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consider gifting to loved ones before tax changes

Consider Gifting to Loved Ones before Tax changes

With all of the talk about changes to estate taxes, estate planning attorneys have been watching and waiting as changes were added, then removed, then changed again, in pending legislation. The passage of the infrastructure bill in early November may mark the start of a calmer period, but there are still estate planning moves to consider, says a recent article “Gift money now, before estate tax laws sunset in 2025” from The Press-Enterprise. It is wise to consider gifting to loved ones before tax changes arrive.

Gifts are used to decrease the taxes due on an estate but require thoughtful planning with an eye to avoiding any unintended consequences.

The first gift tax exemption is the annual exemption. Basically, anyone can give anyone else a gift of up to $15,000 every year. If giving together, spouses may gift $30,000 a year. After these amounts, the gift is subject to gift tax. However, there’s another exemption: the lifetime exemption.

For now, the estate and gift tax exemption is $11.7 million per person. Anyone can gift up to that amount during life or at death, or some combination, tax-free. The exemption amount is adjusted every year. If no changes to the law are made, this will increase to roughly $12,060,000 in 2022.

However, the current estate and gift tax exemption law sunsets in 2025. This will bring the exemption down from historically high levels to the prior level of $5 million. Even with an adjustment for inflation, this would make the exemption about $6.2 million. This will dramatically increase the number of estates required to pay federal estate taxes.

For households with net worth below $6 million for an individual and $12 million for a married couple, federal estate taxes may be less of a worry. However, there are state estate taxes, and some are tied to federal estate tax rates. Planning is necessary, especially as some in Congress would like to see those levels set even lower.

Let’s look at a fictional couple with a combined net worth of $30 million. Without any estate planning or gifting, if they live past 2025, they may have a taxable estate of $18 million: $30 million minus $12 million. At a taxable rate of 40%, their tax bill will be $7.2 million.

If the couple had gifted the maximum $23.4 million now under the current exemption, their taxable estate would be reduced to $6.6 million, with a tax bill of $2,520,000. Even if they were to die in a year when the exemption is lower than it was at the time of their gift, they’d save nearly $5 million in taxes.

There are a number of estate planning gifting techniques used to leverage giving, including some which provide income streams to the donor, while allowing the donor to maintain control of assets. These include:

Discounted Giving. When assets are transferred into an entity (commonly a limited partnership or limited liability company), a gift of a minority interest in the entity is generally given a discounted value, due to the lack of control and marketability.

Grantor Retained Annuity Trusts. The donor transfers assets to the trust and retains right to a payment over a period of time. At the end of that period, beneficiaries receive the assets and all of the appreciation. The donor pays income tax on the earnings of the assets in the trust, permitting another tax-free transfer of assets.

Intentionally Defective Grantor Trusts. A donor sets up a trust, makes a gift of assets and then sells other assets to the trust in exchange for a promissory note. If this is done correctly, there is a minimal gift, no gain on the sale for tax purposes, the donor pays the income tax and appreciation is moved to the next generation.

These strategies may continue to be scrutinized as Congress searches for funding sources, but in the meantime, they are still available and may be appropriate for your estate. Speak with an experienced estate planning attorney to see if these or other strategies should be put into place. It is time to seriously consider gifting to loved ones before estate tax changes arrive. If you would like to learn more about gifting, and other charitable options in estate planning, please visit our previous posts.

Reference: The Press-Enterprise (Nov. 7, 2021) “Gift money now, before estate tax laws sunset in 2025”

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Estate of The Union Episode 11-Millennials’ Mysteries Uncovered!

 

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Cryptocurrency should be considered in estate plans

Cryptocurrency should be Considered in Estate Plans

Cryptocurrency accounts are not like any traditional investment accounts. However, their growing prevalence and value means cryptocurrency should be considered in more and more estate plans, especially when they take an enormous leap in value. These accounts are more vulnerable, according to the recent article “Millennial Money: What happens to your crypto if you die?” from The Indiana Gazette, and in most cases, there’s no way to name a beneficiary for your crypto accounts.

If you store your cryptocurrency on a physical device at home and a few friends know your key—the crypto password that grants access to a crypto wallet—one of those friends could very easily wander into your home and steal your crypto without you even noticing.

On the flip side, if you don’t share your key with anyone and become incapacitated or die, your crypto assets could be lost forever. Knowing how to store these assets safely and communicate your wishes for loved ones is extremely important, more so than for traditional assets.

