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Estate Planning

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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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 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, July 31, 2017

Creative Uses of the QTIP Trust


A Qualified Terminable Interest Property ("QTIP") Trust is a common estate planning tool in second marriages.  Essentially, a QTIP trust ensures that a person's assets will go to their children (or other next of kin) rather than to their new spouse, while providing an income stream to the new spouse.  The Trustee of the QTIP can also have some discretion to distribute principal to the new spouse, if necessary.  One of the problems the QTIP seeks to remedy is in the case of where one person dies, leaving all or most of their assets to their spouse, assuming that spouse will then leave the assets to the first person's children. Not too infrequently, the new spouse may not have a close relationship with his or her stepchildren and, so, changes his/her will to eliminate them.
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Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Necessity of Reviewing Your Estate Plan


It is important to review all of one’s estate planning documents, from time to time, to see if the contents of the documents still adequately reflect one’s wishes.  At a minimum, your will, health care proxy, living will and durable of power of attorney should be looked at by an experienced attorney, to make sure the documents have been properly prepared and that no revisions are needed due to changes in the law.

In addition to reviewing and updating your will and other estate planning documents, it is essential that you periodically check your beneficiary designations on annuities, life insurance policies, IRAs and other types of retirement accounts, to ensure they properly reflect your desires and estate planning goals.  Clients often overlook these beneficiary designations, and assume that the terms of their will or trust will determine where these assets pass.  The fact is that beneficiary designations essentially supersede the terms of any estate planning documents which have been prepared.

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Friday, June 30, 2017

Five Simple Ways to Reduce Your Estate Tax Liability


While there are very sophisticated estate planning techniques used to reduce one's taxable estate, while the client is living, there are also some simple, inexpensive ways to do so.  Yes, attorneys can establish all types of trusts for clients, in order to shelter assets from estate taxes, and those trusts are certainly useful, but things don't have to be that complicated.  Here are just a few easy ways to accomplish your goals.

1.  Annual Gifting:  Each person can give the sum of $14,000 per individual each year, without having to report the gift on a gift tax return, and without it reducing the donor's unified credit for estate taxes.


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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Probating Wills and Administering Estates in Florida and New York


 

It sometimes seems confusing to clients to find out that the probate process (the court process one needs to go through when a person passes away and leaves a will) and the administration process (when one dies without a will) is different in every state. While there are many similarities in the process, some states have more streamlined processes than others.

Surprisingly, New York is one of the easiest states to probate a will and administer an estate, while Florida is one of the most difficult.  If one is a snowbird, spending time in each state, the question becomes, in what state is the will probated or the estate administered?  This is determined by the residency one declares while one is alive.  Having said that, however, caution must be taken when giving information for the death certificate, because the state you put down for residency there will often control where the procedure must occur.
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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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