Overview of District of Columbia Estate Tax Laws

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Understanding How DC Estate Taxes Affect an Estate

By Julie Garber, About.com Guide If you live in the District of Columbia, then you live in one of a handful of jurisdictions that still collect a local death tax. The estates of DC residents, as well as the estates of nonresidents who own real estate and/or tangible personal property located in DC, are subject to a local death tax under the following guidelines.

NOTE: State and local laws change frequently and the following information may not reflect recent changes. For current tax or legal advice, please consult with an accountant or an attorney since the information contained in this article is not tax or legal advice and is not a substitute for tax or legal advice.

When is an estate subject to the DC estate tax?

For DC residents, an estate may be subject to the DC estate tax if the total gross estate exceeds $1,000,000.

For nonresidents of DC, an estate may be subject to the DC estate tax if it includes real estate and/or tangible personal property having a situs within the District of Columbia and the gross estate exceeds $1,000,000. Ads

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If the estate is not passing to a surviving spouse or being donated to charity and the estate is subject to the DC estate tax, then the estate representative must file a DC Estate Tax Return called Form D-76.

If the estate is passing to a surviving spouse or being donated to charity and the estate is subject to the DC estate tax, then the estate representative must file a DC Estate Tax Return called Form D-76EZ.

The following documents should be attached to DC Form D-76 or DC Form D-76EZ, if applicable:

A copy of Form FR-77 (Extension of Time to File DC Estate Tax Return)     A copy of the Letters of Administration     A copy of the Power of Attorney     A copy of the decedent's Last Will and Testament     A complete copy of IRS Form 706, United States Estate (and Generation-Skipping Transfer) Tax Return, including all attachments, if the estate is required to file IRS Form 706; OR, a current copy of pages 1-3 of IRS Form 706, if the estate is not required to IRS Form 706     A copy of all certified appraisals of the decedent's property and a copy of the Death Certificate.

Note that as indicated above, a DC Estate Tax Return may be required to be filed even if a federal estate tax return, IRS Form 706, is not required to be filed. In addition, even if the estate will not be required to file IRS Form 706, if a DC Estate Tax Return is required to be filed, then pages 1 - 3 of IRS Form 706 need to be prepared and filed with the DC Estate Tax Return.

Are transfers to a surviving spouse taxable?

Outright transfers to a surviving spouse are not taxable.

For married couples who have used AB Trust planning to reduce their federal estate tax bill, a DC death tax may be due on the B Trust after the first spouse's death due to the gap of $4,250,000 between the DC exemption of $1,000,000 and the federal exemption of $5,250,000. While some states allow a married decedent's estate to make an election to treat a trust of which the surviving spouse is the sole beneficiary as "qualified terminable interest property" ("QTIP" for short) for purposes of calculating the local estate tax, DC law does not specifically allow for this, although some practitioners have been able to do this. Thus, married DC residents should consult with a DC estate planning attorney to determine if they should incorporate ABC Trust planning into their estate plan.

When are the DC estate tax return and tax payment due?

The DC estate tax return must be filed, and any estate tax due must be paid, within 10 months after the decedent's date of death.

A six-month extension of time to file the DC estate tax return and related forms and pay any tax due may be requested; however, this will not extend the time to pay the tax, and interest will accrue during the extension period. Interest is charged at the rate of 10% per year, compounded daily and without regard to any extension.

All extension requests must be requested using DC Form FR-77; IRS Form 4768 will not be accepted. Where are the DC estate tax return filed and tax payment made?

Mail returns and payments to:

Office of Tax and Revenue Audit Division Estate Tax Unit
P.O. Box 556
Washington, DC, 20044-0556

Checks should be made payable to the "DC Treasurer."

How is the DC estate tax calculated?

The DC estate tax rate is a progressive tax that maxes out at 16% for estates valued at $10,040,000 or more. Use the Estate Tax Computation Worksheet to calculate the tax due.

Where can I find additional information about DC estate taxes?

For more information about DC estate taxes, refer to the DC Office of Tax and Revenue's Estate, Fiduciary, and Inheritance Taxes Frequently Asked Questions.

Does DC collect an inheritance tax?

