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Friday, July 15, 2016

Rich and Famous Planning: Lessons learned from Prince’s mistake


As most people by now know, the artist Prince died without a Will. The family is now set up for tens of thousands in legal costs and years of delay before the money gets distributed.

When a person dies without a Will, regardless of the size of his estate, numerous problems come up. These include:

  1. Executor. The person who will be named in charge of your estate may not be the person that you would have liked.


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Thursday, July 7, 2016

ABLE accounts


The newly enacted ABLE accounts permit people with disabilities to save money without jeopardizing their government benefits. Account holders can have up to $100,000 in these accounts without jeopardizing their SSI (Supplemental Security Income) benefits. Medicaid benefits do not get jeopardized regardless of the amount of money held in these accounts.

These accounts enable disabled individuals to hold money in their name without a need for a Supplemental Needs Trust. This can be very beneficial for people with limited assets.


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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

You may want to think twice before leaving an outright distribution and gift


There are many things that can go wrong with an outright distribution:

  1. Judgment creditor can seize a beneficiary’s inheritance

  2. Bankruptcy court can seize a beneficiary’s inheritance

  3. An incapacitated beneficiary can squander an inheritance before anyone can step in to help him.

  4. A divorce court can award some of the beneficiary’s inheritance to an ex-spouse

  5. If the beneficiary doesn’t plan properly himself, his spouse’s family can receive your money

A lifetime discretionary trust, set up either during your life or through a Will, can mitigate against some of these risks. Some of the benefits of a lifetime discretionary trust include:

  1. Protection from beneficiary’s liabilities

  2. Protection from beneficiary’s divorce

  3. Protection during beneficiary’s incapacity

  4. Protection from beneficiary’s profligacy 

Talk to an estate planning attorney to see if setting up a lifetime discretionary trust may be beneficial for your family.

Disclaimer: This article only offers general information.  Each situation is unique.
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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Rich and Famous Planning: B.B. King’s Estate – 15 children, a few million dollar and legal battles for many years to come


B.B. King acknowledged 15 children from 15 different women during his life. 11 of the children survived him. Yet the executor of B.
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Monday, June 13, 2016

Retitling Assets and Designating Proper Beneficiaries


You may have completed a Will and a Power of Attorney (all by yourself). You may think that your estate plan is in order and you can rest easily. However, you are likely less than half way done!

In general, over half of all assets in the United States pass outside of probate. These include assets that are jointly titled (i.e.
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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Estate and Income Tax Planning for non-US citizens. Part II – income and estate taxation of non-U.S. residents

Income Tax Planning: In general, non-U.S. residents are taxed only on U.S. sourced income.  If the income is considered to be effectively connected with a U.S. trade or business (“effectively connected income” or “ECI”) then that income is taxed at graduated rates on a net income basis. If, instead, the income is “fixed, determinable, annual or periodic” (“FDAP”) then it is subject to a flat 30% tax on gross income (or lower if there is an income tax treaty). FDAP income usually consists of interest, dividends, rents and royalties. Interest on U.S. bank deposit is exempt from U.S. tax for non-U.S. residents.

Estate and Gift Tax Planning.

Assets subject to gift and estate tax:  For U.S. residents the tax applies to property and assets situated everywhere in the world.   In contrast, non-U.S. residents are subject to a gift and estate tax only on U.S. real and tangible personal property.

Gift Tax Exclusions: Similar to a U.S. resident, a non-U.S. resident can make a tax-free annual gift up to $14,000, can make unlimited charitable gifts, and can make unlimited gifts on behalf of donees directly to educational or medical institutions.

Gifts to spouse. The amount of gift tax exclusion  depends on the citizenship of the donee spouse. A citizen spouse may receive unlimited gifts of U.S. assets from his spouse.  A non-citizen spouse can only receive $148,000 per year prior to a tax being imposed.

Estate Tax. U.S. citizens and residents have a $5.45MM estate tax exemption from federal taxes.  In contrast, a non-U.S. resident is permitted only a $60,000 exemption. All property situated in the United States and owned at the death of a non-U.S. resident is included in the U.S. taxable estate, including retirement assets and stocks. Some assets, such as bank accounts and life insurance proceeds, are excluded.

