Blog

With the federal gift and estate tax exemption now at a record high $11.58 million for 2020, most estates aren’t taxable. But that doesn’t mean making lifetime gifts isn’t without significant benefits — even if your estate isn’t taxable under the current rules. Let’s examine reasons why gifting remains an important part of estate planning. Lifetime gifts reduce estate taxes If your estate exceeds the exemption amount — or you...

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September 16, 2020

In a world that’s increasingly paperless, you’re likely becoming accustomed to conducting a variety of transactions digitally. But when it comes to your last will and testament, only an original, signed document will do. The original vs. a photocopy Many people mistakenly believe that a photocopy of a signed will is sufficient. In fact, most states require that a deceased’s original will be filed with the county clerk and, if...

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September 09, 2020

If you’re going through a divorce, you probably feel a little overwhelmed by all the legal and financial items you must attend to before the marriage termination is final. These tasks can be difficult, but revising your estate plan doesn’t have to be. What the law says Divorce generally extinguishes your spouse’s rights under your will or any trusts. So there’s little danger that your ex-spouse will inherit your property...

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September 02, 2020

You may use a qualified disclaimer to refuse a bequest from a loved one. Doing so will cause an asset to bypass your estate and go to the next beneficiary in line. What are the reasons you’d take this action? Here are five reasons: 1. Gift and estate tax savings. This is often cited as the main incentive for using a qualified disclaimer. For starters, the unlimited marital deduction shelters...

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August 19, 2020

You’ve probably seen it in the movies or on TV: A close-knit family gathers to find out what’s contained in the will of a wealthy patriarch or matriarch. When the terms are revealed, a niece, for example, benefits at the expense her uncle, causing a ruckus. This “bad blood” continues to boil between estranged family members, who won’t even speak to one another. Unfortunately, a comparable scenario can play out...

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August 05, 2020

Nearly everyone owns at least some digital assets, such as online bank and brokerage accounts, bill-paying services, cloud-based document storage, digital music collections, social media accounts, and domain names. But what happens to these assets when you die or if you become incapacitated? The answer depends on several factors, including the terms of your service agreements with the custodians of digital assets, applicable laws and the terms of your estate...

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August 03, 2020

If you have adopted children or unadopted stepchildren, estate planning is critical to ensure that your property is distributed the way you desire. Adopted children Adopted children are placed on an equal footing with biological children in most situations for estate planning purposes. Thus, adopted and biological children are treated the same way under a state’s intestate succession laws, which control who inherits property in the absence of a will....

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July 31, 2020

You may think of trusts as estate planning tools — vehicles for reducing taxes after your death. While trusts can certainly fill that role, they’re also useful for protecting assets, both now and later. After all, the better protected your assets are, the more you’ll have to pass on to loved ones. Creditors, former business partners, ex-spouses, “spendthrift” children and tax agencies can all pose risks. Here’s how trusts defend...

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July 29, 2020

Are you a multitasker? If so, you may appreciate an estate planning technique that can convert assets into a stream of lifetime income, provide a current tax deduction and leave the remainder to your favorite charity — all in one fell swoop. It’s the aptly named charitable remainder trust (CRT). A CRT in action You can set up one of two CRT types: a charitable remainder annuity trust (CRAT) or...

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July 08, 2020

The annual gift tax exclusion allows you to transfer up to $15,000 per beneficiary gift-tax-free for 2020, without tapping your lifetime gift and estate tax exemption. And you can double the exclusion to $30,000 per beneficiary if you elect to split the gifts with your spouse. It’s important to understand the rules surrounding gift-splitting to avoid unintended — and potentially costly — consequences. Understanding the pitfalls Common mistakes made when...

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July 06, 2020