Institutes

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THE ADVANCED INSTITUTE FOR ESTATE PRESERVATION

The Advanced Institute is a professional training course that offers an extensive education on current topics affecting your estate planning practice.  Each subject is presented by an expert in the industry.  An example of training topics are Medicaid and Veterans Planning, When a Corporate Trustee is Necessary, The Power of Trust Provisions, IRA Trust Planning, Settling the Estate, and more.  The Basic Institute course is preferred prior to attending this course.

THE BASIC INSTITUTE FOR ESTATE PRESERVATION

The Basic Institute is a professional training course that offers a solid education on living trusts, solutions for clients and higher net worth clients using advanced planning concepts, how to properly execute and fund a revocable living trust, steps for estate settlement, available marketing materials and how to use them, and where to look to potentially unlock new business and more.

TOPICS YOU WILL LEARN IN THE BASIC ESTATE PRESERVATION TRAINING INSTITUTE

The History of the Living Trust and Its Relevance Today
The Dangers of Probate
The Revocable Living Trust System
The Revocable Living Trust – 222 Provisions
Ancillary Documents in a Good Trust System
The Planning Team and Avoiding the Unauthorized Practice of Law
Client Generation, Marketing, and New Internet Systems
Advanced Planning Vehicles
The Estate Planning Client Process
Building Estate Planning Office Systems
Working with The Estate Planning Source
Putting Your Plans in Motion
Case Studies

ONLINE TRAINING & EDUCATION

Various information, training and educational material available to network professionals

Overview of Oregon Estate Tax Laws

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

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

NOTE: State 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.

Does Oregon collect an estate tax or an inheritance tax?

Prior to 2012, the Oregon death tax was referred to as an "inheritance tax" in the Oregon code, but effective January 1, 2012, the Oregon death tax became known as an "estate tax." This makes sense since Oregon's death tax is collected based on the value of the estate (hence, an "estate tax"), as opposed to being based on who inherits the estate (hence, an "inheritance tax").

In this article, the Oregon death tax collected on or before December 31, 2011 is referred to as an inheritance tax, the Oregon death tax collected on or after January 1, 2012 is referred to as an estate tax, and both taxes are referred to in general as the death tax.

When is an estate subject to the Oregon inheritance tax or estate tax?

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

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

What Oregon inheritance tax or estate tax forms must be filed?

For deaths that occurred on or before December 31, 2011, estates with a gross value that exceeds $1,000,000 must file an Oregon inheritance tax return, Form IT-1, even if no Oregon inheritance tax will be due as a result of applicable deductions and exemptions.

For deaths that occurred on or after January 1, 2012, estates with a gross value that exceeds $1,000,000 must file an Oregon estate tax return, Form OR706, even if no Oregon estate tax will be due as a result of applicable deductions and exemptions.

Are Oregon Registered Domestic Partners treated the same as married couples?

In 2007 the Oregon legislature passed HB 2007. Under the provisions of this law, the instructions for the Form IT-1 were amended to provide that the term “surviving spouse” may be replaced with "surviving Oregon Registered Domestic Partner."

Are transfers to a surviving spouse taxable?

Outright transfers to a surviving spouse or registered domestic partner are not taxable.

For married couples who have used AB Trust planning to reduce their federal estate tax bill, an Oregon death tax may be due on the B Trust after the first spouse's death due to the gap of $4,120,000 between the Oregon exemption of $1,000,000 and the federal exemption of $5,120,000. Nonetheless, a married decedent's estate can make an election to treat a trust of which the surviving spouse is the sole beneficiary as "special marital property" for purposes of calculating the Oregon death tax. Thus, married Oregon residents can defer payment of both Oregon and federal death taxes until after the death of the surviving spouse using ABC Trust planning.

When are the Oregon death tax return and tax payment due?

The Oregon death tax return must be filed and any death tax due must be paid within nine months after the decedent's date of death.

