid-life or second marriages and estate planning, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Next Avenue (March 14, 2024) “The Talk Over-50s Should Have Before Tying the Knot”

Photo by Alex Green

 

The Estate of The Union Podcast

 

Read our Books

Protect Family Wealth from Third Generation Curse

Have you heard of the “Great Wealth Transfer?” It’s the period when Baby Boomers are projected to pass trillions of dollars to the next generation. Creating or updating an estate plan to protect family wealth from the third-generation curse requires communication between generations centered on the values leading to wealth creation and a financial education on how to preserve and grow wealth.

The anticipated $84 trillion expected to be bequeathed to Generation X, Millennials, and Gen Z beneficiaries sounds enormous, but the third-generation curse may leave heirs with far less than expected. Often, wealth is earned by one generation, grown by the second generation who witnessed firsthand how hard their parents worked to maintain their wealth, and mismanaged or wasted by the third generation members, who are too far from the original wealth creation to respect it.

Many estate plans are structured to address tax planning, but that’s only one aspect of estate planning. Communicating the “why” of the estate plan, including where the money came from, how it has been stewarded over the years, and what needs to happen to protect it, will help beneficiaries have a deeper regard for their inheritance.

Boomer values may differ from their heir’s values, but they may also be similar, as they use different language to describe the same thing. Clarifying these values and communicating with heirs may help to give context to their inheritance and its importance.

Understanding your priorities and values should ideally lead to an estate plan reflecting your wishes. For instance, if the family prizes education, your estate planning attorney may advise you to create a trust to fund advanced education. Such a trust should be accompanied by a letter of intent explaining your wishes and values to both trustees and heirs.

If you’re unsure about mandating the use of funds, you may have your estate planning attorney create a discretionary trust with a similar letter explaining what you’d like them to use the funds for and why it’s important to you. Because circumstances change, the trustee will have the flexibility to distribute the funds as they see fit.

Creating or updating an estate plan to protect your family wealth from the third-generation curse will give everyone the peace of mind they crave. When the estate plan is completed, have a series of conversations with family members about what’s in the plan and why. They don’t need to know every detail, but broad strokes will go a long way in letting them know what you’ve done, your wishes, and your hopes for their future. If you would like to learn more about planning for future generations, please visit our previous posts.

Reference: Kiplinger (March 12, 2024) “How Estate Planning Can Thwart the ‘Third-Generation Curse’”

Photo by Ron Lach

The Estate of The Union Podcast

 

Read our Books

 

The Estate of The Union Season 3|Episode 5

The Estate of The Union Season 3|Episode 3 is out now!

The Estate of The Union Season 3|Episode 3 is out now! Taxes come in all favors. Sales taxes, excise taxes, capital gains taxes, etc. We are all concerned about our income taxes as we approach April 15th. Many of us will believe we pay way too much, and nobody will feel like they should pay more! But there’s another tax to be concerned about: The Death Tax.

 In this edition of The Estate of the Union, Brad Wiewel dissects the Death tax and it’s first cousin, the Gift Tax and explains them in a way that everyone can understand. He also sheds like on what is going to happen on January 1, 2026 – unless Congress changes the law; so, stand by!

 

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 3|Episode 3 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 links to listen to or watch the new installment of The Estate of The Union podcast. We hope you enjoy it.

The Estate of The Union Season |Episode 3

 

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

When Gift Tax Return Should Be Filed

When Gift Tax Return Should Be Filed

Gift tax returns may be the most misunderstood and overlooked part of estate planning. The first mistake people make, according to the article “Know The Most Misunderstood Part Of Estate Plans: Gift Tax Returns” from Forbes, is not knowing when a gift tax return should be filed. Even if a gift you make is tax-free, you might have to file a return anyway. And there are times when you aren’t required to file a gift tax return, but it’s still a good idea to do so.

The gift tax return is IRS Form 709, which can be downloaded from the IRS website at no cost.

In most cases, the IRS can’t take action on an incorrect gift tax return once more than three years have passed since it was originally filed. There are exceptions for fraudulent returns or if a return is either missing information or substantially misstates information.

