Estate Planning Briefs

Estate Planning Briefs


Make the holidays bright for you and your loved ones with annual exclusion gifts

As the holiday season quickly approaches, gift giving will be top of mind. While gifts of electronics, toys and clothes are nice, making tax-free gifts of cash using your annual exclusion is beneficial for both you and your family.

Even in … Read More »


Update your estate plan to reflect your second marriage

If you’re in a second marriage or planning another trip down the aisle, it’s vital to review and revise (if necessary) your estate plan. You probably want to provide for your current spouse and not inadvertently benefit your former spouse. … Read More »


The write stuff: A letter of instructions

When you draft an estate plan, the centerpiece is your will or living trust. Such a document determines who gets what, where, when and how, as well as tying up the loose ends of your estate. A valid will or … Read More »


A charitable remainder trust can provide a multitude of benefits

If you’re charitably inclined but concerned about having sufficient income to meet your needs, a charitable remainder trust (CRT) may be the answer. A CRT allows you to support a favorite charity while potentially boosting your cash flow, shrinking the … Read More »


A dynasty trust keeps on giving long into the future

With a properly executed estate plan, your wealth can be enjoyed by your children and even their children. But did you know that by using a dynasty trust you can extend the estate tax benefits for several generations, and perhaps … Read More »


Who should own your life insurance policy?

If you own life insurance policies at your death, the proceeds will be included in your taxable estate. Ownership is usually determined by several factors, including who has the right to name the beneficiaries of the proceeds. The way around … Read More »


A Crummey trust can preserve the annual gift tax exclusion

Traditionally, taxpayers have looked for ways to make the most of the $14,000 annual gift tax exclusion, and using a Crummey trust is one way to do that. But with the federal gift and estate tax exemption currently at an … Read More »


Tax law uncertainty requires an estate plan that can roll with the changes

Events of the last decade have taught us that taxes are anything but certain. Case in point: Congress is mulling abolishing gift and estate taxes as part of tax reform. So how can people who hope to still have long … Read More »


ABCs of HSAs: How an HSA can benefit your estate plan

One health care arrangement that has been soaring in popularity in recent years has been the pairing of a high-deductible health plan (HDHP) with a Health Savings Account (HSA). The good news is that not only does an HSA provide … Read More »


Charitable giving pièce de résistance: Artwork donations

Charitable giving is a key part of estate planning for many people. If you’re among them and own valuable works of art, they may be ideal candidates for charitable donations during your life.

Generally, it’s advantageous to donate appreciated property because, … Read More »


Tax basis planning worth a look if estate taxes aren’t a threat

For many people today, income tax planning offers far greater tax-saving opportunities than gift and estate tax planning. A record-high gift and estate tax exemption — currently $5.49 million ($10.98 million for married couples) — means that fewer people are subject to … Read More »


Estate tax relief for family businesses is available … in the form of a deferral

If a substantial portion of your wealth is tied up in a family or closely held business, you may be concerned that your estate will lack sufficient liquid assets to pay federal estate taxes. If that’s the case, your heirs … Read More »


Have you properly funded your revocable trust?

If your estate plan includes a revocable trust — also known as a “living” trust — it’s critical to ensure that the trust is properly funded. Revocable trusts offer significant benefits, including asset management (in the event you become incapacitated) … Read More »


Powers of attorney: Springing vs. nonspringing

Estate planning typically focuses on what happens to your assets when you die. But it’s equally important (some might say more important) to have a plan for making critical financial and medical decisions if you’re unable to make those decisions … Read More »


Beware the GST tax when transferring assets to grandchildren

As you plan your estate, don’t overlook the generation-skipping transfer (GST) tax. Despite a generous $5.49 million GST tax exemption, complexities surrounding its allocation can create several tax traps for the unwary.