Does the District of Columbia currently collect a local inheritance tax, which is a tax assessed against the share received by each individual beneficiary of an estate as opposed to an estate tax, which is assessed against the entire estate? The answer to this question is No, the District of Columbia inheritance tax was repealed effective for deaths occurring on or after April 1, 1987.

After The Fiscal Cliff

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Fiscal CliffWhat has Changed in the Estate and Gift Tax Laws? By Geri McHam

Congress passed the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012’’ (“ATRA”) that made the federal estate tax exemption permanent on January 1, 2013.  In a last minute move before we went over the “fiscal cliff”, in an 11th hour tax law passed by the Senate on New Year’s Eve, and by the House of Representatives one day later, mostly what Congress did was to make permanent the system that has been in effect for the past two years.  I am just thankful that we now have permanence that has been missing for the last 12 years.

What’s most important to us as planners is how the “fiscal cliff” deal changes will affect our clients’ existing estate plans and whether any changes are necessary.

Most estate planning documents deal with non-tax issues, including the very valuable benefit of structuring assets to avoid the probate process at death and to provide creditor protection for beneficiaries.  The Power of Attorney, Conservator, and healthcare documents are all extremely important and necessary.  These documents are critical to avoid unnecessary court oversight and expense, delay, and intrusion.

What are the provisions of the ATRA that will affect my estate planning practice or clients?

Top gift, estate and GST tax rates are set at 40%. ATRA 2012 establishes the top gift, estate, and GST tax rates at 40% for gifts made and decedents dying in 2013 and thereafter. This top rate is higher than the 2012 rate of 35%, but lower than the 55% rate that would have come into effect on January 1 in the absence of legislation. This top rate will apply to transfers exceeding the exemption amounts.

Exemption amount:  Permanently set at $5,000,000 per client, indexed for an inflation adjustment beginning 2012 ($5.12 million in 2012).   The estate tax exclusion amount for deaths in 2013 will be $5.25 million.

Gift Tax Rate:  The estate and gift taxes will remain unified, so the $5 million exemption also applies for gift tax purposes, and will follow the estate tax rate.  The rate was permanently set to 40% of the amount over the exemption.  In addition, the annual gift exclusion amount was raised to $14,000 per person this year.

Generation Skipping Tax Rate:  The generation skipping tax exemption follows the estate tax rate.  The rate was permanently set to 40% of the amount over the exemption.

Portability made permanent:  Further, the deal continues the estate tax portability provisions that allow a surviving spouse to take advantage of his or her deceased spouse’s unused exemption amount. This provision allows a surviving spouse to avoid complicated estate planning by recognizing that gifts between spouses are typically tax free and allowing the exemption to be portable between both spouses.  In order to utilize this, a 706 tax return MUST be filed within 9 months, so in my opinion, portability is less than optimal in many cases.

Use of the A/B/Bypass Trust:  Some of the discussion since passing this legislation has focused on the use of A/B trust structure, and whether planning is better without the credit shelter trust.  I still am in favor of estate planning with an A/B/C trust, especially to preserve a decedent’s share in case of a remarriage of the survivor spouse, and also to allow the flexibility of state estate tax planning.  As long as the trust is flexible enough to allow the options of funding the various sub-trusts to the survivor spouse, which ours does, you still have the benefit of planning that gives the most flexibility to the survivor.  We will review the provisions in our trust as a precaution

Upside to IRA Planning in ATRA

Hidden in the law — along with the typical year-end riders attached to a last minute piece of legislation, including tax breaks for NASCAR and the alternative fuel industry — were a couple of tangible impacts to the retirement world, though one may offer just short-term benefits. First, it looks as though folks hoping to roll over their regular 401(k)s to Roth 401(k)s may get an opportunity for a long-term tax break — lord knows you’re going to need one, as your taxes really are going to go up.  A new provision in the package will allow 401(k), 403(b) and 457(b) participants to make the leap to a Roth 401(k) without waiting for the traditional qualifying events (retirement, reaching age 59 1/2 or changing jobs).  Why? Because doing so immediately sends that tax deferral — which you’ll have to pay up front — to Washington, rather than waiting until your far-off retirement day, and Washington wants your taxes. It’s a huge opportunity for regular folks to make that Roth conversion – provided they have the financial wherewithal to pay those taxes much sooner than later.

