Estate Tax Tables 1997-2013

Posted on

Historical Federal Estate Tax Exemptions and Rates: 1916 - 1997

Year

Estate   Tax Exemption

Top   Estate Tax Rate

1916

$50,000

10%

1917   - 1923

$50,000

25%

1924   - 1925

$50,000

40%

1926   - 1931

$100,000

20%

1932   - 1933

$50,000

45%

1934

$50,000

60%

1935   - 1940

$40,000

70%

1941

$40,000

77%

1942   - 1976

$60,000

77%

1977

$120,000

70%

1978

$134,000

70%

1979

$147,000

70%

1980

$161,000

70%

1981

$175,000

70%

1982

$225,000

65%

1983

$275,000

60%

1984

$325,000

55%

1985

$400,000

55%

1986

$500,000

55%

1987   - 1997

$600,000

55%

 


Historical and Future Federal Estate Tax Exemptions and Rates: 1997-2013

Year

Estate   Tax Exemption

Top   Estate Tax Rate

1997

$600,000

55%

1998

$625,000

55%

1999

$650,000

55%

2000

$675,000

55%

2001

$675,000

55%

2002

$1,000,000

50%

2003

$1,000,000

49%

2004

$1,500,000

48%

2005

$1,500,000

47%

2006

$2,000,000

46%

2007

$2,000,000

45%

2008

$2,000,000

45%

2009

$3,500,000

45%

*2010

$5,000,000   or $0

35%   or 0%

2011

$5,000,000

35%

**2012

$5,120,000

35%

**2013

$5,250,000

40%


State Estate Tax and Exemption Chart

State

2009   Exemption

2010   Exemption

2011   Exemption

2012   Exemption

2013   Exemption

Connecticut

$2,000,000

$3,500,000

$2,000,000

$2,000,000

$2,000,000

Delaware

$3,500,000   effective 07/01/2009

$3,500,000

$5,000,000

$5,120,000

$5,250,000

District   of Columbia

$1,000,000

$1,000,000

$1,000,000

$1,000,000

$1,000,000

*Hawaii

No   state estate tax

$3,600,000   effective 05/01/2010

$3,600,000

$3,600,000   or $5,120,000

$5,250,000

Illinois

$2,000,000

No   state estate tax

$2,000,000

$3,500,000

$4,000,000

Kansas

$1,000,000

No   state estate tax

No   state estate tax

No   state estate tax

No   state estate tax

Maine

$1,000,000

$1,000,000

$1,000,000

$1,000,000

$2,000,000

Maryland

$1,000,000

$1,000,000

$1,000,000

$1,000,000

$1,000,000

Massachusetts

$1,000,000

$1,000,000

$1,000,000

$1,000,000

$1,000,000

Minnesota

$1,000,000

$1,000,000

$1,000,000

$1,000,000

$1,000,000

New   Jersey

$675,000

$675,000

$675,000

$675,000

$675,000

New York

$1,000,000

$1,000,000

$1,000,000

$1,000,000

$1,000,000

North   Carolina

$3,500,000

No   state estate tax

$5,000,000

$5,120,000

No   state estate tax

Ohio

$338,333

$338,333

$338,333

$338,333

No   state estate tax

Oklahoma

$3,000,000

No   state estate tax

No   state estate tax

No   state estate tax

No   state estate tax

Oregon

$1,000,000

$1,000,000

$1,000,000

$1,000,000

$1,000,000

Rhode   Island

$675,000

$850,000

$859,350

$892,865

$910,725

Tennessee

$1,000,000

$1,000,000

$1,000,000

$1,000,000

$1,250,000

Vermont

$2,000,000

$2,000,000

$2,750,000

$2,750,000

$2,750,000

Washington

$2,000,000

$2,000,000

$2,000,000

$2,000,000

$2,000,000

Inheritance Tax Chart

State

Are   Spouses Exempt?

Are   Descendants Exempt?

Are   Domestic Partners Exempt?

*Is   Life Insurance Included?