GST basics

The GST tax is a flat, 40% tax on … Read More »


Use a noncharitable purpose trust to achieve a variety of goals

Generally, trusts must have one or more human beneficiaries, but there’s an exception for certain “purpose” trusts. One type of purpose trust that you may be familiar with is the charitable trust. But don’t overlook the noncharitable purpose (NCP) trust … Read More »


Don’t overlook tax apportionment when planning your estate

If you expect your estate to have a significant estate tax liability at your death, be sure to include a well-thought-out tax apportionment clause in your will or revocable trust. An apportionment clause specifies how the estate tax burden will … Read More »


The stretch IRA: A simple yet powerful estate planning tool

The IRA’s value as a retirement planning tool is well known: IRA assets compound on a tax-deferred (or, in the case of a Roth IRA, tax-free) basis, which can help build a more substantial nest egg. But if you don’t … Read More »


ABLE accounts can benefit loved ones with special needs

For families with disabled loved ones who are potentially eligible for means-tested government benefits such as Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), estate planning can be a challenge. On the one hand, you want to provide the most comfortable life … Read More »


IRS simplifies procedure for obtaining extension to make portability election

Last month, the IRS issued a Revenue Procedure that allows certain estates to make a late portability election without first filing a ruling request. Portability is a tax law provision that permits a surviving spouse to take advantage of the … Read More »


Are you familiar with fraudulent transfer laws?

A primary goal of your estate plan is to transfer wealth to your family according to your wishes and at the lowest possible tax cost. However, if you have creditors, be aware of fraudulent transfer laws. In a nutshell, if … Read More »


Leaving specific assets to specific heirs is an estate planning no-no

Planning your estate around specific assets is risky and, in most cases, should be avoided. If you leave specific assets — such as a home, a car or stock — to specific people, you could end up inadvertently disinheriting someone.

Unintended … Read More »


Is now the time for a charitable lead trust?

Families who wish to give to charity while minimizing gift and estate taxes should consider a charitable lead trust (CLT). These trusts are most effective in a low-interest-rate environment, so conditions for taking advantage of a CLT currently are favorable. … Read More »


Videotaping your will signing may not produce the desired outcome

Some people make video recordings of their will signings in an effort to create evidence that they possess the requisite testamentary capacity. For some, this strategy may help stave off a will contest. But in most cases, the risk that … Read More »


Are your retirement savings secure from creditors?

A primary goal of estate planning is asset protection. After all, no matter how well your estate plan is designed, it won’t do much good if you wind up with no wealth to share with your family.

If you have significant … Read More »


A family bank professionalizes intrafamily lending

If you’re interested in lending money to your children or other family members, consider establishing a “family bank.” These entities enhance the benefits of intrafamily loans, while minimizing unintended consequences.

Upsides and downsides of intrafamily lending

Lending can be an effective way … Read More »


It’s a matter of principle — and trust — when using a principle trust

For many, an important estate planning goal is to encourage their children or other heirs to lead responsible, productive lives. One tool for achieving this goal is a principle trust.

By providing your trustee with guiding values and principles (rather than … Read More »


Prepaid funeral plans may not provide peace of mind

The cost of a funeral has increased steadily during the past two decades. In fact, once all funeral-related costs are factored in, the typical traditional funeral service will cost an average family $8,000 to $10,000.

To relieve their families of the burden … Read More »


Worried about challenges to your estate plan? Make it no contest

Estate planning is all about protecting your family and ensuring that your wealth is distributed according to your wishes. So the idea that someone might challenge your estate plan can be disconcerting. One strategy for protecting your plan is to … Read More »


Asset valuations and your estate plan go hand in hand

If your estate plan calls for making noncash gifts in trust or outright to beneficiaries, you need to know the values of those gifts and disclose them to the IRS on a gift tax return. For substantial gifts of noncash … Read More »


Life insurance and an estate plan may not always mix well

A life insurance policy can be an important part of an estate plan. The tax benefits are twofold: The policy can provide a source of wealth for your family income-tax-free, and it can supply funds to pay estate taxes and … Read More »


Acquaint yourself with the Roth IRA as an estate planning tool

A Roth IRA can be a valuable estate planning tool, offering the opportunity for tax-free growth as long as it exists and requiring no distributions during your life, thus allowing you to pass on a greater amount of wealth to … Read More »


Be aware of the ins and outs of holding joint title to property

Owning assets jointly with one or more children or other heirs is a common estate planning “shortcut.” But like many shortcuts, it can produce unintended — and costly — consequences.