How is crypto stored? Crypto “wallets” are digital wallets, managed on an app or a website, or kept on a thumb drive (also known as a memory stick). How you store crypto depends in part on how you intend to use it.

A “Hot Wallet” is used to buy and sell crypto. They are usually free and convenient but may not be as secure as other methods because they are always connected to the internet.

“Cold Wallets” are used to store crypto for a longer period of time, like a deep freezer.

The Hot Wallet is more like a checking account, with money moving in and out. The Cold Wallet is like a savings account, where money is kept for a longer period of time. You can have both, just as you probably have both a checking and savings account.

Whoever holds the “keys” to the wallets—whoever has custody of the password, which is a series of randomly generated numbers and letters—has access to your cryptocurrency. It might be just you, a third-party crypto exchange, or a hybrid of the two. Consider the third-party exchange a temporary and risky solution, as you don’t have control of the keys and exchanges do get hacked.

Naming a beneficiary in your will and adding a document to your estate plan containing an inventory of cryptocurrency and any passwords, PINs, keys and instructions to find your cold wallet is part of an estate plan addressing this new digital asset class.

Do not under any circumstances include any of the crypto information in your will. This document becomes part of the public record when filed in court and giving this information is the same as sharing your checking, saving and investment account information with the general public.

Some platforms, like Coinbase, have a process in place for next of kin, when an owner dies. Others do not, so it’s up to the crypto owner to make plans, if they want assets to be preserved and passed to another family member.

Cryptocurrency should be considered in your estate plans if you plan to trade heavily in it. Preparing for cryptocurrency is much the same as preparing for the rest of your planning. Keep the plan updated, especially after big life events, like marriage, divorce, birth, or death. Keep instructions up to date, so the executor and beneficiaries know what to do. Bear in mind that crypto wallets need occasional updates, like every other kind of digital platform. If you would like to learn more about cryptocurrency and estate planning, please visit our previous posts.

Reference: The Indiana Gazette (Nov. 7, 2021) “Millennial Money: What happens to your crypto if you die?”

Estate of The Union Episode 11-Millennials’ Mysteries Uncovered!

 

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common errors with Medicare enrollment

Common Errors with Medicare Enrollment

Money Talks News recent article entitled “5 Things Most Seniors Get Wrong About Medicare” reports that recently, the insurance website MedicareAdvantage.com surveyed more than 1,000 Medicare beneficiaries and found that they share common errors with Medicare enrollment. The researchers said that this ignorance can mean seniors wasting money and forfeiting benefits. Here are the errors most seniors make with Medicare enrollment, and how such things really work.

  1. Premiums, deductibles, and coinsurance. Many survey respondents were unable to correctly define these terms:
  • Deductible: 59.7%
  • Coinsurance: 55.5%
  • Premium: 56.1%

A deductible is the amount you pay out-of-pocket for care before your insurance kicks in. Coinsurance is what you often pay for services after you’ve met the deductible — for example, a common coinsurance requirement is 20% of service costs. Your premium is the amount you pay each month for coverage.

  1. Out-of-pocket spending limits. One thing about most health insurance plans is that they restrict the amount you’re expected to pay out of pocket. However, when talking about original Medicare, nearly three-quarters (73.7%) of survey respondents don’t realize they could be hit with an unlimited amount of coinsurance bills for Part A and Part B coverage. It’s a big reason why Medicare supplement plans are so important, if you’re choosing original Medicare. Many Medicare Advantage plans — also known as Medicare Part C — come with out-of-pocket limits. After you reach this limit, you pay nothing for the Part A and Part B care that is included in your plan.
  2. Part D’s late enrollment penalty. Only a fifth (20%) of Medicare beneficiaries knew that there’s a penalty if you sign up late for Part D prescription coverage. After your initial Medicare enrollment period ends, you may owe a penalty if there’s a period of 63 or more consecutive days when you don’t have Medicare drug coverage or other equivalent prescription drug coverage. If you have a penalty, you’ll have to pay it for as long as you have Medicare drug coverage.
  3. The fall open enrollment period. Every year, the federal government schedules an open enrollment period when you can make changes to your existing coverage. This period always starts on October 15 and goes until December 7. However, 59.7% of Medicare beneficiaries didn’t know the start date, and half of that percentage falsely thought open enrollment starts after October 15.
  4. Virtual services covered because of the pandemic. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual health care has become more widely available. As a result, the federal government now permits Medicare to cover some of these services. However, a large percentage of beneficiaries are unaware of that fact. Here are the percentages of survey respondents who didn’t know that the following services now are covered:
  • Virtual e-visits with a physical therapist: 81.9%
  • Virtual telehealth visits for preventative health screenings: 56.6%
  • Virtual telehealth visits for mental health counseling: 54.1%

