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Friday
Jun092017

6 Life Events That Require An Immediate Estate Plan Update

Estate planning is the process of developing a strategy for the care and management of your estate if you become incapacitated or upon your death. One commonly known purpose of estate planning is to minimize taxes and costs, including taxes imposed on gifts, estates, generation skipping transfer and probate court costs. However, your plan must also name someone who will make medical and financial decisions for you if you cannot make decisions for yourself.  You also need to consider how to leave your property and assets while considering your family’s circumstances and needs.

Since your family’s needs and circumstances are constantly changing, so too must your estate plan. Your plan must be updated when certain life changes occur. These include, but are not limited to the following Six: 1) Marriage, 2) The birth or adoption of a new family member, 3) Divorce, 4) The death of a loved one, 5) A significant change in assets, and 6) A move to a new state or country.

1. Marriage: 

It is not uncommon for estate planning to be the last item on the list when a couple is about to be married - whether for the first time or not. On the contrary, marriage is an essential time to update an estate plan. You probably have already thought about updating emergency contacts and adding your spouse to existing health and insurance policies. There is another important reason to update an estate plan upon marriage. In the event of death, your money and assets may not automatically go to your spouse, especially if you have children of a prior marriage, a prenuptial agreement, or if your assets are jointly owned with someone else (like a sibling, parent, or other family member). A comprehensive estate review can ensure you and your new spouse can rest easy.

2. Birth Or Adoption Of Children Or Grandchildren: 

When a new baby is born, it seems like everything changes—and so should your estate plan. For example, your trust may not “automatically” include your new child, depending on how it is written. So, it is always a good idea to check and add the new child as a beneficiary. As the children (or grandchildren) grow in age, your estate plan should adjust to ensure assets are distributed in a way that you deem proper. What seems like a good idea when your son or granddaughter is a four-year-old may no longer look like a good idea once their personality has developed and you know them as a 25-year-old college graduate, for example.

 3. Divorce: 

Some state and federal laws may remove a former spouse from an inheritance after the couple splits, however, this is not always the case, and it certainly should not be relied on as the foundation of your plan. After a divorce, you should immediately update beneficiary designations for all insurance policies and retirement accounts, any powers of attorney, and any existing health care proxy and HIPAA authorizations. It is also a good time to revamp your will and trust to make sure it does what you want (and likely leaves out your former spouse).

 4. The Death Of A Loved One: 

Sometimes those who are named in your estate plan pass away. If an appointed guardian of your children dies, it is imperative to designate a new person. Likewise, if your chosen executor, health care proxy or designated power of attorney dies, new ones should be named right away.

 5. Significant Change In Assets

Whether it is a sudden salary increase, inheritance, or the purchase of a large asset these scenarios should prompt an adjustment an existing estate plan. The bigger the estate, the more likely there will be issues over the disposition of the assets after you are gone. For this reason, it is best to see what changes, if any, are needed after a significant increase (or decrease) in your assets.

 6. A Move To A New State Or Country

For most individuals, it is a good idea to obtain a new set of estate planning documents that clearly meet the new state’s legal requirements. Estate planning for Americans living abroad or those who have assets located in numerous countries is even more complicated and requires professional assistance. It is always a good idea to learn what you need to do to completely protect yourself and your family when you move to a new state or country.

If you want to ensure that your family is cared for, please click here to schedule your complimentary Estate Planning Strategy Call with San Francisco’s premier estate planning attorney, Matthew J. Tuller. 


Sunday
May282017

Life Insurance and Estate Planning: Protecting Your Beneficiaries’ Interests

One misconception people have about life insurance is that naming beneficiaries is all you should do to ensure the benefits of life insurance will be available for a surviving spouse, children, or other intended beneficiary. Life insurance is an important estate planning tool, but without certain protections in place, there's no guarantee that your spouse or children will receive the benefit of your purchase of life insurance. Consider the following examples:

Example 1: David identifies his wife Betsy as the beneficiary on a life insurance policy. Betsy does receive the death benefit from the insurance policy, but when Betsy remarries, she adds her new husband’s name to the bank account where she deposited the death benefit. In so doing, she leaves the death benefit from David’s life insurance to her new husband, rather than to her children as she and David discussed before his death and which is what she indicates in her will.