Tax   Rate

Tax   Form

Due   Date

**Indiana

Yes

No

No

No

1%   to 20%

Form
IH-6

9   months after death

Iowa

Yes

Yes

No

No

5%   to 15%

Form
IA 706

Last   day of ninth month after death

Kentucky

Yes

Yes

No

No

4%   to 16%

Form   92A200, 92A202, or 92A205

18   months after death

Maryland

Yes

Yes

Certain   transfers

No

10%

Varies

Varies

Nebraska

Yes

No

No

No

1%   to 18%

Form   500

12   months after death

New   Jersey

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

11%   to 16%

Form
IT-R or IT-NR

8   months after death

Pennsylvania

Yes

No

No

No

4.5%   to 15%

Form
REV-1500 or
REV-1737A

9   months after death

**Indiana's inheritance tax has been repealed effective January 1, 2013. Thus, the information in the chart above refers to deaths that occurred in 2012 and prior years.

California Passes New Law SB 1170 & SB 1184

Posted on

California lawmakers passed a bill effective January 1, 2013 strengthening senior protection that affects insurance, trust and veterans planners.

The law states that it is “unlawful for any insurance agent who is not licensed as an attorney to deliver to a person who is 65 years of age or older, a living trust or other legal document, other than an insurance contract or other insurance product document, if a purpose of the delivery is to sell an insurance product.”  This law is aimed at the “trust mills” that use this model in order to “sell” a client an annuity after they deliver a trust.

The law also updates the disclosure notification process to a senior (65 or older) if they are coming to their home, veterans advertising rules, and advertising rules for lead generation and notification.

Several of our California attorneys have reviewed the new laws, and have said that with proper notification and procedures that align with the law, and if our advisors and attorneys follow the proper The Estate Plan procedure, we will be compliant with the new requirements.

Review of the law and a disclosure notice:

CA Law Changes, Eff. 1-1-2013

SEC. 2.  Section 785.4 is added to the Insurance Code, to read:

785.4.  (a) It shall be unlawful for any insurance agent who is not licensed as an attorney to deliver to a person who is 65 years of age or older, a living trust or other legal document, other than an insurance contract or other insurance product document, if a purpose of the delivery is to sell an insurance product.   (b) It shall be unlawful for any insurance agent who is licensed as an attorney to deliver to a person who is 65 years of age or older, a living trust or other legal document, other than an insurance contract or other insurance product document, unless the insurance agent complies with Section 6175.3 of the Business and Professions Code.

SEC. 4.  Section 789.10 of the Insurance Code is amended to read:

789.10.  (a) This section applies to the sale, offering for sale, or generation of leads for the sale of life insurance, including annuities, to senior insureds or prospective insureds by any person.

(b) A person who meets with a senior in the senior's home is required to deliver a notice in writing to the senior no less than 24 hours and no more than 14 days prior to that individual's initial meeting in the senior's home. If the senior has an existing insurance relationship with an agent and requests a meeting with the agent in the senior's home the same day, a notice shall be delivered to the senior prior to the meeting. The notice shall be a stand-alone document, with the appropriate information inserted and without any attachments. It shall be written in 16-point bold type and include all of the following, but no other, information:

(1) The agent's full name as it appears on his or her California insurance license.    (2) The agent's license number.    (3) The agent's mailing address and telephone number listed on his or her California insurance license.    (4) The following disclosure:    (A) "I am a licensed insurance agent. My purpose for coming to your home is to sell, discuss, and/or deliver one of the following indicate all that apply]:    ( ) Life insurance, including annuities.    ( ) Other insurance products specify]: _________________.    (B) You have the right to have other persons present at the meeting, including family members, financial advisors, or attorneys.    (C) You have the right to end the meeting at any time.    (D) You have the right to contact the Department of Insurance for information, or to file a complaint. The notice shall include the consumer assistance telephone numbers at the  department]    (E) The following individuals will be coming to your home: list all attendees, and insurance license information, if applicable]"

(c) Upon contacting the senior in the senior's home, the person shall, before making any statement other than a greeting, or asking the senior any other questions, state that the purpose of the contact is to talk about insurance, or to gather information for a followup visit to sell insurance, if that is the case, and state all of the following information:    (1) The name and titles of all persons arriving at the senior's home.    (2) The name of the insurer represented by the person, if known.    (d) Each person attending a meeting with a senior shall provide the senior with a business card or other written identification stating the person's name, business address, telephone number, and any insurance license number.    (e) The persons attending a meeting with a senior shall end all discussions and leave the home of the senior immediately after being asked to leave by the senior.    (f) A person may not solicit a sale or order for the sale of an annuity or life insurance policy at the residence of a senior, in person or by telephone, by using any plan, scheme, or ruse that misrepresents the true status or mission of the contact.