Potential future legislation. It is important to note that there may be a push for additional revenue-raising legislation as political debates continue. The current administration has expressed its desire to limit the advantages of GRATs, grantor trusts, GST-exempt dynasty trusts, and transfers in family entities that qualify for valuation discounts. Clients who might consider employing those techniques may wish to do so sooner rather than later.

Privacy Policy

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Privacy Policy

Estate Planning Source, LLC and The Estate Plan, Inc. created this privacy statement in order to demonstrate our strong commitment to privacy. We are committed to providing state of the art revocable living trusts and other estate-planning documents designed to meet your needs as requested of us and as directed and supervised in their preparation by your attorney. We are equally committed to respecting your privacy and protecting the information about you that we receive online through TheEstatePlanningSource.com. We do not sell, nor plan to sell,  any user information to anyone.  We have prepared this notice to advise you what information we collect, how we use it, and how we protect it.

What Information We Collect

As an essential part of our business, we obtain certain personal information about you from your attorney in order to provide an estate planning document requested of us by your attorney suitable to your specific needs and desires. Some of this information may come directly from you. Other information may come from your financial advisor, your accountant, your agent, a member of your family, or some other trusted person. The type of information we receive often includes addresses, social security numbers, family information, financial information and information pertaining to the particular personal situation of individual members of your family.

What Information We Disclose

We do not disclose nonpublic personal information about our current or former clients to any non-affiliated person or entity, except as permitted by law. Examples of the disclosures which we are permitted by law to make include disclosures to any person who is your advisor or attorney or who is your Trustee or attorney-in-fact under a Power of Attorney which specifically authorizes him or her to obtain the information on you that we keep; disclosures to other third parties made with your consent or at your direction; disclosures made in response to a subpoena or an inquiry from a regulatory agency; and disclosures made to comply with federal, state or local laws and to protect against fraud.

Our Privacy Protection Procedures

We protect information about you from unauthorized access. Our officers, employees, advisors, and agents receive training regarding our privacy policies. In all cases access to information about you is restricted to those individuals that need such information in order to provide our documentation and our services to you. Examples of activities requiring access to your personal information include: preparing documents suitable to your estate planning needs, updating those documents, and participation in the settling of your estate. Finally, we employ secure technologies in order to safeguard transmission of information about you through our web site, and we have established and maintain procedures to comply with all state and federal laws and regulations regarding the security of personal information.

All employees are required to adhere to our strict policies and any employee who violates the privacy policy is subject to termination and other disciplinary measures, up to being criminally prosecuted for their violation.

At TheEstatePlanningSource.com you can visit most pages on our site without giving us any information about yourself.  This privacy policy explains data collection and use in those situations.

If you decide to become a member at TheEstatePlanningSource.com, you will receive a short series of orientation emails.  Members may receive notification of new services, changes to policies or price adjustments. We will not send you other email at the address you provide, except for infrequent communications to resolve issues that may arise with your own TheEstatePlanningSource.com account. More routine announcements are made in the TheEstatePlanningSource.com Quill e-Newsletter, rather than via email.

Our site uses cookies to save your username and password if you become a member and decide to use the "Remember Me" option. This means you don't have to re-enter these items each time you visit our site.

At some point, we may track and store geo-location information related to your IP address. This information may be used to provide you with the most relevant material, as well as allow for more effective communications.

Under our Free Membership or upon download of the “Free Whitepaper” the user's contact information is also used to send a newsletter.  Special offers are sometimes sent to subscribers. All third parties do not have access to your information. You will always have the option of opting-out of future newsletters or offers.

We may also use personal information in a manner that does not identify you specifically nor allow you to be contacted but does identify certain criteria about our users in general. For example, we may inform third parties about the number of registered users, number of unique visitors, and the pages most frequently browsed.

Protection of Children's Personal Information

TheEstatePlanningSource.com is a specified audience site and does not knowingly collect any personal information from children although the website may be viewed by children; we do not wish to receive data from children. TheEstatePlanningSource.com encourages parents and guardians to spend time online with their children and to participate in the interactive activities offered on the sites their children visit. No information should be submitted to, or posted at, the TheEstatePlanningSource.com or our Forum or Blog by visitors under 18 years of age without the consent of their parent or guardian.

