Category: Trusts

Endowed Scholarships create an Important Legacy

Endowed Scholarships create an Important Legacy

Endowed scholarships are powerful tools in the realm of charitable giving, often used as a part of comprehensive estate planning. An endowed scholarship is a significant philanthropic commitment that involves establishing a fund to provide scholarships to students, typically in perpetuity. It’s a donation and a long-term investment in future generations, aligning with the donor’s values and interests. Endowed scholarships can be established during a donor’s lifetime or through estate gifts, allowing individuals to create an important legacy reflecting their passion for education and student support. For a detailed overview of how endowed scholarships function within charitable giving and estate planning, see The National Association of Charitable Gift Planners.

To endow a scholarship means providing a stable funding source by creating an endowment fund. An endowment fund is typically a large sum of money that is invested. The earned income from the investments is used to fund the scholarship. The principal amount of the endowment remains intact, allowing the scholarship to be awarded yearly indefinitely, based on the income generated.

In estate planning, establishing an endowed scholarship can offer a meaningful way to memorialize a loved one or to honor family and friends, while also providing tax benefits. It serves as a lasting testament to the donor’s commitment to education and charitable giving, ensuring that their philanthropic goals continue to be met even after they are gone.

Establishing an endowed fund involves careful planning and collaboration with financial or philanthropic advisors. The donor needs to decide on the amount to endow, which should align with their financial capabilities and the objectives of the scholarship. The process also involves legal considerations, since the terms of the scholarship and the fund’s administration must be clearly defined and documented. A comprehensive guide on endowment funds can be found at The Council on Foundations.

Legal and financial planning is crucial in creating a scholarship fund. This involves drafting the terms of the scholarship, deciding on the fund’s management and ensuring that the scholarship aligns with the overall estate plan. The donor must also work with the chosen educational institution or charitable organization to set up the fund and define how the scholarship will be administered.

There are numerous benefits to establishing an endowed scholarship for both the donor and the recipients. From a donor’s perspective, endowed scholarships provide a way to make a significant, lasting impact while also reaping financial rewards. They can lead to potential income tax deductions and be a part of a strategic plan for estate gifts, reducing the taxable estate.

For scholarship recipients, an endowed scholarship represents a reliable source of tuition assistance, often making the difference in their ability to pursue higher education. These scholarships can be designated according to the donor’s wishes, targeting specific fields of study, financial need, or other criteria, thus allowing donors to support areas they are passionate about. One of the most important aspects of establishing an endowed scholarship is setting the criteria for scholarship recipients. This process allows donors to personalize their scholarship according to their values and the impact they wish to make. Criteria can include academic merit, financial need, specific areas of study, or any other factors the donor deems important.

Balancing the donor’s wishes with institutional policies is key. While the donor can designate the scholarship according to their preferences, they must also ensure that the criteria are feasible and aligned with the institution’s policies and regulations. Naming a scholarship can be a very meaningful way to honor family, friends, or personal causes. It ensures that the donor’s or the loved one’s name is associated with educational support and philanthropy for years to come.

Effective management of the endowment is crucial to ensure its longevity and impact. This involves prudent investment strategies to grow the principal amount, while generating sufficient income to support the scholarship. Regular reviews and adjustments to the investment strategy are necessary to align with market conditions and the scholarship’s objectives.

Donors and institutions may also seek additional contributions to the scholarship fund. These contributions may be made by the donor, family members, or others who share the donor’s vision, thus helping to grow the fund and increase its impact over time.

Incorporating endowed scholarships into an estate plan can have significant tax implications. Donors can benefit from income tax deductions for their contributions to the scholarship fund. By reducing the taxable estate, endowed scholarships can also be an effective tool in estate planning, potentially lowering estate taxes.

Endowed scholarships are more than just financial aid; they offer a unique opportunity to create an important legacy of support, ensuring that the donor’s passion for education and charitable giving continues to make a difference for many years. If you would like to read more about endowed scholarships, and other forms of charitable giving, 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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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 QPRT is a unique financial tool

A QPRT is a unique financial tool

A Qualified Personal Residence Trust (QPRT) is a unique financial tool used in estate planning to reduce the potential estate tax liability by transferring a principal residence or vacation home into a trust. As an irrevocable type of trust, a QPRT allows the grantor to remain in the home for a predetermined term of years, making it a strategic choice for those looking to manage their estate tax effectively. Learn more about QPRTs.

In the realm of estate planning, QPRTs serve a dual purpose. They provide a mechanism to transfer a residence at a reduced tax cost, while ensuring that the property remains part of the family legacy. This is particularly advantageous in the context of rising real estate values and the corresponding increase in estate tax liabilities.

