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Estate Planning Posts

New Federal estate tax law affects widows and widowers who have plans to remarry

Widows and widowers who are considering remarriage should be aware that a new federal tax law could potentially make a huge difference in how much of their assets they are able to leave to their heirs after taxes.

In general, anyone who is considering remarriage later in life should talk to an estate planning attorney first in order to avoid possible tax problems. But this new law gives added urgency to this rule, because it potentially could result in huge additional taxes – or tax savings – and planning for this possibility is essential.

Generally, when a person dies, his or her estate can give an unlimited amount to a surviving spouse tax-free. However, if the person’s bequests (plus large lifetime gifts) to other beneficiaries – such as children – total more than a certain “exemption amount,” then an estate tax must be paid. For 2012, the exemption amount is a little over $5 million.

In the past, the general rule was that the exemption amount applied separately to each spouse. So if a husband died first, his estate could use his exemption amount, and when his wife died later, she would get her own exemption amount. [Read more…]

Prevent a potential will contest when making your will.

People are sometimes concerned that after they die, a beneficiary (or more likely a non-beneficiary) will go to court to contest their will. Typically, a disgruntled would-be heir might claim that the person who made the will wasn’t mentally competent, or was under undue influence from some other person. These types of will contests can be very expensive, and they can cause a lot of emotional hardship within a family.

Recently, a handful of states have allowed people who make a will to go to court while they’re still alive and have a judge rule that the will is valid – thus preventing a will contest.

These states include Alaska, Arkansas, Nevada, North Dakota and Ohio. Similar legislation is pending in Delaware.

Even if you don’t live in one of those states, you might be able to obtain a court ruling there, such as by putting your assets into a revocable trust and hiring a trustee in that state.

[Read more…]

Some estates can save money by filing tax returns – even if they don’t have to

And people with older wills should have them reviewed now, due to a new law from Congress

A federal estate tax return doesn’t have to be filed every time someone dies. In fact, most estates never have to file one. In 2011 and 2012, a return has to be filed only if the person’s estate (including property, life insurance, taxable gifts, etc.) is worth $5 million or more.

However, even if a return isn’t required, a recent change in the law means there could be big tax savings for many families if they file one anyway.

The change applies to estates of people who die in 2011 or 2012 and are survived by a spouse.

There are strict time limits for filing a return, so if you know of someone whose family could take advantage of these savings, you or they should speak with an attorney right away.

[Read more…]

Update your will and review your beneficiary designations

Did you know that your will does not determine who gets your IRA or your 401(k) account when you die?

That’s right – these accounts are “non-probate” assets, which means they’re not covered by your will. Instead, they will generally go to whatever person you named as the beneficiary when you set up the account.

Similarly, your will doesn’t determine who gets your life insurance – that will go to the named beneficiary on the policy. And your brokerage account might have a beneficiary as well.

[Read more…]

Choosing the right right person as your executor or trustee.

Before you name someone as an executor or a trustee in your will – or before you agree to be an executor or a trustee – it’s a good idea to review exactly what responsibilities are involved.

These are serious jobs, and sometimes people don’t give enough thought to which person should be chosen.

Often, people simply name a spouse, a child, or a family friend. This might seem like a logical choice, and the person might expect to be given such a role, but that doesn’t mean they’re necessarily the best person for the job – particularly if they’re not detail-oriented, good with figures, and adept at handling money. Many people who quickly agree to act in these roles later come to regret it.

An executor’s job typically lasts about a year, and involves a lot of responsibility. Most executors hire an estate and probate attorney and sometimes other professionals to help them through the steps and make sure they don’t make any mistakes. However, you’ll still want to pick someone who is willing and responsible enough to handle the often difficult and time-consuming tasks.

[Read more…]

Trust property could be tied up by a long-term lease

A Rhode Island man put some property into a trust. The trust was designed to pay regular income from the property to the man’s son. When the son died, the property was to go to his grandson.

The trustee (a bank) entered into a long-term lease for the property. The result was that when the son died, the grandson didn’t get the property all to himself; instead, he inherited it subject to the lease, which meant he couldn’t immediately sell it.

The grandson sued the bank trustee. But a RI appeals court sided with the bank. It said there was nothing in state law or in the trust agreement that said the trustee couldn’t enter into a long-term lease, if that was otherwise an appropriate use of the property and a good way to provide income to the son.

[Read more…]

Creating ‘conservation easements’ to save taxes becomes easier

If you own land that you want to pass on to your heirs, but you also want to make sure that some historic, scenic, or agricultural value will be maintained and not destroyed by future development, you might be able to accomplish this with a “conservation easement”…and also save taxes at the same time.

A conservation easement is a restriction on your land that says it can never be developed in certain ways. When you create such an easement, you give it to a charity – usually one that has been created to preserve some historic, scenic or agricultural heritage. In some cases you can also give the easement to a government agency.

After that, the charity or agency has the right to enforce the easement and prevent such future development.

[Read more…]

Newport Estate Planning Attorneys

Newport Estate Planning and Probate Attorneys

Estate Planning Lawyers • Estate Management • Wills and Trusts • Wealth Protection

Contact us at the Newport business and estate planning law firm of Bardorf & Bardorf. We make providing professional, efficient, and effective legal services, our top priority.

Serving all of Newport County, including the cities and towns of Newport, Middletown, Portsmouth, Aquidneck Island, Tiverton, Little Compton, and Jamestown, Rhode Island.