Links to Third Party Sites

This website contains links to other web sites that are not controlled by The Estate Planning Source, LLC or The Estate Plan, Inc. ("Third Party Sites"). Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every website that collects personally identifiable information. The Estate Planning Source, LLC and The Estate Plan, Inc. Privacy Policy applies solely to information collected by The Estate Plan, Inc. or The Estate Planning Source, LLC.

Changes to this Privacy Policy

The Estate Planning Source, LLC and The Estate Plan, Inc. when we do, we will also revise the "last updated" date at the bottom of the privacy policy. For material changes to this statement, The Estate Planning Source, LLC and The Estate Plan, Inc. will notify our users by placing prominent notice on the site.

Enforcement of this Privacy Policy and Contact Information

For any questions or concerns about this policy please contact us at 1.800.292.0223.  If you believe this policy has been breached please contact us at the above number.

 

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

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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

When should I check my estate planning documents?

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Estate planning documents, such as Wills, trusts, powers of attorney and Health Care Directives are dynamic documents that need to be changed when the circumstances of your life change. There is a great temptation to feel that you can put the documents into a file or safety deposit box and say: “Thank goodness I won’t have to think about those documents again.” But in fact, as changes in circumstance occur, estate planning documents need to be reviewed to be certain that they are still appropriate for the new circumstances.

Here are several changes that ought to trigger a review of existing estate planning documents:

1. The birth of children. In almost every case, it is most appropriate to create a support trust to provide for the care of any minor children, and to provide for the investment of assets that are to be held until the children attain a suitable age. Such a trust also can provide for the education of the children.

2. Changes in marital status or other personal circumstances. It should be obvious that a change in marital status would be a good reason to review existing estate planning documents. Provision in a Will or trust for a new or a former spouse will likely need to be changed. In most cases, it will be inappropriate to continue to name the former spouse as the agent under a power of attorney to make financial or health care decisions.

3. The value of assets may increase or decrease. The decision to create existing estate planning documents was probably based upon certain assumptions about the value of the assets in the estate, and whether it was likely that the assets would increase or decrease in value over time. Significant changes in the value of assets may cause estate planning documents to be too complex, or perhaps, too simple to continue to meet the objectives originally identified.

4. The law regarding estate taxation may change. The law regarding state and federal estate taxation has changed numerous times and in many different ways over the past several years. Other changes are likely to occur in future years. All of these changes may have a significant impact on the propriety of existing estate planning arrangements. This factor alone is a very substantial reason why existing estate planning documents should be reviewed periodically.

5. Changes in health status. As the condition of health changes, there should be a corresponding evaluation of existing estate planning documents to be certain that the changes in the needs of the individual will be met by the estate planning documents.

For example, if a person is diagnosed with a form of dementia, existing powers of attorney should be reviewed to be certain that they will be sufficient to meet the likely increased need for the agent to undertake the management of financial decisions.

Similarly, if a diagnosis of a terminal condition has been made, all estate planning documents should be reviewed with an estate planning attorney to be certain that the documents are still appropriate in view of this change of circumstance.

All of these events are reason to double check to be certain that existing estate planning documents will be sufficient to fulfill the objectives to provide for loved ones, and to protect assets from unnecessary taxation and dissipation.

Daniel Orville Kellogg

Those Who Don’t Know Exactly What a Trust Is – Class 101

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The "Living Trust" term comes from the Latin "Inter Vivos" which means "during life". This phrase is used to refer to the making of a gift while a person is still alive, unlike a bequest in a will. So a Living Trust or Inter Vivos Trust is a property controlling entity that is created and goes into effect while you are still alive, and will remain as long as you want it to, after your demise.

Trusts date back to the days of European Kings and conquerors during the Middle Ages. It seems that when a knight went off to fight in faraway lands for his King, the very same King often had the bad habit of taking over the management of any property owned by the knight. Eventually, the King would claim ownership of the property, considering it as payment for the management services rendered. Since some of these wars lasted for many years, the knight would come to nothing!

But, when the knights discovered Inter Vivos Trusts and placed their property in them before going away to war, they secured greatly enhanced asset and property protection. The Trust was an organized, legal vehicle complete with an appointed Trustee. Back then, the church was the Trustee of choice for the best chance of getting the property back later.  This Trustee was given the responsibility and power to manage the property and defend it from any claims of abandonment or other false claims the government might have made against it.