The structure of a Qualified Personal Residence Trust is centered around its ability to freeze the value of the residence at the time of the transfer to the trust. When a residence is transferred into a QPRT, its value for gift tax purposes is determined at that time. This is beneficial if the property appreciates in value over the trust term, since the appreciation occurs outside the grantor’s taxable estate.

Furthermore, the trust term is a critical component of a QPRT. It is during this period that the grantor retains the right to live in the home. The length of the trust term can significantly impact the tax benefits of the QPRT, making it essential to choose a term that aligns with the grantor’s estate planning objectives. American Bar Association’s insights on estate planning.

One of the primary benefits of using a QPRT in estate planning is the potential for significant estate tax savings. Transferring a residence into a QPRT removes the property from the grantor’s taxable estate, potentially leading to lower estate taxes upon the grantor’s death.

In addition to estate tax advantages, a QPRT also offers protection for the principal residence. This ensures that the residence can be passed down to beneficiaries, typically the grantor’s children, at a reduced tax cost. It’s a strategic way to preserve a valuable family asset for future generations, while minimizing the estate tax burden.

Creating a Qualified Personal Residence Trust involves a few key steps. The first step is to determine the value of the residence, which will be based on its fair market value at the time of the transfer. This valuation is crucial for calculating the gift tax implications of the transfer.

Choosing the right trust term for your QPRT is equally important. The term should be long enough to offer substantial tax benefits but not so long that the grantor is unlikely to outlive it. If the grantor does not outlive the trust term, the residence reverts back to the estate, negating the tax benefits. Guidance from the National Association of Estate Planners & Councils.

When using a QPRT for your primary residence, it’s important to understand the rules surrounding occupancy. During the trust term, the grantor has the right to live in the home. This right is crucial, as it allows the grantor to continue enjoying their home while reaping the trust’s benefits.

Transferring your primary residence to a QPRT can be a smart estate planning move. It allows you to reduce your taxable estate, while maintaining your lifestyle. However, it’s essential to comply with all the trust requirements to ensure that the tax benefits are realized.

A QPRT can also be used effectively for a secondary or vacation home. The same principles apply: the home is transferred into the trust, potentially reducing estate taxes while allowing continued use of the property during the trust term.

However, there are some specific considerations when using a QPRT for a vacation home. Since these properties are often not the primary residence, it’s essential to understand how the trust will affect your use of the property and any potential rental income.

Understanding the tax implications of a QPRT is crucial. For estate tax purposes, the transfer of the residence to the QPRT is treated as a gift, but the grantor’s retained interest reduces the value of the gift in the property. This can lead to significant gift tax savings.

Income tax considerations are also important. The grantor of a QPRT typically continues to pay the property taxes and can deduct these payments on their personal income tax return. This arrangement can be beneficial from an income tax perspective.

What happens at the end of the QPRT term is a critical aspect of the trust. If the grantor outlives the term, the property is transferred to the beneficiaries, typically without additional estate or gift taxes. This is the ideal scenario, since it maximizes the tax benefits of the QPRT.

If the grantor wishes to continue living in the home after the trust term expires, they can lease it from the trust beneficiaries. This arrangement allows the grantor to remain in the home, while ensuring the property remains outside their taxable estate.

At the end of the QPRT term, there may be opportunities to further estate planning objectives by transitioning the property to another trust. This could involve creating a new trust that continues to hold the property for the benefit of family members, providing ongoing estate planning advantages.

This transition is a strategic move that can ensure the continued protection of the property and further estate tax savings. However, it requires careful planning and adherence to tax laws and regulations.

In conclusion, a QPRT is a unique financial tool to minimize estate taxes while protecting your primary or secondary residence. A QPRT can be a powerful tool in your estate planning arsenal by carefully selecting the trust term and understanding the tax implications.

If you’re considering a QPRT as part of your estate plan or have questions about how this type of trust could benefit you, contact our law firm today. Our experienced estate planning attorneys are here to guide you through every step of the process, ensuring that your estate plan is tailored to your unique needs and goals. If you would like to learn more about different types of trusts, 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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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”

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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Trusts Work for Multi-State Property Owners

Trusts Work for Multi-State Property Owners

If you own real estate when you die, it is most likely your estate will be required to go through probate. This can take months to years and becomes expensive, as explained in the article “Why a trust is so useful for those who own real property in multiple states” from Coeur d’Alene/Post Falls Press. However, here’s the thing to be aware of: if you own property in more than one state, your estate must go through the probate process in every state where you own property. Trusts can work very well for multi-state property owners.