Advantages
There are two potential advantages to joint ownership: convenience and probate … Read More »


Will your favorite charity accept your donation?

If your estate plan includes charitable donations, be sure to discuss any planned gifts with the intended recipients before you finalize your plan. This is particularly important for donations that place restrictions on the charity’s use of the gift, as … Read More »


Direct tuition payments benefit your grandchild and your estate plan

Grandparents often want to play a role in financing their grandchildren’s education. If you’re one of them, it’s important to consider the impact that different financing options will have on your estate plan.

Make direct tuition payments
A simple but effective technique … Read More »


Divorce necessitates an estate plan review

There are few events that can completely upend a person’s life more than divorce. Of course, there’s the emotional toll on you and your family to contend with, but you also have to consider the divorce’s impact on your estate … Read More »


Keep family matters out of the public eye by avoiding probate

Although probate can be time consuming and expensive, perhaps its biggest downside is that it’s public — anyone who’s interested can find out what assets you owned and how they’re being distributed after your death. The public nature of probate … Read More »


Make health care decisions while you’re healthy

Estate planning isn’t just about what happens to your assets after you die. It’s also about protecting yourself and your loved ones. This includes having a plan for making critical medical decisions in the event you’re unable to make them … Read More »


Use an ILIT as a wealth preserver

If you’re concerned about your family’s financial well-being after you’re gone, life insurance can provide peace of mind. Going a step further and setting up an irrevocable life insurance trust (ILIT) to hold the policy offers additional estate planning benefits.

Asset … Read More »


2016 charitable deductions: Substantiate them or lose them

Sharing your wealth with a favorite charity can benefit those in need and reduce your taxable estate. In addition, your donations can ease your income tax liability. But you must meet IRS substantiation requirements. If you fail to do so, … Read More »


5 questions single parents should ask about their estate plans

In many respects, estate planning for single parents of minor children is similar to estate planning for families with two parents. Single parents want to provide for their children’s care and financial needs after they’re gone. But when only one … Read More »


2 postmortem estate planning strategies for married couples

It’s crucial to review and update your estate plan in light of significant life changes or new tax laws. It’s equally important to be aware of strategies that can be implemented after your death to achieve your estate planning goals. … Read More »


Should you set up trusts in a more “trust-friendly” state?

While it’s natural to set up trusts in the state where you live, you may be losing out on significant benefits available in more “trust-friendly” states. For example, some states:

Don’t tax trust income,
Authorize domestic asset protection trusts, which provide added … Read More »


Family matters: Stepchildren and your estate plan

If you have unadopted stepchildren, estate planning is critical to ensure that your property is distributed the way you desire. Stepchildren generally don’t have any inheritance rights with respect to their parents’ new spouses unless the spouse legally adopts them. … Read More »

December 8th

Estate Planning Briefs. Comments Off on Family matters: Stepchildren and your estate plan


Relocating into or out of a community property state requires extra estate planning

When a married couple lives in a community property state, the money earned and property acquired by either spouse during their marriage generally belongs to the “community.”

This means that each spouse has an undivided one-half interest in the property (regardless … Read More »

December 1st

Estate Planning Briefs. Comments Off on Relocating into or out of a community property state requires extra estate planning


Should you keep your trust a secret?

When planning their estates, many people agonize over the negative impact their wealth might have on their children. To address these concerns, some people establish quiet trusts, also known as silent trusts. In other words, they leave significant sums in … Read More »

November 23rd

Estate Planning Briefs. Comments Off on Should you keep your trust a secret?


Family mission statements promote a harmonious estate plan

Typically, much of the estate planning process focuses on money. But the most successful estate plans are founded on relationships. Building and preserving family wealth isn’t an end in itself. Rather, it’s a tool for promoting shared family values or … Read More »

November 17th

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The wrong life insurance beneficiary can wreak havoc with your estate plan

Life insurance can be a powerful financial and estate planning tool, but its benefits may be reduced or even eliminated if you designate the wrong beneficiary or fail to change beneficiaries when your circumstances change.

Here are common pitfalls to avoid:

Naming … Read More »

November 10th

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Have you addressed elderly parents in your estate plan?