Eventually, the concept of the Living Trust migrated across the Atlantic. In 1765, Patrick Henry (who was not a lawyer) became the first to write a Living Trust in the New World. The Trust was written for Robert Morris, Governor of the Virginia colony. Interestingly, his Trust, the North American Land Company, is still operational today!

However, for most of the history of the United States, Living Trusts were not very popular with the mainstream population. This was because in modern times (the birth of the IRS), a separate trust tax return was required each year for all Trust holders which is known as IRS Tax Form 1041. Fortunately in 1981, congress passed a law that allows all American taxpayers to draft a Trust and no longer be required to file a separate Trust tax return (as long as you remain competent and in charge of your trust estate). That opened up the floodgate for this very popular legal estate planning vehicle here in the United States. It is being utilized today by younger and younger generations. (I have written trusts for executives still in their 20's!)

Prior to this huge IRS tax law change the Living Trust concept was usually used only in cases of vast riches. You can bet that most of the past relatives of families such as the Kennedy's, Vanderbilt's, and Rockefellers, had either a Living Trust or a Testamentary Trust in their Will when they died. (A Testamentary Trust is just a trust that is born upon your death and controls your money and property for the sake of your surviving heirs.)

When the tax law first changed, people caught on pretty slowly. But the Living Trust revolution gained steam throughout the 80's and was at full pace by the early 90's. Sadly, in spite of the revolution, about 70% of Americans today still die intestate, meaning they have no Will or Trust in place to control their lifetime achievement - their estate!

And just as the Trusts of old protected the property of knights, placing your property into a Trust with someone in charge as Trustee does protect your assets for both a long term disability as well as for your eventual demise. It was a good idea back in the beginning when they first came onto the scene -- and it is just as good an idea today.

Today, properly signed and funded Living Trusts also protect you against high legal fees as long as you choose adequate (meaning trustworthy and financially smart) Trustees and appoint one or two backup Trustees. This will insure that someone will always be in charge, and thus court intervention can be prevented.

The Trust Portfolio of almost any Arizona practitioner also contains valuable Power of Attorney documents. If you don't have these documents, a court may order a Conservatorship in the event that you become disabled. In Arizona, a legal Conservatorship requires attorney representation and multiple court appearances each year until you either recover or die. During this time, you can expect continuous generous withdrawals from your checking account. Fortunately, this "living hell" money scenario can easily be avoided via a low cost properly executed General Durable Power of Attorney document in most cases.

In summary, a Living Trust allows professional management of your property when you are disabled or die. The rest of the coordinated legal documents in a modern Trust Portfolio protect you further from hefty legal expenses and court fees. Normally, this holds true even without invoking an official court declared "disabled" status.

This allows the agent you appoint on your Money Care Power of Attorney document to manage your affairs privately without the extra expense of legal representation required by the court as is the case in Arizona with a legal court Conservatorship. Also, it allows your medical power of attorney agent to represent you in all medical decisions when you can't make them.

Three Documents You Shouldn’t Do Without

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Nobody plans to get crippled by an accident or immobilized by a terrible illness, but these sudden life-changing events do happen. In estate planning there are three particular documents individuals need to ensure they have a say in who manages their finances and health care should they become incapacitated. Failure to secure these documents could significantly reduce the amount that eventually goes to your loved ones or even break a family apart. Here we outline some problems that result from poor estate planning and demonstrate the importance of 1) a durable power of attorney, 2) medical power of attorney and 3) a living will.

The Hardships of Negligence 

Here's an example of how inadequate estate planning can put loved ones in a painful position.

After her husband died, eighty-nine year-old Thelma did not think it was necessary to meet with an attorney to review her estate plan. Thelma had always managed her own finances and never told her four children how much she was worth and where it was invested. Her plan was simply to have the children split the estate equally as specified in her twenty-year-old will.

One month before her birthday, Thelma had a severe stroke and ended up in a nursing home. One of her daughters, Sally, was a stay-at-home mom and lived close by, so she took on the job of managing her mother's finances. After five months, Thelma's mental capacity was less than 40%, with no improvement expected.