CALIFORNIA DISCLOSURE, SB 1170 1-1-2013 (send no earlier than 14 days prior to meeting)

(1) My name as it appears on my insurance license: ______________ (2) My license number: ______________________________________ (3) My mailing address and telephone number listed on my California insurance license:__________________________________ __________________________________________________________ I am a licensed insurance agent. My purpose for coming to your home is to sell, discuss, and/or deliver one of the following indicate all that apply]:    ( ) Life insurance, including annuities.    ( ) Other insurance products [specify]: _______________________ (A) You have the right to have other persons present at the meeting, including family members, financial advisors, or attorneys. (B) You have the right to end the meeting at any time. Should you wish to ask me to leave, I will do so immediately. (C) You have the right to contact the Department of Insurance for information, or to file a complaint. The consumer assistance telephone number at the department is: ________________________ (D) The following individuals will be coming to your home:

__________________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________ The purpose of the contact is to talk about insurance, or to gather information for a follow up visit to sell insurance. (1) The name and titles of all persons arriving at the senior's home_____________________________________________________ (2) Name of the insurer:_____________________________________

Each person attending this meeting shall provide you with a business card or other written identification stating the person's name, business address, telephone number, and any insurance license number.

 

 

You’re Young; Do You Need an Estate Plan?

Posted on

While the trend these days is for people to live well into their 80s and 90s, I'm hearing more and more about the unexpected deaths of people in their 30s, 40s, and 50s. During my 15 years of practice I've met with my fair share of young widows or widowers or the parents of a child who died unexpectedly, and in all cases but one there wasn't any estate planning done. And even in the one estate where the deceased husband did have a will, it had been written while he was still single and lived in New Jersey and it hadn't been updated after the birth of his child, his second marriage, or even after the couple moved to Florida. What a mess that was to deal with and I hate to say this, but in the big picture the young family probably would have been better off without any will at all instead of an extremely old and out of date will. I can't emphasize enough how important it is for everyone, young and old alike, to have an estate plan. But as my example of the young husband who failed to update his will after major changes in his life demonstrates, that's really not enough. You also need to make sure that all of the important documents that are included in your estate plan - wills, trusts, powers of attorney, advance medical directives - are kept up to date and change as your family, finances, and the law change. This will require a yearly meeting with your estate planning attorney, but that's OK because you need to understand that estate planning is not a one shot deal but an ongoing process. And the time to start the process or continue the process is now.

In a 2004 survey conducted by Lawyers.com, the two most frequent reasons adult Americans cited for not having an estate plan were insufficient assets and not being old enough to need a plan. Sadly, those who hold these beliefs are greatly mistaken. With life's ups and downs comes the need for basic estate planning for both the young and old alike. Here are six estate planning tips for young singles and couples that can nonetheless be used by singles and couples of all ages.

1. Don't Rule Out a Prenuptial Agreement If you are young and do not think that you need a prenuptial agreement before getting married, think again. Many circumstances warrant at least considering a prenuptial agreement, including being involved in a family-owned business or owning your own business; having part of your paycheck stashed away in a 401(k) or other retirement plan; the possibility of inheriting assets from your family; owning a residence that will be used as the marital home; or marrying someone who has already accumulated a large amount of debt. A prenuptial agreement can protect what assets you currently have or significant assets that you expect to inherit, and can also protect you from your spouse-to-be's debts acquired before the marriage.

2. Make an Estate Plan for Medical Emergencies Twenty-six year old Terri Schiavo of Florida certainly did not anticipate slipping into a coma in 1990 and then having her husband and parents fight over her medical care and ultimate wishes for the next 15 years. Planning for medical emergencies is a must for everyone and should include the signing of two important legal documents called a Living Will and an Advance Medical Directive.