Your estate plan likely accommodates your spouse, children and grandchildren. But have you overlooked your parents? How can you best handle their financial affairs in the later stages of life? You may want to incorporate their needs into your own … Read More »

November 3rd

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Transfer a family business in a tax-smart way

Is a family-owned business your primary source of wealth? If so, it’s critical to plan carefully for the transition of ownership from one generation to the next. The best approach depends on your particular circumstances.

If your net worth is well … Read More »

October 27th

Estate Planning Briefs. Comments Off on Transfer a family business in a tax-smart way


Private foundations aren’t only for the rich and famous

If creating a family legacy of charitable giving is important to you, a private foundation might be the right estate planning vehicle. And this option isn’t just for billionaires. You may be able to effectively establish a foundation with an … Read More »

October 20th

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Grantor and Crummey trusts can be good options to fund a grandchild’s education

Do you wish to play an active role in funding your grandchildren’s college educations? As you examine the financing options, don’t forget about their impact on your estate plan. Two trust types to consider are grantor and Crummey trusts.

Grantor trusts

A … Read More »

October 14th

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Prenups and estate plans: Make sure they work together

If you’re getting married, estate planning likely is the last thing you want to think about. But if you and your future spouse plan to sign a prenuptial agreement (commonly referred to as simply a “prenup”), it’s a good idea … Read More »

October 6th

Estate Planning Briefs. Comments Off on Prenups and estate plans: Make sure they work together


Have you provided for the removal of a trustee in your estate plan?

When drafting an estate plan, it’s critical to select the right trustee to carry out your wishes and protect your beneficiaries. It’s also important to establish procedures for removing a trustee in the event that circumstances change.

Failing to do so … Read More »

September 29th

Estate Planning Briefs. Comments Off on Have you provided for the removal of a trustee in your estate plan?


Estate planning benefits of FLPs may be in danger

For many years, family limited partnerships (FLPs) have been a popular estate planning tool, in part due to their tax benefits. Specifically, they can allow you to transfer assets to your children (and other family members) at discounted values for … Read More »

September 22nd

Estate Planning Briefs. Comments Off on Estate planning benefits of FLPs may be in danger


Getting started on your estate plan: Inventory and value assets; estimate tax liability

If you’ve decided it’s time to create your estate plan, congratulations! A good place to begin is to work with us to determine what your estate is worth and whether you need to worry about estate taxes.

What is your estate … Read More »

September 15th

Estate Planning Briefs. Comments Off on Getting started on your estate plan: Inventory and value assets; estimate tax liability


Vacation home should keep families together, not tear them apart

A shared family vacation home can be a great place for family bonding. And a little estate planning can go a long way toward avoiding conflict and keeping the home in the family.

Who owns it and how?

All family members must … Read More »

September 8th

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Could a tax-free exchange help cover LTC insurance costs?

No estate plan is complete without considering long-term care (LTC) expenses and how to pay for them. LTC insurance is an option, but these policies can be expensive. One solution is to use a total or partial tax-free exchange of … Read More »

September 1st

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Giving real estate to charity is rewarding, but beware of tax traps

Did you know that the estate of director John Hughes donated the family’s Illinois mansion to a nonprofit hospital? After allowing another charity to use the home for a fundraising event, the hospital sold the home and used the proceeds … Read More »

August 25th

Estate Planning Briefs. Comments Off on Giving real estate to charity is rewarding, but beware of tax traps


Take care of a loved one who has special needs with an SNT

Special needs trusts (SNTs), also called “supplemental needs trusts,” benefit children or other family members with a disability that requires extended-term care or that prevents them from being able to support themselves. This trust type can provide peace of mind … Read More »

August 18th

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Tread carefully if you and your spouse have similar trusts

When spouses have similar irrevocable trusts for each other’s benefit, they can be subject to the “reciprocal trust” doctrine. It prohibits tax avoidance through trusts that 1) are interrelated, and 2) place both grantors in the same economic position as … Read More »

August 11th

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Review your powers of attorney at least every 5 years

Powers of attorney are critical components of an effective estate plan. After you’ve executed powers of attorney, it’s important to review them periodically — at least every five years and preferably more frequently — and consider executing new ones.