At $170 per day, the nursing home expenses were mounting up, and Sally was under pressure to pay them. Plus she had to worry about ongoing bills to maintain her mother's house. However, Sally could not access her mother's accounts. Desperate, she went to court seeking legal guardianship over her mother. But her siblings protested. They claimed that Sally was out to gain control of the money for her own use. Disgusted, Sally dropped the petition. The court declared Thelma incompetent and assigned a guardian to handle her affairs.

Thelma hung on for two years until she died. By that time, much of her hard-earned dollars had gone to attorneys and her guardian. And Medicaid had to pay her last six months' worth of nursing-home bills. Furthermore, her children were irrevocably divided over the guardianship issue. This is no doubt the opposite of what Thelma wanted for her family.

Avoid Estate Depletion 

Here's what you can do to avoid putting yourself or your loved ones in the same position as Sally. A durable power of attorney lets you arrange for someone you choose, called your "attorney-in-fact", to manage your finances.

A Power of Attorney can be effective immediately or have a springing power, applying only when a certain event takes place, such as incapacitation from an injury or illness. You can specify how the event is defined, for example, by the declaration of a doctor or even two that you are unable to make financial decisions.

With a power of attorney, you can insist on the amount of control your attorney-in-fact will have over your finances. This authority could include:

Making gifts
managing a business
paying household bills
buying and selling assets
handling retirement accounts
collecting government benefits
completing income tax returns

You choose who takes on this job. It could be a family member, close friend or your attorney or accountant. But make sure that it is someone trustworthy and competent with managing their own finances. Be sure also to select an alternate just in case the first person pre-deceases you or is unable to handle the responsibilities.

Avoid Family Breakup 

There are two more documents that can prevent confusion and mistrust between family members.

A medical power of attorney - also called a health-care proxy, medical directive or durable power of attorney for health care - gives whomever you select the legal authority to make medical decisions for you when you can no longer make them yourself.

A living will offers exact instructions for your doctors and family regarding the continuation of your life by artificial means or heroic measures. In cases where there is little certainty of the desires of a person in a vegetative state, a medical power of attorney and living will can help eliminate grief and dispute between family members.

Although living wills are used throughout the country, there are no universal forms spanning all states. And the law on honoring an advance directive between states is unclear. Some states will respect the different laws of the state where the document was drafted. Others might not. In addition, the documents' titles from state to state (or country to country) might differ. Problems with advance directives can pop up when you had your living will drafted in your home state (or country) and the state you are in:

makes you use their statutory forms specifies which types of advance directives they will honor require certain conditions are met before your instructions are followed will not recognize documents that do not include person's signature who is to make the medical decisions for you

If you spend a great deal of time in a state other than your home state, you may wish to consider having your advance directive meet the laws of both states as much as possible.

George D. Lambert

 

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

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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?

 

Document Solutions

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Comprehensive Estate Planning Documents - Revocable Living Trusts - Will Package - Ancillary Documents

What Gives Our Documents the Leading Edge?

Detailed and comprehensive, these documents have been developed through nearly 30 years of hands-on improvement by hundreds of attorneys throughout the US resulting in thousands of satisfied clients. They are drafted to ensure accuracy with current state and federal laws, and are updated as changes occur.

The Revocable Living Trust contains over 222 carefully worded provisions so that the trust can accommodate a client’s changing circumstances and to cover additional contingent situations without needing to be legally modified.  The trust is also universal; that is applicable in all 50 states, for a client may eventually own property in or even move to another state.

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Here is a list of what our package includes:

  • 1 set of Ancillary Documents per person (DPOA for assets, DPOA for healthcare or Advanced Directive, Living Will, Nomination of Conservator, Appointment of Guardian, and Anatomical Gift)
  • Abstract of Trust
  • Trust Certification
  • Pour-Over Will
  • Assignment of Furnishings and Personal Effects
  • 1 three-ring professional quality binder with tabs and inserts
  • 1 set of quality documents with Plain English summaries
  • Funding Manual

We offer a wide variety of estate planning solutions and documents customized at your direction.

Nationally Transportable Living Trusts

Single A Trust
Married A Trust
Married/Unmarried AB Trust
Married ABC Trust
A Q-TIP Trust (for married person)
Partner AA Trust
Partner AB Secure Trust (for Domestic Partners)
Complete Amendment
Partial Amendment

Vital Ancillary Documents

There are a number of other legal documents that are not legally required parts of the Living Trust but which should be included in or with the Trust to provide for future contingencies. Our ancillary documents offer you additional control over your person or assets. These documents are so vital; they are included, at no additional charge as part of your comprehensive document package.