A few strategies must be considered for snowbirds with homes in northern and southern regions or who own out-of-state rental property.

Some families will add an intended heir to the title (deed) of the real estate while the primary owners are still living. This is rarely recommended, since it can open the door to any number of problems. If the intended heir has a financial crisis, like a lawsuit, divorce, creditor issues, etc., the jointly owned property is an attachable asset.

Another solution people try is the “Pay on Death Deed.” This is a special type of deed where the recipient gets the real property on the death of the owner. This strategy has a few problems. However, the main one is that not all states allow these types of deeds to be used.

An experienced estate planning attorney will know whether or not your state allows the Pay-on-Death-Deed.

The best solution for most people owning property in multiple states is using a living trust.

The living trust provides the same directions as a last will and testament about who should receive what assets from your estate after your death, including real property. It also names a trustee, who manages the assets in the trust and distributes them after your death.

A key reason to use a living trust is the assets owned by the trust are outside of the probate estate. These assets pass to beneficiaries according to the terms of the trust and do not go through the probate process.

Once the living trust is established, the trust may hold title to any real property, regardless of where the property is located. The trustee does not have to deal with the courts in multiple states.

There is a tendency to think trusts are only used by the very wealthy. However, this is not true. Anyone who owns real property and doesn’t want it to go through one or more probate proceedings benefits from using a trust.

Trusts can work very well for multi-state property owners. An experienced estate planning attorney can establish the trust and guide you through putting assets into the trust. If you would like to learn more about managing real property in an estate plan, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Coeur d’Alene/Post Falls Press “Why a trust is so useful for those who own real property in multiple states”

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Estate Planning is increasingly Popular with Millennials

Estate Planning is increasingly Popular with Millennials

Estate planning is increasingly popular with millennials. It is far from the stereotype of being only of interest to older, affluent couples nearing retirement or dealing with health concerns. These younger generations have unique attributes, including pragmatic financial views and humanitarian concerns, according to a recent article, “Six Estate Planning Tips for Younger Generations,” from Kiplinger. Here are tips to make this process easier for any generation.

Start with a basic will, which guides how assets and possessions are distributed after one’s passing. Prepared by an experienced estate planning attorney, the will should minimize potential disputes, include a clear delineation of assets and beneficiaries and name an executor to manage the estate and guardianship for any surviving dependents.

Appoint a power of attorney and draft medical directives. Power of Attorney and Medical Directives are basic documents that state your preferences during incapacity. A POA grants a named individual the legal authority to act on your behalf for legal and financial matters, if you cannot do so. Medical directives establish your wishes regarding medical treatment and end-of-life care. While taking care of these matters, you may also want to consider becoming an organ donor.

Determine who you want to be your children’s guardian. Naming a guardian of your minor children isn’t pleasant. However, it ensures that you and your partner make this decision, not the court.

Consider a living trust. Living trusts offer a strategic means of managing assets and helping to ensure that your surviving loved ones maintain control of your assets after you have passed. The trust, established with the help of an estate planning attorney, grants ownership of certain assets or properties into the trust, which becomes their owner. A trustee is named to manage and distribute these assets in accordance with your wishes. In some instances, it makes sense to hire a professional trustee, especially if the trust will need to be managed for decades.

By taking assets out of your estate and placing them into a trust, these assets won’t go through the probate process. Probate involves your executor filing your will with a court after you die. The court reviews the will to validate it and grants the named executor the power to execute your final instructions. Probate can be lengthy, expensive and emotionally charged for the family. Your will is entered into the public record, so anyone who wants to can see your will and know your final wishes.

Don’t forget your digital assets. Younger generations are more aware of the value and footprint of their digital assets. They often name a specific digital executor in their estate plans to ensure that their many accounts and digital assets are managed after their passing.

Seek professional advice and update documents. Despite a plethora of online sites and apps, estate planning documents require the skillful handling of an experienced estate planning attorney. Estate laws are state-specific, so wills and trust documents must be created with local laws in mind. Your estate plan documents, from wills to insurance policies, should be reviewed every three to five years. Every time there’s a significant change in your life, like getting married, buying a home, having a child, or getting divorced, this should also be done.

As estate planning becomes increasingly popular with Millennials, it is wise to consult with an experienced attorney familiar with the lifestyle and concerns of younger generations. If you would like to read more about estate planning for younger generations, please visit our previous posts.

Reference: Kiplinger (Dec. 3, 2023) “Six Estate Planning Tips for Younger Generations

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