3. Make an Estate Plan for Financial Emergencies If you are out of the country on business and your spouse is at home trying to sell the house, or if you are in an accident and expected to fully recover but will be in the hospital for a while, then you will need a Durable Power of Attorney to allow your spouse or other person of your choice to manage your finances and sign legal documents on your behalf.

4. Make an Estate Plan for an Untimely Death Planning for an untimely death is important, particularly if you are in a committed relationship and/or have young children. If you fail to make an estate plan, then the state where you live at the time of your death will make one for you and in most situations the plan will not be what you would have wanted had you taken the time to make your own plan. Aside from this, assets titled in your individual name will need to be probated to transfer them into your beneficiaries' names after you die. Having at least a basic Last Will and Testament in place that puts someone in charge of settling your estate and names your preferred beneficiaries and a guardian for your minor children will give your loved ones peace of mind during a difficult time.

5. Make an Estate Plan for Your Minor Children Even if you do not think that you have enough money or property to need an estate plan, you will need to make a plan if you have minor children. If you do not, then control of the minor's inheritance will be taken over by a court-supervised guardian or conservator. Then, depending on the laws of the state where the minor lives, when the minor reaches the age of 18 or 21 all of the remaining guardianship funds will be turned over to the young adult, free and clear of any guidance or strings attached. Aside from this, if you and the other parent of your children both die while the children are still minors, then the children will become wards of the court until a judge can decide who the children should live with until they become adults.

6. Buy Term Life Insurance When you are young, term life insurance is really cheap and can offer your family financial security if you were to die prematurely. The insurance proceeds can be used for things such as paying off your outstanding medical and credit card bills; paying off your mortgage; replacing your lost income; paying for your children's care and education; and/or paying for a live in nanny, day care or after school care. Term life insurance is also easy to buy these days with services like Intelliquote, Quickquote and Reliaquote. Or, if you are offered term life insurance at work, buy it.

Everyone Needs an Estate Plan

Estate planning is not just for older or wealthy people. Younger people, especially those with minor children, need to have a will and estate plan in place in order to give instructions to their loved ones to follow in the event of a debilitating accident or untimely death. Celebrities like Heath Ledger, Anna Nicole Smith (also known as Vickie Lynn Marshall), Princess Diana, John F. Kennedy, Jr., Janis Joplin, Michael Jackson, and, most recently, Brittany Murphy, all died unexpectedly, and yet each and every one of them had a will and estate plan. It's just common sense.

Julie's Wills & Estate Planning Blog

Unintentionally Disinheriting Your Children- It’s Easier than You Think

Posted on

One of the strange outcomes of sloppy estate planning work is the case of unintentionally disinherited children.  Obviously this isn't something that most of us want to do, as you can ask 100 parents off of the streets whom they want to inherit their estate and all but a handful would answer, "My kids."  Unfortunately, many estate plans fail to accommodate this simple wish.

How Disinheritance Happens

The most common way that an unintentional disinheritance occurs is responsible parents draft what is referred to as an 'I love you will'.  This is a simple will that essentially says that when one spouse dies, the other will inherit the estate.  When the second spouse dies, the estate will then go to the children.  Sounds reasonable enough, right?

This is all well and good as long as neither spouse remarries after the other dies.  However, many spouses will remarry and draft another 'I love you will', and this creates a major problem.  In this second will, children from the first marriage are left out in the cold, as when the second parent dies, the entire estate is passed on to the second spouse and not the children.  At that point, it is entirely up to the second spouse as to whether or not the kids will see any money.

Since it is a second marriage, the odds of animosity towards the second marital partner are significantly higher.  This means that the chances of an unintentional disinheritance are much greater.  To solidify this concept, let's use a hypothetical example.

Example:  Matt and Lisa and Jeff

Matt and Lisa were married at the age of 25 and had two children - Jake and Anna.  Being responsible parents, Matt and Lisa drafted a simple will that would pass the estate on to the surviving spouse and then on to the kids.  Unfortunately, Matt had a heart attack at the age of 42 and died.  Lisa inherited the estate and life insurance proceeds.

Lisa, also 42, began dating a couple of years later and fell in love with Jeff.