Example 2: Dawn, a single mother, names her 10-year-old son Mark as a beneficiary on her life insurance. She passes away when he is twelve. The court names a relative as a guardian or conservator for Mark until he is of age. When Mark reaches his 18th birthday, his inheritance has been partially spent down on court costs, attorney’s fees, and guardian or conservator fees. Additionally, it hasn’t kept pace with inflation because of the restrictive investment options available to guardians or conservators. Dawn hoped the life insurance proceeds would be there for Mark’s college, but the costs and lack of investment flexibility mean there may not be as much as Dawn hoped.

Solution: Use a Trust as the Beneficiary on Your Life Insurance:

When estate planning, a common method for passing assets is by placing them in a trust, with a spouse or children as beneficiaries. The same approach may also be used for life insurance policy proceeds. You can designate the trust as the life insurance policy's beneficiary, so the death benefits flow directly into the trust. Two popular ways to accomplish this:

  1. Revocable Living Trust (RLT) Is the named beneficiary:

This option works well for those who have a modest-sized estate or who have already set up a trust. Naming your RLT as a life insurance beneficiary simply adds those death benefits to what you already have in trust, payable only to beneficiaries of the trust itself. The benefit of this approach is that it instantly coordinates your life insurance proceeds with the rest of your estate plan.

       2. Set up an Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust (ILIT):

For an added layer of protection, an ILIT can both own the life insurance policy and be named as the beneficiary. As The Balance explains, this not only protects the death benefits from potential creditors and predators, but from estate taxes as well.

With the estate tax exemption at $5.49 million per person in 2017, and a potential repeal on the legislative agenda of President Trump and the Republican Congress, you may not need estate tax planning. But everyone who’s purchased life insurance needs to take an extra step to ensure your loved ones' financial future. To discuss your best options for structuring your life insurance estate plan, schedule your complimentary Estate Planning Strategy Session with our office.

If you want to ensure that your family is cared for, please click here to schedule your complimentary Estate Planning Strategy Call with San Francisco’s premier estate planning attorney, Matthew J. Tuller.

Friday
May262017

Building Asset Protection Into Your Estate Plan

Much of estate planning relates to the way a person’s assets will be distributed upon their death. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg. From smart incapacity planning to diligent probate avoidance, there is a lot that goes into crafting a comprehensive estate plan. One crucial factor to consider is asset protection.

One of the most important things to understand about asset protection is that not much good can come from trying to protect your assets reactively when surprised by situations like bankruptcy or divorce. The best way to take full advantage of estate planning concerning asset protection is to prepare proactively long before these things ever come to pass—and hopefully many of them won’t. First, let’s cover the two main types of asset protection:

Asset Protection For Yourself:

This is the kind that must be done long in advance of any proceedings that might threaten your assets, such as bankruptcy, divorce, or judgement. As there are many highly-detailed rules and regulations surrounding this type of asset protection, it’s important to lean on your estate planning attorney’s expertise.

Asset Protection For Your Heirs:

This type of asset protection involves setting up discretionary lifetime trusts rather than outright inheritance, staggered distributions, mandatory income trusts, or other less protective forms of inheritance. There are varying grades of protection offered by different strategies. For example, a trust that has an independent distribution trustee who is the only person empowered to make discretionary distributions offers much better protection than a trust that allows for so-called ascertainable standards distributions. Don’t worry about the complexity - we are here to help you best protect your heirs and their inheritance.

This complex area of estate planning is full of potential miscalculation, so it's crucial to obtain qualified advice and not solely rely on common knowledge about what's possible and what isn't. But as a general outline, let’s look at three critical junctures when asset protection can help, along with the estate planning strategies we can build together that can set you up for success.

  1. Bankruptcy:

It’s entirely possible that you’ll never need asset protection, but it’s much better to be ready for whatever life throws your way. You’ve worked hard to get where you are in life, and just a little strategic planning will help you hold onto what you have so you can live well and eventually pass your estate’s assets on to future beneficiaries. But experiencing an unexpected illness or even a large-scale economic recession could mean you wind up bankrupt.