Working with an experienced Elder Law attorney who can help you avoid these common errors with Medicare enrollment, and allow you the full benefits you have earned and deserve. If you would like to read more about Medicare benefits and how to enroll, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Money Talks News (Nov. 3, 2021) “5 Things Most Seniors Get Wrong About Medicare”

Estate of The Union Episode 11-Millennials’ Mysteries Uncovered!

 

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even college kids need estate planning

Even College Kids Need Estate Planning

Even college kids need estate planning. The topic of estate planning is frequently overlooked in the craze to get kids to college.

When your child leaves home, it’s important to understand that legally you may not hold the same rights in your relationship that you did for the first 18 years of your child’s life.

Wealth Advisor’s article entitled “Estate Planning Documents Every College Student Should Have in Place” says that it’s crucial to have these discussions as soon as possible with your college student about the plans they should put into place before going out on their own or heading to college. An experienced estate planning attorney can give counsel on the issues concerning your child’s physical health and financial well-being.

When your child turns 18, you’re no longer your child’s legal guardian. Therefore, issues pertaining to his or her health can’t be disclosed to you without your child’s consent. For instance, if your child is in an accident and becomes temporarily incapacitated, you couldn’t make any medical decisions or even give consent. As a result, you’d likely be denied access to his or her medical information. Ask your child to complete a HIPAA release. This is a medical form that names the people allowed to get information about an individual’s medical status, when care is needed. If you’re not named on their HIPAA release, it’s a major challenge to obtain any medical updates about your adult child, including information like whether they have been admitted to a hospital.

In addition, your child also needs to determine the individual who will manage their healthcare decisions, if they’re unable to do so on their own. This is done by designating a healthcare proxy or agent. Without this document, the decision about who makes choices regarding your child’s medical matters may be uncertain.

Your child should ensure his or her financial matters are addressed if he or she can’t see to them, either due to mental incapacity or physical limitations, such as studying abroad. Ask that you or another trusted relative or friend be named agent under your child’s financial power of attorney, so that you can help with managing things like financial aid, banking and tax matters. While they may feel they are invincible, even college kids need estate planning. If you would like to learn more about planning for young adults, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Wealth Advisor (Sep. 24, 2021) “Estate Planning Documents Every College Student Should Have in Place”

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Estate of The Union Episode 11-Millennials’ Mysteries Uncovered!

 

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take care when gifting to an heir

Take care when Gifting to an Heir

Many people want to provide gifts to loved ones in their will. It is prudent to take care when gifting to an heir. Research shows that getting a lot of money can have harmful consequences. According to MarketWatch, a study found that a third of people who received an inheritance had negative savings within two years of the event.

Watertown Public Opinion’s recent article “How to make sure you leave inheritances that are helpful, not harmful” says that, on average, an inheritance is gone in about five years because of careless debts and bad investment behaviors.

However, a minority of heirs don’t mishandle their inheritances. Nonetheless, it’s good to explore exactly what you intend the gift to accomplish, prior to leaving money or property to someone. It’s also important to consider the possible negative consequences of a gift.

Determine if the gift will actually cost the recipient time or money. As an example, leaving the family home, vacation property, land, or a ranch to someone can often cost them money they may not have in maintenance or taxes.

You should also consider if it results in causing difficult emotional issues between siblings, and whether it might encourage bad financial behavior. If a beneficiary hasn’t developed healthy financial behaviors, a significant inheritance might actually create new financial troubles instead of addressing existing ones.

A good way to make certain that your bequests are helpful is to explore your own intentions. Ask yourself if you want to leave enough money for the beneficiary to become financially independent and if you’d you like your bequest used in a specific way, like to pay off debt or fund education.

Do you care how they spend the money?

Another way to provide for thoughtful, conscious inheritances, is to speak with the intended recipients.

Ask them directly whether someone would want a bequest, such as a valuable art or coin collection or perhaps an expensive vacation home. Discuss the options and possibilities and don’t simply take for granted what your heirs might want or what they might do with an inheritance.