Pour-Over Will
Living Will
Durable Power Of Attorney For Health Care
Durable Power Of Attorney For Assets
Nomination Of Conservator/Guardian
Appointment Of Guardian
Anatomical Gift

Advanced Planning Vehicles

Because many individuals have needs that go beyond basic estate planning, we offer numerous Advanced Estate Planning Solutions that can be incorporated into your overall estate plan. These documents should be considered as a supplement to your Living Trust to shelter your hard-earned estate from unnecessary estate taxes.

■Asset Management Trust (Spendthrift Trust)
■Beneficiary Trust (Dynasty)
■Buy/Sell Agreement
■Catastrophic Illness Trust (Medicaid Planning Trust)
■Charitable Remainder Trust
■Family Catastrophic Illness Trust
■Gift Trust
■Insurance Preservation Trust- Spousal Support (ILIT)
■Insurance Preservation Trust (ILIT)
■IRA/Qualified Plan Trust
■Land Trust
■Special Needs

“A POORLY WRITTEN TRUST IS WORSE THAN NO TRUST AT ALL.” Henry Abts, III

A poorly drawn trust can become a restrictive nightmare for the surviving spouse or successor trustee and beneficiaries. As long as the clients are living, it does not matter what a Living Trust says, because it can always be revoked. However, upon the death of the client, these poorly written Trusts are going to end up in probate court, with petitions being presented to revise or clarify the Trust wording. (Even though the main advantage of a Living Trust is to avoid probate, a Trust falls under the legal jurisdiction of the probate code; any need for clarification of a Trust therefore must be handled in the probate courts.)

One size does not fit all – no two people or families are alike! Your family’s needs, dynamics, personalities, and values are unique. If you use a form kit, you are asking for problems. Even LegalZoom.com reveals that 80% of people who fill in blank forms to create legal documents do so incorrectly. Plus, if your Will or Living Trust is not executed properly, it becomes invalid. If you overlook the opportunity to write specific instructions about how you want to provide for your spouse and children, your family will receive whatever the “cookie cutter” document provides, and you may not know of other options. The only estate plan you rely on is the one that is custom prepared by a qualified estate planning professional attorney.

A well-written comprehensive trust document comes about only through extensive experience. The Estate Planning Source’s trust documents are the result of more than 28 years of working together with legal counsel to cover every imaginable contingency.

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Overview of Hawaii Estate Tax Laws

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Understanding How Hawaii Estate Taxes Affect an Estate
By Julie Garber, About.com Guide

If you live in Hawaii, then you live in one of a handful of states that still collect a local death tax. The estates of Hawaii residents, as well as the estates of nonresidents who own real estate and/or tangible personal property located in Hawaii, are subject to a local death tax under the following guidelines.

NOTE: State and local laws change frequently and the following information may not reflect recent changes.  For current tax or legal advice, please consult with an accountant or an attorney since the information contained in this article is not tax or legal advice and is not a substitute for tax or legal advice.

When is an estate subject to the Hawaii estate tax?

In 2013, an estate of a resident of Hawaii, or a nonresident of Hawaii but U.S. resident or citizen, is taxable in Hawaii and a Hawaii Estate Tax Return, Form M-6, is required to be filed if the taxable estate (determined using IRS Form 706, Part 2, line 3a) is $5,250,000 or greater. Nonetheless, if the decedent is survived by a spouse and the spouse is allowed to claim an election for transfer, or "portability," of the deceased spouse’s unused estate tax exclusion amount, then a Hawaii Estate Tax Return must be filed to make the election. See more on portability below.

The estate of a nonresident of the U.S., not a U.S. citizen, is taxable and a Hawaii Estate Tax Return is required to be filed if the taxable estate (determined using IRS Form 706-NA, Part II, line 1) is $60,000 or greater.

What Hawaii estate tax forms must be filed?

The personal representative or other fiduciary representing an estate that is subject to the Hawaii estate tax must complete and file the Hawaii Estate Tax Return, Form E-1.