However, there’s no statute of limitations if you fail to file a gift tax return, and the IRS can raise questions about the transaction at any time. This includes coming after your heirs or your estate after you’ve passed. At that time, your heirs or executor may not have the evidence to prove you complied with the tax law. The IRS would be within its rights to assess not only the gift tax but also penalties and interest for all the years from the date of the gift tax filing to the current date.

For this reason alone, it’s a good idea to file a gift tax return if there’s even the slightest question of whether it’s necessary.

Form 709 has a section for reporting “non-gift transactions.” Some estate planning attorneys recommend taking advantage of this to start the statute of limitations clock ticking and prevent the IRS from recharacterizing your gift years later as a taxable gift.

Consider this especially when you sell assets to a trust or shift assets from one irrevocable trust to another, known as “decanting” a trust. Consider also filing a gift tax return for a non-gift if you take advantage of the generation-skipping transfer tax exemption through a trust.

Another common mistake is not realizing that certain actions are considered gifts by the IRS, whether in the general sense or not. Let’s say you sell an asset to your children at less than market value. The difference between the selling price and the market value is a gift. So is forgiving or making a loan at a below-market interest rate.

If parents pay bills for adult children, this might be considered a gift if the gifts are valuable or if you also make significant gifts of money or property to the same person in the same year.

A gift tax issue the IRS pays close attention to is valuation. There’s not much question about the value of a publicly traded security, but for many other assets, there’s a lot of room to question the correct value, and the gift tax is based on the asset value at the time the gift is made.

While spouses may make unlimited gifts to each other tax-free, there are times when gifts between spouses must be reported. One time is when the gift is defined in the tax code as a “terminable interest.” Another time is if one spouse is not a U.S. citizen. Gifts to that spouse from the other spouse exceeding a certain amount during the year must be reported on IRS Form 709.

It’s always a good idea to check with your estate planning attorney about when a gift tax return should be filed to protect yourself and your heirs. If you would like to read more about gifting and estate planning, please visit our previous posts.

Reference: Forbes (Feb. 16, 2024) “Know The Most Misunderstood Part Of Estate Plans: Gift Tax Returns”

Photo by RDNE Stock project

 

The Estate of The Union Podcast

 

Read our Books

Crummey Trusts are an Option to Gift to Minors

Crummey Trusts are an Option to Gift to Minors

If you’re looking for ways to pass wealth on to children or grandchildren, one valuable tool to consider may be the Crummey Trust. Crummey Trusts represent a strategic option for those looking to gift assets to minors. Named after the first individual to utilize this approach, the Crummey Trust offers a way to gift money to minors while enjoying significant tax advantages and maintaining control over the funds’ distribution.

A Crummey Trust allows you to gift assets to minors without those gifts being subject to gift tax up to a certain amount annually. As of 2024, you can give up to $18,000 annually to a minor through a Crummey Trust without incurring gift tax or affecting your lifetime gift tax exemption. This type of trust is particularly appealing because it prevents the minor from gaining direct access to the funds until they reach an age where they can manage the money responsibly.

A Crummey Trust operates on the concept of “present interest” gifts. For a gift to qualify for the annual gift tax exclusion, the recipient must have the right to use, possess, or enjoy the gift immediately. Crummey Trusts meet this requirement by allowing the beneficiary a temporary right to withdraw the gifted amount, typically within a 30-day window after the gift is made. If the withdrawal right is not exercised, the funds remain in the trust, subject to the terms set by the grantor.

While Crummey Trusts offer many advantages, they also require diligent record-keeping and clear communication with beneficiaries about their rights. Additionally, as beneficiaries age, they may choose to exercise their withdrawal rights, which could impact the grantor’s willingness to continue making gifts to the trust.

Crummey Trusts represent a strategic option for those looking to gift assets to minors while maintaining control over the distribution of those assets and optimizing tax benefits. By understanding the unique features and requirements of Crummey Trusts, you can make informed decisions that align with your estate planning goals and provide for your loved ones’ futures. If you would like to learn more about gifting, please visit our previous posts.

Reference: ElderLawAnswers “Crummey Trust: A Safe Way to Give Financial Gifts to Minors”

Image by s05prodpresidente

Use Qualified Disclaimer to avoid Inheriting IRA

Use Qualified Disclaimer to Avoid Inheriting IRA

The rules governing inherited Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) have changed over the years. They have become even more complex since the passage of the original SECURE Act. The inheritor of an IRA may be required to empty the account and pay taxes on the resulting income within 10 years. In some situations, beneficiaries might choose to use a Qualified Disclaimer to avoid inheriting the IRA, according to a recent article, “How to Opt Out of Inheriting an IRA” from Think Advisor.