After dating for two years, they tied the knot at the age of 46.  Being responsible adults, they updated their estate plan to reflect their recent marriage and put together another 'I love you will'.  Their marriage was strong and everyone was happy.

Shortly after Lisa's 67th birthday, she died.  Her estate plan that was drafted more than 20 years earlier was reviewed and executed.  Jeff inherited the estate and Lisa's children received nothing.  Feeling this wasn't right, Lisa's children, Jake and Anna, contested the will to no avail.

This created animosity and Jeff decided to draw up a new will that eliminated Jake and Anna as beneficiaries.  And there you have it:  an unintentional disinheritance.

Wrapping Up

In this post, we examined the concept of an unintentional disinheritance and how it happens.  If you wish to avoid having something like this occur, there are a number of ways to do so that can be as complicated as drafting a trust with QTIP provisions to simply updating your will based on changing needs.  We will explore these solutions in upcoming articles, but for now, it is important that you recognize this problem exists - particularly if you're already remarried with children.

 

Read This Column Before You Die

Posted on

The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time. - Mark Twain

It can be both comforting and horrifying to think that our time on earth is a nano-blink of an eye, a sliver of time that passes slowly when tax forms are being prepared and quickly when the sun is shining.

Death is something we all try not to think about, yet it is our ultimate goal, the ending of every book, if life were an autobiography. We mostly shrug it off because, after all, we can’t avoid it.

But we can make the most of the inevitable. How? By planning ahead, not only for the sake of our families, but for ourselves. We’ve written before about the importance of making financial goals, but life goals are also essential. And, as with financial goals, you can’t meet them if you don’t have them.

The ultimate plan

Whether you’re getting on in age, have a terminal illness or are young and healthy, no one knows what will happen tomorrow, so prepare today. But what should your ultimate plan entail?

Make a "bucket list." The co-author of the book, "100 Things to Do Before You Die," died in an accident when he was 47. According to his writing partner, he had completed about half of his "to do" list when he died. Because he had a list and was determined to achieve his goals, he did many things he never would have done otherwise.

However, his co-author also noted that he traveled alone, so he could move through his list quicker. Sadly, the author missed an important point - it really isn’t about the list. Your list should be a guide to living life to the fullest. If you’re going through a list just to cross something off, why bother?

Whether you’re planning to go skydiving and want to visit the seven wonders of the world, like Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman did in "The Bucket List," or you have more modest goals, like learning a foreign language or cooking a gourmet meal, keep in mind that it’s important to savor the moment - and shouldn’t you be savoring the moment with a loved one or friend?

When you make out your bucket list, be certain that everything on it is something you can accomplish. Although you never know until you try, dating Angelina Jolie or winning an Olympic gold medal are about as realistic for most of us as winning the lottery. While it is important to believe in yourself, you need to know your limitations.

It’s also important to give your list some thought. Many of us don’t really know what we want. Sitting and planning out your life - and beyond - is not something you should do one day during your lunch break. Take your time and really think about what you want to do. Then develop a plan for achieving everything on your list.

Update your financial goals. Ideally, you could plan for retirement first and then plan for the next phase when you’re retired. But, since no one knows when the next phase will begin, you need to plan for it now.

What do you want to happen after you’re gone? Is there a charity you would like to help? Do you want to fund your grandchildren’s college education? Think beyond your retirement and write out your goals.

Plan your estate

Estate planning is not just for the very wealthy. It’s true that current law allows an exemption of assets worth up to $5 million from federal estate taxes, but in Massachusetts any estate with a value greater than $1 million is subject to estate taxes.

If you reside in Massachusetts and your estate exceeds $1 million in value, including the value of your home, your investment portfolio, your life insurance benefits and other assets, it will be subject to state taxation at a rate of up to 16 percent.

However, because Massachusetts has no gift tax, gifts can be made during your lifetime to reduce your taxable estate. It’s been said that death and taxes are the only certainties, but with careful planning, sometimes one of the two can be avoided.

Of course, there’s more to estate planning that reducing taxes. It’s also important to have a will, which determines how your property will be divided after your death. Without this essential legal document, your property may not be divided according to your intentions. Most likely, it will also become tied up in Probate Court and it may take years before your survivors have access to your assets.