 

Disclaimer: This article only offers general information.  Each situation is unique. It is always helpful to talk to a specialized attorney, to figure out your various options and ramifications of actions.  As every case has subtle differences, please do not use this article for legal advice. Only a signed engagement letter will create an attorney-client relationship. ATTORNEY ADVERTISING


Monday, April 4, 2016

Estate and Income Tax Planning for non-US citizens. Part I – determining U.S. residency

The very first question to determine during planning is whether a non-citizen individual is considered a U.S. resident for income tax purposes and for estate tax purposes.

For income tax purposes, a non-citizen is considered a U.S. resident if the individual meets any one of these tests: (1) green card test or (2) the substantial presence test (present in US for at least 31 days during the current year and at least 183 days for three prior years using a weighted average calculation). If an individual is considered a U.S. resident for income tax purposes, he will be taxed on the worldwide income.

For estate and gift taxes, a non-citizen is considered a U.S. resident if the individual intends to establish a domicile in the United States. A domicile is a person’s permanent place of abode in which the person intends to remain indefinitely or to which the person intends to return. One can have multiple residences, but only one domicile.  This question is a subjective inquiry where many factors are considered, including income tax filing status, jurisdiction of the driver’s license, visa status, and location of person’s family and friends. The burden of proof is on the taxpayer to establish his domicile.

The difference in the outcome between U.S. residents and non-U.S. residents is huge: U.S. residents have an estate and gift tax exemption of $5.45MM, while non-U.S. residents have an estate tax exemption of only $60,000.

 

Disclaimer: This article only offers general information.  Each situation is unique. It is always helpful to talk to a specialized attorney, to figure out your various options and ramifications of actions.  As every case has subtle differences, please do not use this article for legal advice. Only a signed engagement letter will create an attorney-client relationship. ATTORNEY ADVERTISING


Wednesday, March 23, 2016

How to monetize an investment real estate property while minimizing taxes

There are many reasons why one would want to withdraw money from an investment real estate. Some of these reasons include: no longer willing to manage the property, no longer needing the income tax benefit, desiring liquidity or desiring diversification in one’s investments.

1. The easiest way of monetizing a real estate property is selling it. However, with a sale come a host of costs. These costs include brokerage fees and income taxes (both federal and state). Depending on the level of appreciation and on prior depreciation deductions, the gain can be quite substantial and may result in a net amount received that is significantly less than the sale price.

2. There are methods of minimizing the income taxes on the sale of the property. These methods include:

           a.    An installment sale. This is a method of sale where at least one payment occurs after the year in which the disposition took place. Under this method, gain is not taxed when the disposition occurs, gain is recognized gradually as the payments are received.

           b. Borrowing against the property. If one wants to create liquidity while retaining ownership of the property, one can borrow against it. There are no tax consequences to this method. Cash can be used for other purposes.

            c. Like-kind exchange under 1031. This method provides a tax-deferral mechanism. No federal gain or loss is recognized where a real estate property held for use in a trade or business or for investment is exchanged for another “like-kind” property. There are several specific steps that must be taken to qualify for the exemption under section 1031. 

            d. Contributing property to a Charitable Remainder Trust (“CRT”). If one is at least somewhat charitably inclined, one can contribute property to this trust, where specified payments are made to a non-charitable beneficiary for a number of years and the remainder goes to charity. There are many tax advantages to this transaction, the main one being that upon a sale of the property by the CRT, no federal income taxes are due.

 

Disclaimer: This article only offers general information.  Each situation is unique. It is always helpful to talk to a specialized attorney, to figure out your various options and ramifications of actions.  As every case has subtle differences, please do not use this article for legal advice. Only a signed engagement letter will create an attorney-client relationship. ATTORNEY ADVERTISING


Monday, March 14, 2016

What are the current methods of maximizing one’s social security payments?

Now that the “file and suspend” loophole has been eliminated (effective April 30, 2016), what other strategies remain for maximizing one’s social security payments?

1.   The main strategy is, of course, to delay the receipt of social security. At full retirement age, a worker is entitled to receive 100% of his Social Security retirement benefits. However, for each year that the worker delays the receipt of his benefits, he will receive an 8% delayed retirement credit. At age 70, however, one cannot delay any further and is obligated to receive the income. As a result, if the worker delays the receipt of his benefits until age 70 his benefit will increase by a total of 32%.

