Berdon Blogs

T&E TALK: Keep Family Issues Out of the Public Eye by Avoiding Probate

Posted by Scott T. Ditman, CPA/PFS on Apr 3, 2017 9:22:00 AM

One of probate’s biggest downside is that it’s public — any interested party can find out what assets you owned and how they’re being distributed after your death. The public nature of probate can also draw unwanted attention from disgruntled family members who may challenge the disposition of your assets, as well as from unscrupulous parties. With the right estate planning strategies, you can keep much or even all of your estate out of probate.

What is Probate?

Probate is a legal procedure in which a court establishes the validity of your will, determines the value of your estate, resolves creditors’ claims, provides for the payment of taxes and other debts, and transfers assets to your heirs. Under certain circumstances is can be desirable.  You might feel more comfortable having a court resolve issues involving your heirs and creditors. Another possible advantage is that probate places strict time limits on creditor claims and settles claims quickly.

Read More

Topics: T&E TALK

T&E TALK: Make Health Care Decisions While You're Still Healthy

Posted by Scott T. Ditman, CPA/PFS on Mar 27, 2017 7:00:00 AM

Estate planning is about more than just what happens to your assets after you pass away. It’s also about protecting yourself and your loved ones by having a plan for making critical medical decisions in the event you’re unable to make them yourself.  And the time to act is now, while you’re healthy. If an illness or injury renders you incapacitated, it will be too late.

Without a plan that expresses your wishes, your family may have to make medical decisions on your behalf or petition a court for a conservatorship. Either way, there’s no guarantee that these decisions will be made the way you would want, or by the person you would choose.

2 Documents, 2 Purposes

To ensure that your wishes are carried out, and that your family is spared the burden of guessing or arguing over what you would decide, put those wishes in writing. Generally, that means executing two documents:

  • a living will; and
  • a health care power of attorney (HCPA).
Read More

Topics: T&E TALK

T&E TALK: April 1 - It May be Time to Take Required Minimum Distributions

Posted by Scott T. Ditman, CPA/PFS on Mar 20, 2017 7:00:00 AM

No, you cannot keep retirement funds in your account indefinitely. If you reached age 70½ in 2016, you may need to take a Minimum Required Distribution (MRD) attributed to 2016 for your qualified retirement plans.  

Generally, you must start taking withdrawals from your IRA, SIMPLE IRA, SEP IRA, or retirement plan account when you reach age 70½. Roth IRAs do not require withdrawals until after the death of the owner.

Your MRD is the minimum amount you must withdraw from your account each year.

Read More

Topics: T&E TALK

T&E TALK: Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust — A Great Wealth Preservation Tool

Posted by Scott T. Ditman, CPA/PFS on Mar 13, 2017 7:00:00 AM

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

Asset Protection

If you’re concerned about your heirs’ money management skills, an ILIT may be the answer. Your loved ones won’t receive the proceeds directly, as they would if they were the policy beneficiaries. Rather, they’re the beneficiaries of the trust, and the trust controls when they receive proceeds.

You can also establish conditions for distributing funds from an ILIT. For example, you might instruct the trustee to withhold funds from a beneficiary who drops out of school or develops a substance abuse problem.

A properly drafted ILIT can also protect trust assets against your and your beneficiaries’ creditors, particularly if it’s established in a state with favorable asset protection laws.

Read More

Topics: T&E TALK

T&E TALK: Special Planning When Leaving Your IRA to Someone Other Than Your Spouse

Posted by Scott T. Ditman, CPA/PFS on Mar 6, 2017 7:00:00 AM

If you leave an IRA to your children or to someone other than your spouse, certain benefits can be lost without careful planning.

An Inherited IRA Stretches the Tax Benefits

Surviving spouses who inherit IRAs are permitted to roll them into their own IRAs, allowing the funds to continue growing tax-deferred or tax-free until they are withdrawn in retirement or after age 70½.

Beneficiaries other than your spouse, such as your children, are treated differently.

To take full advantage of an IRA’s tax benefits, nonspouse beneficiaries must transfer the funds directly into an “Inherited IRA.” Although the beneficiaries will have to begin taking distributions by the end of the following year, they’ll be able to stretch those distributions over their life expectancies, allowing earnings to grow tax-deferred or tax-free as long as possible.

Read More

Topics: T&E TALK

T&E TALK: 2016 Charitable Deductions: Substantiate or Lose Them

Posted by Scott T. Ditman, CPA/PFS on Feb 27, 2017 7:00:00 AM

Sharing your wealth with a preferred charity can reduce your taxable estate and ease your income tax liability. But, unless you meet IRS substantiation requirements, the Service could deny the corresponding deductions you’re claiming. Let’s look at the requirements for different asset types.