An extension of time to file the Oregon death tax return and pay any tax due will be accepted for Oregon if granted by the Internal Revenue Service. If the estate does not have to file a federal estate tax return, then mark "For Oregon Only" at the top of IRS Form 4768 and federal guidelines will be used to consider the request. If an extension of time to pay is granted, the tax must be secured by collateral acceptable to the Oregon Department of Revenue. In addition, an extension of time to file the return does not extend the time to pay the tax, and interest will accrue during the extension period.

Where is the Oregon death tax return filed?

Mail the Oregon inheritance tax return, Form IT-1, or the Oregon estate tax return, Form OR706, and all other required forms and documentation to:

Oregon Department of Revenue
P.O. Box 14110
Salem, OR 97309-0910

If you are using a private delivery service such as FedEx or UPS, then use the following address:

Oregon Department of Revenue
955 Center Street
NE Salem, OR 97301-2555

What are the Oregon inheritance tax or estate tax rates?

For deaths that occurred on or before December 31, 2011, once the value of the net estate exceeded $1,000,000, the entire value of the estate was taxed. Inheritance tax rates ranged from 0.8% to 16% of the adjusted taxable estate.

For deaths that occurred on or after January 1, 2012, the first $1,000,000 of an estate is exempt from the estate tax calculation. For a table showing the estate tax rates that went into effect on January 1, 2012, refer to Lawmakers Tweak Oregon Estate Tax.

Overview of New Jersey Estate Tax Laws

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

NOTE: State laws change frequently and the following information may not reflect recent changes in the laws. 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.

In addition to a state inheritance tax, New Jersey also imposes a separate state estate tax which has been decoupled from the federal estate tax laws. Here is a summary of the current New Jersey estate tax laws.

When is a New Jersey Estate Tax Return Required to be Filed?

A New Jersey estate tax return, Form IT-Estate, must be filed if the decedent's gross estate plus adjusted taxable gifts exceeds $675,000. How is the New Jersey Estate Tax Calculated?

The New Jersey estate tax is either the maximum credit for state inheritance, estate, succession or legacy taxes allowable under the provisions of the Internal Revenue Code in effect on December 31, 2001 (this is called the "Form 706 Method"), or an amount determined pursuant to the Simplified Tax System prescribed by the Director, Division of Taxation (this is called the "Simplified Form Method").

The Form 706 Method must be used if the taxpayer is required to file a federal estate tax return, IRS Form 706.

If the taxpayer isn't required to file IRS Form 706, then, in addition to the Form 706 Method, the Simplified Form Method may be used provided that it produces a tax liability similar to the Form 706 Method.

When is the New Jersey Estate Tax Return and Any Payment Required Due?

Form IT-Estate must be filed and any tax due must be paid within nine months of the decedent's death, or nine months plus 30 days if the Form 706 Method is used.

An extension of time to file Form IT-Estate may be requested, however, even if an extension is granted it won't delay the time for payment of any tax due.

The Form 706 Method requires that Form IT-Estate be prepared and filed along with a 2001 IRS Form 706. This is in addition to IRS Form 706 for the year of the decedent's death if one is required to be filed. Where is the New Jersey Estate Tax Return Filed?

Mail the New Jersey estate tax return, Form IT-Estate, and all other required forms to:

NJ Inheritance Tax and Estate Tax
P.O. Box 249
Trenton, New Jersey 08695-0249

What is the New Jersey Estate Tax Rate?

The tax rate is a progressive rate that maxes out at 16% for the amount above $10,040,000.

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 New Jersey estate tax may be due on the B Trust after the first spouse's death if there is a gap between the New Jersey estate tax exemption and the federal estate tax exemption at the time the federal estate tax comes back into effect. A married decedent's estate is authorized to make an election on Form IT-Estate to treat property as marital deduction qualified terminable interest property ("QTIP") for New Jersey purposes, but married New Jersey couples cannot defer payment of both New Jersey estate taxes and federal estate taxes until after the death of the surviving spouse using an ABC Trust scheme.

Are Transfers to a Surviving Domestic Partner Taxable?