Make certain you seek the assistance of an attorney with experience making out wills. Having a will that is not legally valid can be worse than having no will at all because it may be disputed. Also, be certain to update your will periodically.

Keep in mind that retirement accounts and life insurance policies are not covered by your will, as you designate beneficiaries when you sign a contract for these assets. Make certain that you have designated individuals you truly want to be your beneficiaries and you have not unintentionally excluded anyone, such as a child born after you initially designated your beneficiaries. Plan your legacy assets. Most people consider their financial assets in planning their estate. You also have accumulated many other assets during your lifetime. Some of the best assets are the memories of special events or family gatherings. Many of these are recorded photographically and able to be passed on to heirs.

However, the asset value of the wisdom garnered, the valuable experiences received, the life lessons learned, the appreciation of others that have helped you along the way are all assets available for sharing.

Similar to a will that administers your financial assets, you can prepare a separate letter, memoranda or formal ethical will to pass on to your family and others.

Get organized

Your death will likely be difficult on your family. You can ease the burden by planning your funeral and letting your wishes be known. Do you have a cemetery plot? Have you picked out a casket? Is there a charity to which you would like contributions sent?

If you take care of every detail, your children and your spouse won’t have to. Clean out your attic and your closet and get rid of unwanted items. Give away anything you won’t use. Go through your photos and organize them. Determine if you need to change their medium to an electronic format.

People often tell me that they do not want to be a burden to their children. It can be painful for your family to have to deal with these issues; dealing with them yourself will make it easier on them.

Also, be certain to choose an executor for your will. Talk to your executor and make certain that he or she has a true understanding of your wishes and will carry them out to the last detail. Many times writing a letter of instruction to your executor or trustee is helpful for those matters not easily handled by the formal document.

You may not care what happens after you die, but keep in mind that your decisions today will have an eternal impact and could affect how you are remembered.

Seek balance

Death and taxes may be inevitable, but the more time you spend preparing for either, the better the outcome is likely to be. If you were to die tomorrow, that would be tragic. The tragedy would be compounded, though, if your family had to deal with matters without knowing your wishes. Regardless, in the process of planning for the future, don’t forget to live for today. Carrying out your bucket list is more important - and more fun - than preparing it.

Ask yourself what you are doing today that you would change. Is your career fulfilling? Do you have a secret ambition, like writing a book or taking a special trip? Act on your passions and interests today, before it is too late. Plan for the future, but enjoy life today. Carpe diem!

Darrell J. Canby

If you were gone – what would happen to your kids?

Posted on

Who’s the nominated guardian for your kids? How did you decide on that person?

Estate planning (i.e. having a Will, enduring power of attorney, health directive, etc) is a vitally important part of a good financial plan. It determines what happens to your stuff if something happens to you. I’m going to cover wills, life insurance and so forth over the next few blogs and today I thought I’d look at one specific area of estate planning: nominating guardians for your kids. In other words, who would look after your kids if you and your partner passed away?

Well over 60% of parents with children under the age of 18 don’t have a Will. So that means that while you might be comfortable assuming that your parents or sister or best friend will happily take on the responsibility of your kids if you died – things might not necessarily work out that way. And if it hasn’t been pre-planned then the transition is going to be way more chaotic than it needs to be – which is a huge emotional face-slap to be giving your kids at what would be an already devastating time for them.

So – who to nominate as guardian? It’s not a decision to make lightly. Obviously there’s never a perfect solution, but some considerations include:

•Financial. Can your preferred guardian afford to look after your children or would it place them in financial stress? (I’m going to talk about life insurance next week, which is the easiest way to overcome this issue. It’s important, with a recent ING report called “Picking up the Pieces” finding that losing a parent as a child was not only devastating, but caused further detriment psychologically, educationally and socially, if financial stress was added to the equation.

•Age. What is the current age of your preferred guardian? Would they have the maturity to care for your children if something were to happen to you tomorrow and are they at an appropriate life stage to do so? Conversely, are they young enough to cope with the care of your children not just now but over the next 18 years?

•Lifestyle. Will your preferred guardian be willing to instill in your children the values and outlook that are important to you?

•Geography. Obviously this can change suddenly, but at the moment is your preferred guardian likely to live in a location that would enable your children to retain contact with other friends and family members?

