I was on Jetblue this morning on my way home from a few days visiting my partner Jim’s mom. This very outgoing ‘snowbird’ who splits her time between Boca and Boston struck up a conversation with us. We eventually got to the ‘What do you do for a living” question and after ‘real estate’ and ‘estate planning’ law came out, these became the subjects of conversation for the duration of the flight. Like many seniors she was concerned about preserving as much of her wealth as possible for her children and also having enough income to live the way she likes to live for the rest of her life.
She wants her kids to benefit from her lifetime of savvy investments but is fearful that giving away her assets too early may cause her to have to depend on her kids. She was obviously a very independent woman who is currently on her own.
I gave her a short education on her ability to ‘gift’ up to 5 million dollars in assets that exceed the annual limit in your lifetime, before you start owing the gift tax though the use of some relatively simple planning strategies. Up to 5 million and no Gift tax? Correct.
Although she was proud that she had done some planning, she was not familiar with the ‘gift’ that congress has given to all of us for the balance of the next two years. I suggested that she call her estate planning attorney and inquire as to what her current options may be to obtain her goals.
It is time to explore the benefits of gift planning before the expiration of this ‘two year window,’ i.e. before the expiration of the 2010 Tax Relief Act, which is scheduled to end on December 31, 2012. Son, daughter, boyfriend, girlfriend, partner; you can benefit any or all of them and possibly reduce or eliminate taxes to your estate. You can give what you have to whom you want, and possibly not have taxes deplete your estate by missing this planning opportunity.
GRATs, Grantor Trusts and Gifting, are buzzwords for the estate tax planning strategies that we are exploring with our clients NOW. Unless congress passes a new tax bill, this $5 million dollar planning strategy opportunity will soon be history. We are currently advising our clients to whom these planning strategies may be beneficial to ‘use it or lose it.’ Will congress pass a new tax bill changing or extending these limits? Will I lose 10 pounds by summer? Who knows? But I am planning my weight loss strategy now. Why take the chance? To explore whether these strategies may be right for your estate, give me a call or send me an email. It would be my pleasure to have taken a part of preserving your legacy. firstname.lastname@example.org
As a pet lover, I’m thrilled to let you know that Massachusetts has joined a majority of other states in allowing people to set up a trust for the care of animal companions. Like many people, I think of pets as family members. You want your family and assets protected, so why wouldn’t you protect your pet with a pet trust?
What is a pet trust? Basically, a pet trust allows you to create a legally binding agreement that provides for the care of your pet if you become incapacitated or pass away. You can designate the person you want to care for your pet, leave money for the benefit of your pet, and set forth specific instructions. If Fluffy has a favorite brand of food, or needs her medicine given a particular way, and if Max will only visit a certain vet or has a favorite route for his walk, then you can spell this out in the trust. The pet trust will ensure that your pet’s daily routine isn’t interrupted.
If you’ve already set up an estate plan with us, contact us to discuss how you can add a pet trust to your current documents. Our office has already drafted several pet trusts for our clients so that their pets will maintain the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed! If you would like to learn more about pet trusts, we’re co-sponsoring an informational event with our neighborhood pet store, Polka Dog Bakery.
Join us on Wednesday, April 13 at 6:30pm for food, fun and gifts for your pet in an informational discussion on how you can take care of your pet with a Pet Trust. This event will be at our office at 530 Tremont St. in Boston. Please RSVP to Jim at email@example.com, or 617.357.9333, or simply use the contact form on our website.
Most people agree that having an estate plan is something they should do, but never get around to actually doing. As we begin a new year filled with hope for the future, what better time to think about setting up your estate plan? Along with the promise of all that a new year brings, the new legislation enacted by Congress effective January 1, 2011 increases the threshold amount for the Federal estate tax to $5,000,000 and decreases the Federal estate tax to 35%. This is terrific news and should give people an incentive to implement an estate plan.
In order to help you get started, here are three tips to get you from thinking about an estate plan to having an estate plan.
- Make a list of all your assets and debts. This includes items such as your home, car, jewelry and artwork, as well as your financial assets such as investment accounts, IRA assets, bank accounts and life insurance policies. You should list whether you own the asset individually or with another person. On a separate piece of paper, list all your obligations, such as mortgages and auto loans.
- Review the beneficiary designations on all accounts and life insurance policies. Any asset that allows you to designate beneficiaries will pass automatically upon your death. It is imperative that those individuals listed are current and reflect your wishes. Many people forget to update these. If you are unsure who you have listed as a beneficiary, contact the customer service department of the company holding the account or life insurance policy. You can also contact your bank to change your savings and checking accounts to a “payable on death” account.
- Meet with your advisors. If you have a financial advisor, schedule an appointment with him/her to map out a plan for your financial future. Contact an Estate Planning attorney to discuss what documents are appropriate for your unique situation. In order to maximize protection of your assets and to ensure that your wishes are carried out, you’ll want to have a Durable Power of Attorney, Health Care Power of Attorney, Living Will, HIPAA Authorization, Will and possibly a Revocable Living Trust. An Estate Planning attorney will also be able to help you with items 1 and 2 in this list so you don’t have to do everything on your own.
Once you’ve taken care of these items, you’ll feel much better knowing that your assets are protected and will be distributed according to your specific wishes.
If you have any questions about Estate Planning, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
Posted by Robert L. Vitale, Esq.