Leaving a family member an inheritance can be helpful in some instances, but may be exceedingly destructive in others. Take care when providing gifts to an heir. No two situations are alike, and if you want to increase the chances that your bequests will be helpful, explore and improve your own relationship with money. Examining that relationship can help make sure that what you leave to heirs will be a benefit not a burden. If you would like to learn more about gifting in your estate planning, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Watertown Public Opinion (Nov. 1, 2021) “How to make sure you leave inheritances that are helpful, not harmful”

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Estate of The Union Episode 11-Millennials’ Mysteries Uncovered!

 

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how to file taxes after your spouse dies

How to file Taxes after your Spouse Dies

Losing a spouse is crushing blow for anyone. A question that quickly comes up is how to file taxes after your spouse dies? About two-thirds of surviving spouses are women. While some are able to avoid major mistakes, taxes are a source of frustration, rife with potential problems. Deadlines are especially challenging, according to the article “The Death of a Spouse is Hard. Taxes Makes It Harder” from The Wall Street Journal.

The combination of emotional upheaval and needing to make complex decisions is overwhelming. Some widows need cash and are forced to sell the family home within two years to get an exemption of $500,000 on the sale proceeds. If you miss the deadline, the exemption shrinks to $250,000.

Others will convert traditional IRAs to Roth IRAs in the year their spouse dies, to capture lowered taxes on the conversion.

However, in all cases, spouses need to check withholding or estimated taxes, especially if the spouse who died was the one who made payments to the IRS. Underpayment penalties add up fast.

Here are some key things to watch for:

Filing an estate tax return. The current estate and gift-tax exemption is $11.7 million per person, so most people don’t need to pay federal estate tax. Executors don’t need to file a return if the decedent’s estate is below exemption levels. However, they should. Here’s why: filing an estate tax return will allow the surviving spouse to have the partner’s unused exemption and add it to their own. Claiming the unused exemption could have larger implications in the future when exemptions change.

Estate taxes are normally due nine months after the date of death. The IRS allows executors to claim the unused exemption for the spouse up to two years after the date of death, but the estate tax must be filed within the time period.

The year a spouse dies is the last year a couple may file jointly. Afterwards, the survivor files as a single person or if there are dependent children, as a surviving widow or widower. Be careful about the shift from joint to single filer. The surviving spouse’s tax rate may stay the same or rise when their income drops. There’s an expression for this, as it occurs so often: the widow’s penalty.

Surviving spouses may roll over inherited retirement accounts into their own names. However, if there is a significant age difference, this may not be the best strategy. New widows and widowers should consider their options carefully.

Filers must send the IRS 90% of their total tax for the year by December 31. This amount is often divided unequally between spouses. If the partner who died paid most of the withholding for estimated taxes, the survivor may need to make changes or risk underpayment penalties when taxes are paid in April. This is especially likely to occur if the spouse died early in the year. Sit down with an experienced estate planning attorney who can help you file taxes after your spouse dies. If you would like to learn more about probate, please visit our previous posts.

Reference: The Wall Street Journal (Oct. 29, 2021) “The Death of a Spouse is Hard. Taxes Makes It Harder”

Estate of The Union Episode 11-Millennials’ Mysteries Uncovered!

 

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Estate of The Union Episode 11-Millennials’ Mysteries Uncovered!

Estate of The Union Episode 11-Millennials’ Mysteries Uncovered!

The Estate of The Union episode 11-Millennials’ Mysteries Uncovered is out now!

Millennials are often seen as a mysterious generation that frustrates those from older groups with their unique thoughts and habits. This generation is made up of people born between 1981 and 1996, and grew up at a time of tremendous change and advancement in technology and culture. They see the world very differently than their parents; and that is reflected in how they live, how they love and how they vote. As Millennials advance into adulthood, and begin to take a larger role in shaping society, it is time to take a look at how they tick.

In this episode of The Estate of the Union, Brad Wiewel interviews his son, Sam Wiewel, who is 31 years old and a confirmed Millennial. They discuss many of the differences between Brad’s Boomer generation and Sam’s Millennials, everything from communication issues to courting!

It proves to be a lively – and at times hilarious – conversation. If you Listen, you will Learn.

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 episode 11-Millennials’ mysteries uncovered can be found on Spotify, Apple podcasts, or anywhere you get your podcasts. Please click on the link below to listen to the new installment of The Estate of The Union podcast. The Estate of The Union Episode 11 out now. We hope you enjoy it.

The Estate of The Union Episode 10 out now

Texas Trust Law/The Wiewel Law Firm 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.