Paying taxes on the distributions could put a beneficiary into a higher tax bracket. In some situations, beneficiaries may want to execute a Qualified Disclaimer and avoid inheriting both the account and the tax consequences associated with the inheritance.

Individuals who use a Qualified Disclaimer are treated as if they never received the property at all. Of course, you don’t enjoy the benefits of the inheritance but don’t receive the tax bill.

Suppose the decedent’s estate is large enough to trigger the federal estate tax. In that case, generation-skipping transfer tax issues may come into play, depending on whether there are any contingent beneficiaries.

An experienced estate planning attorney is needed to ensure that the disclaimer satisfies all requirements and is treated as a Qualified Disclaimer. It must be in writing, and it must be irrevocable. It also needs to align with any state law requirements.

The person who wishes to disclaim the IRA must provide the IRA custodian or the plan administrator with written notice within nine months after the latter of two events: the original account owner’s death or the date the disclaiming party turns 21 years old. The disclaiming person must also execute the disclaimer before receiving the inherited IRA or any of the benefits associated with the property.

Once you use the qualified disclaimer to avoid inheriting the IRA, it must pass to the remaining beneficiaries without the disclaiming party’s involvement. The disclaiming party cannot directly decide who will receive their interests, such as directing the inherited IRA to go to their child. If the disclaiming party’s child is already named as a beneficiary, their interest will be received as intended by that child.

The person inheriting the account must execute the disclaimer before receiving any benefits from the account. Even electing to take distributions will prevent the disclaimer from being effective, even if the person has not received any funds.

In some cases, you may be able to disclaim a portion of the inherited IRA. However, these are specific cases requiring the experience of an estate planning attorney. If you would like to learn more about inherited IRAs, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Think Advisor (Feb. 8, 2024) “How to Opt Out of Inheriting an IRA”

Photo by cottonbro studio

 

The Estate of The Union Podcast

 

Read our Books

 

Adjustment in Cost Basis is a Crucial Tax Consideration

Adjustment in Cost Basis is a Crucial Tax Consideration

The adjustment in cost basis is a crucial tax consideration. The adjustment in the cost basis is sometimes overlooked in estate planning, even though it can be a tax game-changer. Under this tax provision, an inherited asset’s cost basis is determined not by what the original owner paid but by the value of the asset when it is inherited after the original owner’s death.

Since most assets appreciate over time, as explained in the article “Maximizing Inheritance With A Step Up” from Montgomery County News, this adjustment is often referred to as a “step-up” basis. A step-up can create significant tax savings when assets are sold and is a valuable way for beneficiaries to maximize their inheritance.

In most cases, assets included in the decedent’s overall estate will receive an adjustment in basis. Stocks, land, and business interests are all eligible for a basis adjustment. Others, such as Income in Respect of the Decedent (IRD), IRAs, 401(k)s, and annuities, are not eligible.

Under current tax law, the cost basis is the asset’s value on the date of the original owner’s death. The asset may technically accrue little to no gain, depending on how long they hold it before selling it and other factors regarding its valuation. The heir could face little to no capital gains tax on the asset’s sale.

Of course, it’s not as simple as this, and your estate planning attorney should review assets to determine their eligibility for a step-up. Some assets may decrease in value over time, while assets owned jointly between spouses may have different rules for basis adjustments when one of the spouses passes. The rules are state-specific, so check with a local estate planning attorney.

To determine whether the step-up basis is helpful, clarify estate planning goals. Do you own a vacation home you want to leave to your children or investments you plan to leave to grandchildren? Does your estate plan include philanthropy? Reviewing your current estate plan through the lens of a step-up in basis could lead you to make some changes.

Let’s say you bought 20,000 shares of stock ten years ago for $20 a share, with the original cost-basis being $400,000. Now, the shares are worth $40 each, for a total of $800,000. You’d like your adult children to inherit the stock.

There are several options here. You could sell the shares, pay the taxes, and give your children cash. You could directly transfer the shares, and they’d receive the same basis in your stock at $20 per share. You could also name your children as beneficiaries of the shares.