Cash Gifts

Generally, you can substantiate gifts of less than $250 with a canceled check, written receipt, or other reliable record (such as a credit card statement) that indicates the name of the charity and the amount and date of your gift.

If you donate more than $75 in exchange for goods or services other than intangible religious benefits (such as admission to religious ceremonies), the charity must provide you with a statement that:

  • advises you that your deduction is limited to the amount by which your gift exceeds the value of those goods and services; and
  • provides a good-faith estimate of that value.
Read More

Topics: T&E TALK

T&E TALK: Five Estate Planning Questions for Single Parents

Posted by Scott T. Ditman, CPA/PFS on Feb 21, 2017 7:00:00 AM

In many respects, estate planning for single parents of minor children is similar to estate planning for families with two parents.  But when only one parent is involved, certain aspects of an estate plan demand special attention. Here are five questions single parents should ask:

  1. Are my will and other estate planning documents up to date? If you haven’t reviewed your estate plan recently, do so to ensure that it reflects your current circumstances. The last thing you want is for a probate court to decide your children’s future.
  2. Have I selected an appropriate guardian? If the other parent is unavailable to take custody of your children should you become incapacitated or die suddenly, does your estate plan designate a suitable and willing guardian to care for them? Will the guardian need financial assistance to raise your children and provide for their education? If not, you might want to preserve your wealth in a trust until your children are grown.
Read More

Topics: T&E TALK

T&E TALK: Post Mortem Estate Planning Strategies for Couples

Posted by Scott T. Ditman, CPA/PFS on Feb 13, 2017 11:00:00 AM

While it is always important 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 goals. The flexibility of post mortem strategies is especially important during times of estate tax law uncertainty, like now. If you’re married, here are two post mortem estate planning strategies to consider.

1. Spousal Right of Election

This election provides a way to alter the planned distribution of your wealth after you’re gone. In most states, a surviving spouse has the right to circumvent his or her spouse’s will and take an elective share (one-half or one-third, for instance) of certain property.

Example: Let’s say you leave all of your assets to your children or other beneficiaries. Your spouse might exercise his or her right of election if it would produce a more favorable tax outcome. Even if the federal estate tax is repealed, which is on the agenda of President Trump and the Republican majority in Congress, there may be state estate tax or income tax consequences to consider.

Read More

Topics: T&E TALK

T&E TALK: Set up Trusts in a More “Trust-friendly” State

Posted by Scott T. Ditman, CPA/PFS on Feb 6, 2017 7:00:00 AM

While it is 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 protection against creditors’ claims,
  • Permit silent trusts, under which beneficiaries need not be notified of their interests,
  • Allow perpetual trusts, enabling grantors to establish “dynasty” trusts that benefit many generations to come,
  • Have directed trust statutes, which make it possible to appoint an advisor or committee to direct the trustee with regard to certain matters, or
  • Offer greater flexibility to draft trust provisions that delineate the trustee’s powers and duties.

To take advantage of these and other benefits, review your state’s trust laws and trust-related tax laws with your advisor and consider whether another state’s laws would be more favorable.

Read More

Topics: T&E TALK

T&E TALK: Explore All of Your Options When Appointing an Executor

Posted by Scott T. Ditman, CPA/PFS on Jan 30, 2017 7:00:00 AM

The executor’s role is critical to the administration of an estate and the achievement of your planning objectives. So, your first instinct may be to name a trusted family member as executor (also referred to as a personal representative). But, that might not be the best choice.

Important Duties

Your executor has a variety of important duties, including:

  • Arranging for probate of your will (if necessary) and obtaining court approval to administer your estate,
  • Taking inventory of — and collecting, recovering, or maintaining — your assets, including life insurance proceeds and retirement plan benefits,
  • Obtaining valuations of your assets,
  • Preparing a schedule of assets and liabilities,
  • Arranging for the safekeeping of personal property,
  • Contacting your beneficiaries to advise them of their entitlements under your will,
  • Paying any debts incurred by you or your estate and handling creditors’ claims,
  • Defending your will in the event of litigation,
  • Filing tax returns on behalf of your estate, and
  • Distributing your assets among your beneficiaries according to the terms of your will.
Read More

Topics: T&E TALK

About Berdon Blogs

Our experts examine the latest trends, economics, business conditions and industry issues to provide timely information you need to maximize your tax advantages and meet your financial goals.

SALT TALK: Hear an insider’s perspective on the business issues, legislative updates in state and local tax, and tax aspects behind today’s headlines.

T&E TALK: Gain insights into how changes in tax laws, shifts in the financial markets, and regulatory concerns will impact assets and affect preserving and transferring wealth.

TAX TALK: Get an all-inclusive perspective on regulatory changes, industry issues, and trends from our team of multidisciplinary tax professionals – many of whom also hold J.D. and LL.M degrees.

Subscribe to Berdon Blogs

Recent Posts