What a will can and cannot do

What a Will Can and Cannot Do

Everyone needs a will. A last will and testament is how an executor is named to manage your estate, how a guardian is named to care for any minor children and how you give directions for distribution of property. However, not all property passes via your will. You’ll want to know what a will can and cannot do, as well as how assets are distributed outside of a will. This was the topic of “The Legal Limits of Your Will” from AARP Magazine.

Retirement and Pension Accounts

The beneficiaries named on retirement accounts, including 401(k)s, pensions, and IRAs, receive these assets directly. Some states have laws about requiring spouses to receive some or all assets. However, if you don’t keep these beneficiary names updated, the wrong person may receive the asset, like it or not. Don’t expect anyone to willingly give up a surprise windfall. If a primary beneficiary has died and no contingency beneficiary was named, the recipient may also be determined by default terms, which may not be what you have in mind.

Life Insurance Policies.

The beneficiary designations on an insurance policy determine who will receive proceeds upon your death. Laws vary by state, so check with an estate planning attorney to learn what would happen if you died without updating life insurance policies. A simpler strategy is to create a list of all of your financial accounts, determine how they are distributed and update names as necessary.

Note there are exceptions to all rules. If your divorce agreement includes a provision naming your ex as the sole beneficiary, you may not have an option to make a change.

Financial Accounts

Adding another person to your bank account through various means—Payable on Death (POD), Transfer on Death (TOD), or Joint Tenancy with Right of Survivorship (JTWROS)—may generally override a will, but may not be acceptable for all accounts, or to all financial institutions. There are unanticipated consequences of transferring assets this way, including the simplest: once transferred, assets are immediately vulnerable to creditors, divorce proceedings, etc.

Trusts

Trusts are used in estate planning to remove assets from a personal estate and place them in safekeeping for beneficiaries. Once the assets are properly transferred into the trust, their distribution and use are defined by the trust document. The flexibility and variety of trusts makes this a key estate planning tool, regardless of the value of the assets in the estate.

Take the time to sit down with an experienced estate planning attorney who help you understand the limitations of what a will can and cannot do. If you would like to read more about wills and how they are structured, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: AARP Magazine (Sep. 29, 2021) “The Legal Limits of Your Will”

The Estate of The Union Episode 10

 

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update estate plan after divorce

Update Estate Plan after Divorce

Don’t forget to update your estate plan after a divorce, or you risk your assets being distributed to your ex-spouse when you pass away.

Investopedia’s recent article “Here’s what you need to remove and add to your will when your marriage is over,” says that many states have laws that, after a divorce, automatically revoke gifts to a former spouse listed in a will. There are states that also revoke gifts to family members of a former spouse. If you’re in a state that has such a law, gifts to former stepchildren would also be revoked after your divorce.

Most married people leave everything in their will to their surviving spouse. If that’s the way that your will currently reads, be certain that you change your ex as a beneficiary and add a new beneficiary. Remember that many types of assets are passed outside of a will, such as life insurance, 401k’s and other investments. Therefore, you must change the beneficiary designation on those documents.

Property Transfers. Update your will for any property gained or lost during the divorce. If you have assets that are specifically identified in your will, be sure to update them for any changes that may have happened because of the divorce.

The Executor of your Will. If your ex-spouse is named in your will as your executor, you should change this.

A Guardian for Minor Children. If you have children with your ex-spouse, you will want to update your will to appoint a guardian, if you and your ex-spouse pass suddenly at the same time. If you die, your children will likely be raised by your ex-spouse.

The Best Way to Change Your Will After Divorce. It’s easy: tear up your old will (literally) and begin again because you probably left everything or almost everything to your spouse in your original will. Just because you’re legally married until a judge signs a divorce decree, you can still modify your will or estate plan at any time. Ask an estate planning attorney because there some actions you can’t take until the divorce is final.

Can an Ex Challenge Your Will? An ex-spouse or even ex-de facto partner can challenge the will of a former spouse or partner. Whether the challenge will be successful will depend on the court’s interpretation of a number of factors.

A divorce is one of those times in life when you cannot forget to update your estate plan. There could be significant consequences to your inaction. Sit down with an estate planning attorney right away to review your plans. If you would like to learn more about estate planning and divorce, please visit our previous posts.  

Reference: Investopedia (Sep. 14, 2021) “Here’s what you need to remove and add to your will when your marriage is over”

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The Estate of The Union Episode 10

 

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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 The Wiewel Law Firm to schedule a complimentary consultation.
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