As long as the shares are in a taxable account and included in your gross estate when you die, your heirs will get an adjustment in basis based on the fair market value on the day of your passing.

If the fair market value of the shares is $50 when you die, your heirs will receive a step up in basis to $50. The gain of $30 per share will pass to your children with no tax liability.

Tax planning is part of a comprehensive estate plan, and the adjustment in cost basis is a crucial tax consideration. An experienced estate planning attorney can help you and your family minimize tax liabilities. If you would like to learn more about tax planning, please visit our previous posts.

Reference: Montgomery County News (Dec. 20, 2023) “Maximizing Inheritance With A Step Up”

 

The Estate of The Union Podcast

Read our Books

Strategies to avoid Inheritance Disputes

Strategies to avoid Inheritance Disputes

One of the many aspects of a professionally created estate plan involves employing strategies to avoid inheritance disputes. Your estate planning attorney has various tools, from creating a revocable living trust to drafting a detailed and legally sound will, as outlined in the article “6 Estate Management Strategies to Avoid Inheritance Disputes and How to Implement Them” from Legal Reader.

Creating a revocable living trust and placing assets in the trust allows those assets to be passed to heirs directly and according to the instructions you provide in the language of the trust. Assets not in the will need to pass through the probate process, where those involved in the estate plan might need to attend lengthy and stressful court proceedings. In some jurisdictions, the court may require the presence of all heirs and even estranged family members who were not properly disinherited.

In the probate process, beneficiaries can air grievances if they are unhappy with the inheritance agreement and could potentially challenge the will. By passing assets via a trust, you can completely reduce or avoid the opportunity for these disputes to occur.

The foundation of a successful estate plan is a will created with an experienced estate planning attorney. A will is a legally binding document outlining how the decedent wanted their assets and property distributed upon death. The estate planning attorney will work with you to ensure the language in the will is extremely specific and leaves no room for interpretation.

Some assets pass through beneficiary designations, including life insurance policies, retirement, investment, and bank accounts. To avoid problems with these financial assets, regularly review and update beneficiary designations to avoid giving someone no longer in your life a generous gift. These should be reviewed anytime a significant life event occurs, like marriage, divorce, birth or death, changes in financial circumstances, or when you acquire new assets.

A prenuptial agreement can mitigate the risk of inheritance disputes by establishing specific terms and conditions in the event of a divorce. They are particularly important in states where the courts can divide property acquired during the marriage regardless of where the assets came from. By drafting documents explicitly declaring intentions about the treatment of inherited assets, you provide an additional layer of protection to assets in case of divorce. The process also fosters communication between parties to assist in clarifying expectations for the future.

A well-drafted no-contest clause can diminish the likelihood of legal battles among heirs and challengers. It helps dissuade disgruntled beneficiaries from pursuing costly litigation by putting any inheritance at risk if they should decide to pursue what they feel are unfair distributions. It is imperative to engage an experienced estate planning attorney licensed to practice law in your state to have an effective no-contest clause in a will or a trust.

In some situations, liquidating non-cash assets like real estate makes the most sense. It’s far easier to divide cash than proportions of real estate. However, a buyout arrangement can be implemented if one sibling wants to purchase the property. Beneficiaries could buy out each other’s shares if there’s more than one heir, eliminating the need to sell the asset.

By employing strategies to avoid inheritance disputes, you can ensure your will clearly articulates your wishes. If you would like to learn more about inheritance issues, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Legal Reader (Dec. 4, 2023) “6 Estate Management Strategies to Avoid Inheritance Disputes and How to Implement Them”

Estate Planning for Unmarried Senior Couples

Estate Planning for Unmarried Senior Couples

An increasing number of couples at various stages of life are choosing to live together without marrying, making estate planning a bit more challenging. This is especially true when considering estate planning for unmarried senior couples, according to a recent article from Kiplinger, “Estate Planning and the Legal Quirks of Retiree Cohabitation.”

From one perspective, living together without being legally married provides an advantage: you have your own estate plan. You may distribute assets after death with no obligation to leave anything to a partner or their biological children. In many jurisdictions, the law requires spouses to leave a significant portion to their surviving spouse. This doesn’t apply if you’re cohabitating.