2 types

A … Read More »

August 4th

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Direct payments of tuition and medical expenses can reduce future estate tax exposure

With the gift and estate tax exemption at $5.45 million in 2016, you may be less concerned about these taxes. But if you don’t take advantage of making tax-free direct payments of tuition and medical expenses, you’re missing a valuable … Read More »

July 28th

Estate Planning Briefs. Comments Off on Direct payments of tuition and medical expenses can reduce future estate tax exposure


The tax and estate planning pitfalls of retiring overseas

Have you dreamed of spending your golden years in a tropical paradise or a culture-rich European city? If so, it’s important to understand the potential tax and estate planning implications so there are no surprises. These include:

Double taxation. If you’re … Read More »

July 21st

Estate Planning Briefs. Comments Off on The tax and estate planning pitfalls of retiring overseas


Estate tax deferral offers relief to some business owners

If a substantial portion of your wealth is tied up in a family or closely held business, you may be concerned that your estate will lack sufficient liquid assets to pay estate taxes. In such cases, heirs may be forced … Read More »

July 20th

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Follow all rules when transferring assets to an irrevocable trust

Irrevocable trusts can provide a variety of benefits, including gift and estate tax savings, creditor protection, and the ability to control how assets are distributed. To preserve these benefits, however, it’s critical to respect all trust formalities.

Case in point
Here’s an … Read More »

July 15th

Estate Planning Briefs. Comments Off on Follow all rules when transferring assets to an irrevocable trust


3 benefits of donor-advised fund giving

Charitable giving through donor-advised funds (DAFs) has grown in popularity in recent years. Generally, creating a DAF requires no more than completing a short application and making an initial contribution as low as $10,000 to a sponsoring organization, such as … Read More »

July 7th

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Are your children prepared to handle your wealth?

If you’ve built up a large estate and are eager to share your wealth with your children, you may be concerned about their ability to handle it. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help ensure they won’t blow … Read More »

July 1st

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Couples with a noncitizen spouse play by different estate planning rules

Many traditional estate planning strategies are based on the assumption that everyone involved is a U.S. citizen. But if you or your spouse is a noncitizen, special rules apply that require additional planning.

General rules
If you’re a U.S. resident, but not … Read More »

June 23rd

Estate Planning Briefs. Comments Off on Couples with a noncitizen spouse play by different estate planning rules


Sweat the small stuff: Don’t forget to address personal items in your estate plan

It’s natural that your estate planning efforts focus on big-ticket items, such as real estate, business interests, retirement assets and brokerage accounts. But don’t ignore the “small stuff,” like artwork, jewelry, furniture, antiques, clothing and collectibles. These items may not … Read More »

June 16th

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Making an intrafamily loan “bona fide” to avoid gift tax

The simplest way to provide financial assistance to a child or other family member is to get out your checkbook and make a gift. But if you’re concerned about gift taxes, a loan may be preferable. Intrafamily loans must be … Read More »

June 9th

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Life insurance remains a powerful estate planning tool for nontaxable estates

For years, life insurance has played a critical role in estate planning, providing a source of liquidity to pay estate taxes and other expenses. Today, estate taxes are no longer a concern for many families because the estate tax exemption … Read More »

June 2nd

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Giving back: How to help your parents fund LTC and associated medical costs

If you have aging parents who aren’t as financially well off as you are, one of your estate planning goals may be to help fund their long-term care (LTC) and associated medical expenses. The annual cost of LTC—which may include … Read More »

May 26th

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Properly fund your living trust to shield assets from probate

Many people set up a revocable, or “living,” trust to shield assets from probate and take advantage of other benefits. For the trust to work, you must transfer assets to it that would otherwise go through probate — a process … Read More »

May 19th

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Is a charitable IRA rollover right for you?

If you’re charitably inclined, age 70½ or older and have a significant balance in an IRA, a charitable IRA rollover—formally called a “qualified charitable distribution”—permits you to annually make up to $100,000 in tax-free IRA distributions to qualified charities. Charitable … Read More »

May 12th

Estate Planning Briefs. Comments Off on Is a charitable IRA rollover right for you?