Additional documents that must be filed with the Hawaii Department of Taxation when a Hawaii Estate Tax Return is required to filed are as follows: ◾IRS Form 706 (for the year of death) completed through Part 2, line 12, or IRS Form 706-NA completed through Part II, line 8 ◾All federal schedules with federal Forms 712, as required ◾Death certificate ◾Will ◾Trusts ◾Power of appointment documents ◾A copy of another state’s estate tax return or foreign estate tax return, if the estate is subject to other estate taxes ◾Any valuations or appraisals

Note that for estates that are not required to file a Hawaii Estate Tax Return, the personal representative or person(s) in possession, control, or custody of the decedent's property must file a Request for Release, Form M-6A, with the Department of Taxation if the agent wishes to obtain a release which indicates that the personal representative or person(s) in possession, control, or custody is/are free from taxes under chapter 236E, Hawaii Revised Statutes (HRS).

Are transfers to a surviving spouse taxable?

Outright transfers to a surviving spouse are not taxable.

For married couples who have used AB Trust planning to reduce their federal estate tax bill, since the Hawaii estate tax exemption equals the federal estate tax exemption, a Hawaii death tax will not be due on the B Trust after the first spouse's death since there will not be a gap between the Hawaii exemption and the federal exemption.

Are transfers to a civil union partner taxable?

On January 1, 2012, civil unions became recognized in Hawaii. Civil unions entered into in a jurisdiction other than Hawaii are also recognized, provided that the relationship meets Hawaii’s eligibility requirements, has been entered into in accordance with the laws of the other jurisdiction, and can be documented. Hawaii law provides the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) sections and provisions referred to in Hawaii’s estate and generation-skipping transfer tax Laws that apply to a husband and wife, spouses, or person in a legal marital relationship will apply to partners in a civil union with the same force and effect as if they were “husband and wife”, “spouses”, or other terms that describe persons in a legal marital relationship.” Accordingly, references to “married”, “unmarried”, and “spouse” also means “in a civil union”, “not in a civil union”, and “civil union partner”, respectively.

Is portability of the Hawaii estate tax exception allowed between spouses?

Yes, but portability of Hawaii's estate tax exemption applies only to decedents who die after January 25, 2012 and who were U.S. residents or U.S. citizens and validly married on the date of death (including Hawaii civil unions or the equivalent) and to nonresidents of U.S., not U.S. citizens, where allowed by any applicable treaty obligation of the United States.

What is the Hawaii estate tax rate?

The Hawaii estate tax rate is a progressive one that starts out at 5% and tops out at 16%.

When are the Hawaii estate tax return and tax payment due?

The Hawaii Estate Tax Return, Form M-6, must be filed, and any estate tax due must be paid, within 9 months of the decedent's date of death. An extension of time to file the Hawaii Estate Tax Return does not extend the time to pay any tax due.

An extension to file the Hawaii Estate Tax Return, Form M-6, is based on the federal extension to file the federal estate tax return. Hawaii does not have a separate extension form, but an automatic six-month extension to file Form M-6 will be granted if: 1.A copy of the IRS approved extension to file the federal estate tax return, IRS Form 4768, is attached to Form M-6; and 2.Form M-6 is filed by the due date specified by the IRS for filing the federal estate tax return.

Where are the Hawaii estate tax return filed and tax payment made?

Mail all required forms and any payment due to:

Hawaii Department of Taxation
P.O. Box 259
Honolulu, Hawaii 96809-0259

Where can I find additional information about Hawaii estate taxes?

For more information about Hawaii estate taxes, refer to the Department of Taxation's website: Hawaii Department of Taxation.

You may call customer service at 808-587-4242 or toll free at 1-800-222-3229; Telephone for the Hearing Impaired at 808-587-1418 or toll free at 1-800-887-8974; or send a fax to 808-587-1488.

You may also email the department at Taxpayer.Services@hawaii.gov

Correspondence may be mailed to:

Taxpayer Services Branch
P.O. Box 259
Honolulu, HI 96809-0259

Does Hawaii collect an inheritance tax?

Does Hawaii collect a local inheritance tax, which is a tax assessed against the share received by each individual beneficiary of an estate as opposed to an estate tax, which is assessed against the entire estate? The answer to this question is No, Hawaii no longer collects a state inheritance tax because it was replaced with a state estate tax under "The Estate and Transfer Tax Reform Act of 1983."

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

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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