However, there are downsides. For example, a surviving unmarried partner doesn’t benefit from inheriting assets without estate taxes. A non-spouse transferring assets may find themselves generating sizable estate or income taxes. To avoid this, your estate planning attorney will discuss tax liability strategies.

Owning real property together can get complicated. Consider an unmarried couple buying a property solely in one person’s name, excluding the partner to sidestep any possible gift taxes. If the sole owner dies, the partner has no claim to the property. The solution could be planning for property rights in the estate plan, possibly leaving the property outright to the partner or in trust for the partner’s use throughout their lifetime. It still has to be planned for in advance of incapacity or, of course, death.

Regarding healthcare communication and directives, special care must be taken to ensure that the couple can be involved in each other’s care and decision-making. By law, decision-making might default to the married spouse or kin. Without a designated healthcare proxy, a cohabitating partner has no legal authority to obtain medical information, make medical decisions, or, in some cases, won’t even have the ability to have access to a hospitalized partner. A healthcare power of attorney is essential for unmarried couples.

For senior couples living together, blending families can be challenging. However, blending finances can be even more complex. Living together later in life can create many concerns if there are former spouses or children from a prior relationship. If a senior decides to marry, they are advised to have a prenuptial agreement so children from previous unions are not disinherited. If a potential spouse has big issues signing such a document, it should raise a red flag to their motivation to marry.

Living together without the legal protection of marriage is an individual decision and may be seen as a means of avoiding legalities. However, it needs to be examined from the perspective of estate planning for the unmarried senior couple, to protect both parties and their families. Couples must prepare for the future, for better or worse, in sickness and health. If you would like to learn more about estate planning for unmarried couples, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Kiplinger (Dec. 6, 2023) “Estate Planning and the Legal Quirks of Retiree Cohabitation”

Photo by Marcus Aurelius

 

The Estate of The Union Podcast

 

Read our Books

Where Should You Store Your Will?

Where Should You Store Your Will?

When you fail to plan for your demise, your heirs may end up fighting. With Aretha Franklin, three of her sons were battling in court over handwritten wills. The Queen of Soul, who died in 2018, had a few wills: one was dated and signed in 2010, which was found in a locked cabinet. Another, signed in 2014, was discovered in a spiral notebook under the cushions of a couch in her suburban Detroit home. This begs the question: Where should you store your will and other estate planning documents?

The Herald-Ledger’s recent article, “Aretha Franklin’s will was in her couch. Here’s where to keep yours,” says that a jury recently decided the couch-kept will is valid. However, Aretha didn’t clarify her final wishes. Her handwritten wills had notations that were hard to decipher, and she didn’t properly store the will she may have wanted to be executed upon her death.

The Herald-Ledger’s article gives some options for storing your will. First, don’t store your will in the couch.

You should keep your will where it is secure but easily located. Here are some options:

  • Safe-deposit box: The downside is that the box might be initially inaccessible when you die. If your will is in the box, that’s an issue. The executor may need a copy of the will to access the box. If so, and a court order is required, it could take some time before the executor can get the will from the safe deposit box. If you do this, include your executor or the person designated to handle your estate on the safe deposit box contract.
  • At home: Keep a copy of your will in a fireproof and waterproof safe, but make sure there’s a duplicate key, or you give the combination code to your executor or some other trusted person.
  • With an attorney: You could have a spare set of original documents and leave one with your attorney. But be sure your family knows the attorney’s name with the will.
  • Local court: Check with the local probate court about storing your will and tell someone that you’ve placed your will in the care of the court. For instance, in Maryland, you can keep your original last will and testament with an office called the Register of Wills. The will can then be released only to you or to a person you authorize in writing to retrieve it.
  • Electronic storage: You could store it online to keep your will safe. However, most states don’t yet recognize electronic wills. As a result, you’ll need to have the originally signed copy of your will even if you store a digital copy.

Speak with an estate planning attorney about where you should store your will. He or she may suggest an option you and your family had not considered. All options to store your will have pros and cons. Whatever you do, tell the person designated to handle your estate where to find your will. If you would like to learn more about storing and handling your estate planning documents, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: The Herald-Ledger (July 19, 2023) “Aretha Franklin’s will was in her couch. Here’s where to keep yours.”

Photo by Karolina Grabowska

 

The Estate of The Union Podcast

 

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