529 plans: Saving for college is also good for your estate plan

A 529 plan is a tax-advantaged and flexible education-savings tool. In addition to generous contribution limits and tax-free withdrawals for college expenses, these plans provide unique estate planning benefits for parents and grandparents.

On the plus side . . .
First, even … Read More »

May 5th

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QTIP trusts may be the estate planning solution for second marriages

If you’re in a second marriage, or planning another trip down the aisle, estate planning can be complicated, especially if you have children from a previous marriage and your net worth is large enough that estate taxes are a concern. … Read More »

April 28th

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The tax dangers of providing for employees in your estate plan

If you’re an employer, you may think of your employees as family. But if you plan to provide for employees in your estate plan, watch out for unintended tax consequences.

IRS rules
Generally, money or other property received by gift or inheritance … Read More »

April 21st

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4 tools for addressing incapacity in your estate plan

Estate planning is often associated with death. But it’s just as important for your plan to address incapacity associated with illness, injury, advanced age or other circumstances.

Unless you specify how financial and health care decisions will be made in the … Read More »

April 14th

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Ensure your high-cash-value life insurance policy fully benefits your loved ones

If you own a life insurance policy that has built up a sizable cash value, be aware that the death benefit will be included in your taxable estate. Depending on the size of the policy and the applicable estate tax … Read More »

April 7th

Estate Planning Briefs. Comments Off on Ensure your high-cash-value life insurance policy fully benefits your loved ones


Pension payouts: What’s the best option?

Estate planning and retirement planning go hand in hand. After all, the more wealth you set aside for retirement, the more you’ll have left to provide for your family after your death. One tough decision that retirees face is choosing … Read More »

March 31st

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How to protect assets from creditors when naming a beneficiary as trustee

A properly designed trust helps safeguard assets against claims by a beneficiary’s creditors as well as the beneficiary’s own mismanagement. Generally, the less control a beneficiary has over trust assets, the more protection the trust offers against creditors.

To that end, … Read More »

March 24th

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Achieve greater charitable giving flexibility with a nonqualified CRT

As the federal gift and estate tax exemption continues to climb, the number of people subject to estate taxes is shrinking. For those with charitable giving goals, this may increase interest in charitable remainder trusts (CRTs). A lifetime CRT, for … Read More »

March 17th

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A critical decision: Naming the guardian of your minor children

If you have minor children, perhaps the most important element of your estate plan doesn’t involve your assets. Rather, it involves who will be your children’s guardian.

Questions to consider
When evaluating potential guardians, ask these questions:

Do they want to serve as … Read More »

March 10th

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Greater estate planning options available to same-sex married couples

Last year’s landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision making same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states affects estate planning for many same-sex married couples.

Now, like opposite-sex married couples, same-sex married couples may be able to take advantage of gift and estate … Read More »

March 3rd

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Moving your trust over the state line may produce tax savings

If trusts make up a big portion of your estate plan, and they’re subject to high state income taxes, you can change their residence, or “situs,” to a state with lower (or no) income taxes.

What’s the tax impact?
Only irrevocable nongrantor … Read More »

February 25th

Estate Planning Briefs. Comments Off on Moving your trust over the state line may produce tax savings


Do you need to file a gift tax return?

It’s tax-filing season, and the April 18 deadline to file a 2015 gift tax return is fast approaching. But do you need to file a return? The rules surrounding gift tax returns can be confusing, so let’s review some general … Read More »

February 18th

Estate Planning Briefs. Comments Off on Do you need to file a gift tax return?


Think twice before naming a minor as a beneficiary

A common estate planning mistake is to designate a minor as beneficiary—or contingent beneficiary—of a life insurance policy or retirement plan. Insurance companies and financial institutions won’t pay large sums of money directly to a minor. Instead, they’ll require costly … Read More »

February 11th

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A helping hand: Addressing your parents in your estate plan

The “sandwich generation” is a large segment of the population. These are people who find themselves caring for both their children and their parents at the same time. As a result, estate planning—which traditionally focuses on providing for one’s children—has … Read More »

February 4th

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