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Estate and Business Planning Legal Blog

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Important Changes to the Federal Estate and Gift Tax for 2018



The Tax Cut and Jobs Act passed by Congress and signed into law at the end of 2017 contains some very significant changes to the federal estate and gift tax laws. For one, the unified credit for estate and gift tax–the amount you can give cumulatively during your lifetime or which you can leave at your death without incurring an estate tax–was doubled.  The increased, inflation-adjusted exemption amounts to approximately $11.2 million for an individual, or a combined $22.4 million for a married couple, and are effective for estates of decedents dying, and gifts made, after December 31, 2017.
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Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Exploring the Many Advantages to Creating a Trust



Clients are often and understandably confused about the differences between irrevocable trusts and revocable living trusts, and the consequences they each have for asset protection, estate planning and taxes.

Those who advocate living trusts commonly lead people to believe that these trusts will reduce estate taxes and protect one’s assets in the event long-term health care is needed. While living trusts serve the purpose of avoiding probate, they do not protect your assets. Since you maintain control over the assets in your revocable trust, they are still considered available to pay for your health care needs.  Similarly, unless a living trust creates certain types of irrevocable subtrusts, it does not reduce one’s taxable estate since the person creating the trust maintains complete control.
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Thursday, December 21, 2017

Avoiding The Dangers of Transfer On Death And In Trust For Accounts



It is now permissible, in the State of New York, to have beneficiaries listed on brokerage and investments accounts, regardless of whether or not they are retirement accounts.  The designation is commonly referred to as a TOD, or transfer on death, designation.  With savings, checking and money market accounts held with banks, one is also permitted to list beneficiaries, with those usually referred to as “in trust for” accounts. 

The primary advantage of having TOD or “in trust for “ designations on one’s accounts is that one avoids probate, at least with respect to these accounts.  Joint ownership of accounts accomplishes the same purpose, but is more dangerous because the intended beneficiary immediately becomes a joint owner.
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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

How to Provide for Minor Children and Grandchildren



It is quite common for parents and grandparents to want to leave money to a person under the age of eighteen (18) years old (a “minor”).  Since a person younger than 18 can not legally inherit money, having a minor as a beneficiary on one’s accounts, regardless of how small in value the accounts may be, is quite problematic. 

Leaving money to a minor necessarily requires that the child’s parents (or some other adult) will need to petition a court to be appointed the minor’s legal guardian for purposes of accessing the funds left to the minor.  Needless to say, the court process will be a lengthy and expensive one.  Clients often list a minor child or grandchild as a beneficiary on their retirement account, annuity, or life insurance policy, intending to avoid probate and make it easy for the minor to collect the account, not realizing that doing so will make matters worse.
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Friday, November 24, 2017

Four Reasons Why You Should Have An Attorney Review Your Lease


 

Clients often think it a waste of time and money to retain an attorney to represent them in connection with leasing space, whether it be space in an office, a warehouse, or an entire building. More often than not, however, an attorney can obtain important concessions for the tenant, many of them monetary in nature.  For example, real estate tax escalation clauses and annual rent increases can prove onerous and can often be negotiated, thus saving the client money.

It is also extremely important for a client to understand fully the implications of some important, yet typical clauses which are contained in a commercial lease.  For example, if the landlord will not permit an assignment or sublet of the space, it is extremely important to know that, in the event there is a business downturn and one needs to cut costs.


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Saturday, November 11, 2017

Estate Tax Repeal: Will it Really Happen?


As everyone is probably aware, part of the tax reform proposal before Congress is the repeal of the federal estate tax.  Clearly, it is not known if the estate tax repeal will in fact happen, but if it does, it will occur gradually.  What does one do in the interim?

Clients should not postpone their estate planning or even undo any estate planning they have already undertaken, on the assumption that the estate tax repeal will occur.  For one thing, if one passes away before the tax is repealed, assuming it is, then one's heirs may wind up paying a very sizable estate tax, which might have been avoided with proper planning.

Moreover, most states have their own estate or inheritance tax, sometimes referred to as a death tax.


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Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Estate Planning With IRAs


Clients often overlook their IRA accounts when doing estate planning, as they are aware that these accounts generally have beneficiaries and do not pass under their wills.  The reality, however, is that they are and should be a very integral part of developing an estate plan.

For one thing, the value of IRAs are indeed included in one's taxable estate and their inclusion may result in an estate tax liability at death.  Since IRAs can not be liquidated without adverse tax consequences, they are generally not the preferred method of paying estate tax obligations .

It is imperative that clients check the beneficiary designations on their IRAs.


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Thursday, October 19, 2017

Starting Your Own Business: The Basics



Embarking on a new business enterprise is indeed exciting.  While it is tempting to move quickly to build the business, it is imperative that the owner/operator  take care of certain details early on.  Doing so will help to ensure eventual success.  

After initially setting up the corporation or limited liability company, it is important to turn one’s attention to the contract issues which typically confront businesses.  Perhaps the first one which needs to be tackled is the commercial/office lease.
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Thursday, October 5, 2017

The Benefits to Charitable Giving


 

Making lifetime gifts to charitable organizations, including many educational institutions that are registered as charitable organizations, offers many tax advantages.  Generally speaking, making these gifts permits one to take a deduction on one's income tax return.  Additionally, lifetime gifting removes assets from one's taxable estate.

In addition to making lifetime gifts, one can make provision in one's will or trust to leave money to charitable organizations, thus avoiding estate tax on those monies.  Often, if  a client has a taxable estate, it makes sense to leave some money to a charity instead of paying taxes to the federal and/or state government.


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Monday, September 25, 2017

How to Protect Your Assets


 

Clients are often confused about the differences between irrevocable trusts and revocable living trusts, and the consequences they each have for medicaid planning.  Those who advocate living trusts commonly lead people to believe that these trusts will protect one’s assets in the event long-term health care is needed. While living trusts serve the purpose of avoiding probate, they do not protect your assets. Since you still maintain control over the assets in your revocable trust, they are still considered available to pay for your health care needs.  The only way to protect assets from long-term health care costs and creditors is to transfer assets to family members or to an irrevocable medicaid trust.
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Monday, September 11, 2017

How to Prevent Collection Problems



It is indeed troubling when you experience a payment problem after having exerted your best efforts to render valuable services or deliver high quality goods to a customer.  Aside from the annoyance caused by non-payment, there are obvious financial repercussions as well. Fortunately, there are a number of steps one can take to minimize payment problems.

Of course, requiring potential customers to sign a simple contract with you before goods are delivered or services are rendered will help in avoiding disputes.  A contract also serves to remind the customer of his or her payment obligation and conveys to the customer that you treat your business (and payment) seriously.
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At the Law Office of Angela Siegel, we are pleased to offer legal assistance to clients located in Nassau, Suffolk, Queens, Kings and New York Counties specifically but not limited to Garden City, Jericho, East Meadow, Mineola, Syosset, Roslyn, Cedarhurst, Woodmere, Hicksville, Plainview, Merrick, Wantagh, Bellmore, Rockville Center, West Hempstead, Little Neck, Douglaston, Bayside, Flushing, Forest Hills, Astoria, etc., as well as clients located within the state of Florida.



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