•Family considerations. It is important to consider and acknowledge the competing demands of the guardian’s own children. What if they don’t get along? If it changes the “pecking order” in the house? While many people choose a family member to act as guardian, that doesn’t have to be the case and depending on your family circumstances it may not always be practical. Some people choose a family friend instead on the understanding that their children will maintain constant contact with family members. At the end of the day the choice of guardian may be influenced by what you feel will be best for your child, irrespective of familial ties (which is a nice way of saying that if your nearest relative has a gambling problem, drug problem or you simply don’t get along with them then blood doesn’t necessarily have to be thicker than water), although it is always good if family are aware of your decision and understand the reasons for it.

And don’t forget that you can always change it (and in fact should review it from time to time). The most important thing though is doing it to start with. So – have you nominated guardians for your kids? If so, who did you choose? And why?

 

Planning Matters: Even estates of rich and famous crash and burn

Posted on

If you are like most people, you have done no estate planning. If that is the case, you are in good (bad) company.

You would think lawyers -- trained legal professionals -- would have completed their own estate plan. Alas, lawyers are no different than anybody else and often fail to plan. One of the most famous and respected lawyers of all time, Abraham Lincoln, died without a will. I also have known a number of attorneys who died without even having the simplest of wills.

More often problems arise when lawyers, who are not estate planning specialists, attempt to do their own estate plans. These lawyers often believe they are qualified to prepare estate plans for themselves and their clients. I regularly review wills and trusts, powers of attorney and other estate planning documents that are drafted by lawyers who are not estate planning specialists.

These plans usually have unintended results.

There are health care powers of attorney that do not to have living will provisions, mental health care powers, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act access and releases or signed patient advocate acceptances.

It is not uncommon for trusts to have faulty tax provisions. I have seen wills, which are death instruments; contain health care powers, which can only be used during a lifetime.

I often see financial powers of attorney that do not allow for the gifting of assets to the family instead of spending it all down on nursing home care. Unfortunately, many times I only see the estate planning documents after the maker's incapacity or death when there is little that can be done to remedy the situation.

What do Pablo Picasso, Howard Hughes and Sonny Bono all have in common? None of them had a will.

Often the rich and famous do no planning or poor planning. However, with estates whose amounts end in lots of zeros, the unintended consequences have much more of a financial impact.

The rich and famous make the same mistakes as everybody else, only worse. The failure to plan or failure to plan properly has resulted in many their estates to be eaten up administration expenses, taxes and litigation costs.

One of the more well-known estates that had unintended results is the estate of Elvis Presley, the King of Rock 'n' Roll. Considering his stature in the entertainment world, Elvis left a relatively modest $10.2 million estate.

However, the settlement costs of his estate totaled nearly $7.4 million leaving only about $2.8 million to his heirs. About 73% of his estate was eaten up by the settlement costs.

The super-rich also are not immune from doing poor planning. Conrad Hilton of the Hilton Hotel chain left an estate of nearly $200 million. More than half of that was consumed in settlement costs.

Author and filmmaker Michael Crichton, best known as the author of "Jurassic Park" and creator of the TV series "ER," died unexpectedly when his wife was pregnant. He had not provided for his unborn child in his estate plan. This resulted in substantial legal fees for his widow in her quest to obtain a share of his estate for their child.

Andy Warhol on the other hand, did proper estate planning. This resulted in only a fraction of his estate being eaten up in settlement costs. Although his estate settlement costs were nearly as much as Elvis' at a reported $6.9 million, because his estate was nearly $300 million, only 2.3% of his estate was consumed by the settlement costs.

Because it looks like many celebrities' estate settlement costs have left their legacy as "not so rich and famous," don't take your cue from them.

Do proper planning with a legal specialist in estate planning. You wouldn't go to an oncologist to treat your diabetes any more than you should have a divorce or criminal lawyer prepare your estate plan.

The estate planning professional who prepares your estate plan should have a working knowledge of not only estate planning, but also federal and state tax laws and elder law. Without a working knowledge of all three of these areas, your estate plan could be missing some critical elements. So go forth and do proper estate planning today.

Matthew M. Wallace