Federal estate tax laws do not have a provision providing a deduction for property passing to a domestic partner. However, if a New Jersey decedent was a partner in a civil union and died on or after February 19, 2007, and was survived by his or her partner, then a marital deduction equal to that permitted to a surviving spouse under the provisions of the Internal Revenue Code in effect on December 31, 2001, is permitted for New Jersey estate tax purposes.

Does New Jersey Impose a Lien on the Deceased Person's Property?

For New Jersey decedents dying after December 31, 2001, the New Jersey estate tax remains a lien on all property of the decedent as of the date of death until paid. No property may be transferred without the written consent of the Director of the Division of Taxation.

Where Can I Find Additional Information About New Jersey Estate Taxes?

For more information about New Jersey estate taxes, refer to New Jersey Inheritance and Estate Tax General Information on the New Jersey Division of Taxation website.

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."

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.

Terms and Conditions

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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

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

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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.

 

Retirement Accounts – Who is the Beneficiary of Your Account?

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Have you checked your beneficiary designation for your retirement account recently? If not, you may find that your designated beneficiary is not who or what you think it should be, especially if you have divorced, remarried or had children since your retirement plan account was established.

Outdated Beneficiary Designations

There have been numerous cases of retirement-account owners who have been divorced and remarried but have neglected to update their beneficiary designations accordingly. This can be quite frustrating for their survivors, who must battle in court for a legal determination of the true beneficiary. The court's decision, however, may not necessarily be what the deceased would have wanted.

A similar dilemma arises if children are named as beneficiaries but the document has not been updated to include those who were born after you set up your account. To prevent these situations, you should update your beneficiary designation periodically or even immediately after you experience a change in family status. Should you need to, you may submit a change-of-beneficiary form.

Per Stirpes Designations

In the event your child predeceases you, a per stirpes beneficiary designation would allocate that share to the child's issue – your grandchildren.  If you don't name them, they will be disinherited from taking the share of their parent.

Make Provisions for Simultaneous Death

Many spouses, expecting that one will predecease the other, name each other as their designated beneficiaries. The issue of simultaneous death is then addressed by state law, which will determine that one spouse died first, even though both deaths occurred at the same time. This determination is critical, especially if there are children from a previous marriage: will all the children be included? Or will children from a previous marriage be excluded? Proper documentation designating successor beneficiaries for normal and extenuating circumstances will ensure that the retirement-account owner decides who the successor beneficiary is.

Look into a Trust for Your Distributions

If you feel you need to retain some degree of control over the disposition of the retirement assets after your death, you may consider designating a trust as your beneficiary. Designating the right type of trust as your beneficiary could offer these benefits:  allow you to provide financial support for your surviving spouse while ensuring that children from previous marriages are also provided for; helping to maximize your estate tax exclusions; and controlling distributions to the children you might think are not mature enough to handle a large IRA. Trusts require expertise to set up correctly, so please ask me for some assistance before you make any decisions regarding customized and/or trust beneficiary designations.

Beneficiary Designation Checklist

Check the default provisions of the document that governs your retirement account, as it may come into effect if your beneficiary predeceases you and you fail to make subsequent changes.

Look into the tax implications for the kind of beneficiary you choose, whether a particular person, such as a spouse or non-spouse, an entity, such as a charity, your estate or a type of trust.

Request a confirmation of receipt of the designation from your retirement account trustee, custodian or administrator. Documents do not always reach their intended recipient and/or may get lost in transit. Beneficiary designations are considered in effect only if they are received by the responsible party (e.g. trustee, custodian or administrator) before the retirement account owner dies.

If you prefer to use a customized beneficiary designation, make sure your trustee, custodian or administrator finds it acceptable. Not all financial institutions or qualified plans will accept customized beneficiary designations.

Check with your financial institution periodically to determine who your beneficiary is - you may need to make changes if you had a change in your family such as a birth, death, divorce or marriage.

Making a proper beneficiary designation is a very important part of your financial planning process.

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

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.

I Would Like an Advisor to Contact Me to Discuss My Estate Planning Needs

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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