Of course, the downside of this strategy is that during the years that the worker delayed the receipt of his benefit, he was not receiving any payments from Social Security.  As a result, this strategy only works for people who have an alternative source of income during these years of deferment, either through continued employment or through savings.

Furthermore, this strategy works only for workers who are in relatively good health and expected to live for a long period in retirement.  If the worker develops an unexpected illness and dies sooner than he expected, the overall receipt of money will be significantly less than if he had chosen to receive full retirement benefits at full retirement age.

2.   Another strategy involves survivor benefits. Depending on the survivor’s work record, the survivor has a choice. She can either (i) receive full survivor benefits at age 60 and delay the receipt of her own larger benefit at the age of 70 or (ii) take her own benefits at the age of 62 and then switch over to survivor benefits at full retirement age.

3.   Yet another strategy involves benefits for divorced spouse. As long as the spouses were married for at least 10 years prior to divorce, and the individual has not remarried, the ex-spouse may claim spousal benefits based on an ex-spouse’s earning records. This strategy may be very beneficial, as the ex-spouse may claim her spousal benefits at full retirement age and delay the receipt of her own retirement benefits until the age of 70.

 

Disclaimer: This article only offers general information.  Each situation is unique. It is always helpful to talk to a specialized attorney, to figure out your various options and ramifications of actions.  As every case has subtle differences, please do not use this article for legal advice. Only a signed engagement letter will create an attorney-client relationship. ATTORNEY ADVERTISING


 


Friday, March 4, 2016

You Can Now Donate Your Lapsing Insurance Policy

Approximately 50% of life insurance policies owned by seniors are allowed to lapse without any benefits being paid out. There are many reasons for this lapse: some can no longer afford the premiums while others feel that they no longer need the proceeds in the event of death.

A recent charitable organization called “Insuring a Better World Fund” (IABWF) was formed to aggregate and administer insurance policies for the benefit of charities. IABWF does not purchase the policies. However, the consumer will be entitled to a charitable deduction based on the fair market value of the donated policy.

There are several criteria which must be complied with before IABWF accepts the policy: the consumer must be above 65, information about health must be provided, policy must have a death benefit value of above $400,000 and the policy must have been purchased more than 3 years prior.

Once the policy is transferred, IABWF will pay the premiums and administer the policy. After the consumer’s death, and after the premiums and expenses have been reimbursed, the death benefit will be distributed to the charities selected by the consumer.

The end result is that the charity receives a substantial amount of money, while the consumer receives a charitable deduction.

Disclaimer: This article only offers general information.  Each situation is unique. It is always helpful to talk to a specialized attorney, to figure out your various options and ramifications of actions.  As every case has subtle differences, please do not use this article for legal advice. Only a signed engagement letter will create an attorney-client relationship. ATTORNEY ADVERTISING


Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Biggest Focus of Estate Planning is Now Basis (or Why You Should Not Make a Simple Gift of Assets to Your Children).

Basis is the cost of purchasing the asset. For real estate, it is the cost, plus any closing costs and improvements made later. Basis is important, because upon the sale of the property, capital gains liability is calculated based on the difference between the sale price and the basis.

Carry Over Basis: If the asset is gifted from the donor to the donee during the donor’s life, the donee inherits the basis of the donor. Imagine a house that was purchased for $100,000 40 years ago, and is now worth $1.5MM. If the owner gifts the house outright to her son, the son will inherit the mother’s basis of $100,000, and when he later sells it, he will have to pay capital gains taxes on $1.4MM.

Step Up Basis: property that transfers at death is stepped up to the fair market value of the property on the date of death. If the house above was transferred at death to the son, the son can later sell it for $1.5MM without paying any capital gains taxes.

Flexibility is Crucial: there are multiple methods of giving up outright possession of the asset, while retaining some powers that enable the asset to “step up” at death. One method is a life estate (in a real estate property). Another method is keeping a testamentary power of appointment in a trust. Yet another method is retaining the right to income from the asset.

Disclaimer: This article only offers general information.  Each situation is unique. It is always helpful to talk to a specialized attorney, to figure out your various options and ramifications of actions.  As every case has subtle differences, please do not use this article for legal advice. Only a signed engagement letter will create an attorney-client relationship. ATTORNEY ADVERTISING


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