Bankruptcy asset protection strategy: Asset protection trusts:

Asset protection trusts hold on to more than just liquid cash. You can fund this type of trust with real estate, investments, personal belongings, and more. Due to the nature of trusts, the person controlling those assets will be a trustee of your choosing. Now that the assets within the trust aren’t technically in your possession, they can stay out of creditors’ reach — so long as the trust is irrevocable, properly funded, and operated in accordance with all the asset protection law’s requirements. In fact, asset protections trusts must be formed and funded well in advance of any potential bankruptcy and have numerous initial and ongoing requirements. They are not for everyone, but can be a great fit for the right type of person.

       2. Divorce

One of the last things you want to have happen to the nest egg you’ve saved is for your children to lose it in a divorce. To make sure your beneficiaries get the parts of your estate that you want to pass onto them—regardless of how their marriage develops—is a discretionary trust.

 Divorce asset protection strategy: Discretionary trusts:

When you create a trust, the property it holds doesn’t officially belong to the beneficiary, making trusts a great way to protect your assets in a divorce. Discretionary trusts allow for distribution to the beneficiary but do not mandate any distributions. As a result, they can provide access to assets but reduce (or even eliminate) the risk that your child’s inheritance could be seized by a divorcing spouse. There are several ways to designate your trustee and beneficiaries, who may be the same person, and, like with many legal issues, there are some other decisions that need to be made. Discretionary trusts, rather than outright distributions, are one of the best ways you can provide robust asset protection for your children.

Family LLCs or partnerships are another way to keep your assets safe in divorce proceedings. Although discretionary trusts are advisable for people across a wide spectrum of financial means, family LLCs or partnership are typically only a good fit for very well-off people.

Judgment:

When an upset customer or employee sues a company, the business owner’s personal assets can be threatened by the lawsuit. Even for non-business owners, injury from something as small as a stranger tripping on the sidewalk outside your house can end up draining the wealth you’ve worked so hard for. Although insurance is often the first line of defense, it is often worth exploring other strategies to comprehensively protect against this risk.

  Judgment asset protection strategy: Incorporation:

Operating your small business as a limited liability company (commonly referred to as an LLC) can help protect your personal assets from business-related lawsuits. As mentioned above, malpractice and other types of liability insurance can also protect you from damaging suits. Risk management using insurance and business entities is a complex discipline, even for small businesses, so don’t only rely on what you’ve heard online or “common sense.” You owe it to your family to work with a group of qualified professionals, such as us as your estate planning attorney and an insurance advisor, to develop a comprehensive asset protection strategy for your business.

These are just a few ways we can optimize your estate plan to keep your assets protected, but every plan should be tailored to an individual’s exact circumstances. Contact our office so we can determine the best asset protection strategies for your estate plan.

If you want to ensure that your family is cared for, please click here to schedule your complimentary Estate Planning Strategy Call with San Francisco’s premier estate planning attorney, Matthew J. Tuller.

 

Sunday
Feb262017

Better to Play it Safe: Proactive Estate Planning & Cognitive Impairment

Most financially savvy individuals begin planning their estate when they’re in peak mental shape. The idea that this might change at some point in the distant future is an unpleasant one, and they would rather go about their estate planning as if they’ll be as sharp as a tack late into their golden years. Unfortunately, this common approach of ignoring a potential problem and hoping it simply won’t happen can leave a giant hole in your estate plan. Read on to find out that this common hole can be more easily filled than you might think. 

Expect The Best, But Plan for The Worst:

The reality is that an individual’s chances of experiencing some form of cognitive impairment rise with age. While it’s never certain whether cognitive impairment will occur, smart estate planning means factoring it in as a very real possibility.

As the huge baby boomer generation transitions from the workforce and begins to make their way into retirement, cases of Alzheimer's are expected to spike from the current 5.1 million to 13.2 million as soon as 2050. Alzheimer’s is just one of several cognitive impairment conditions along with dementia and the much more common mild cognitive impairment, or MCI, which is often a precursor to those more serious ailments.

As U.S. life expectancies increase, the chances of living with cognitive impairment increase as well — with at least 9.5 percent of Americans over 70 experiencing it in one form or another.

No matter your age or family history, cognitive impairment can affect anyone although it’s widely acceptedto affect mostly older adults. As you implement or revise your estate plan, it is well worth the effort to plan for this potential. Luckily, estate planning attorneys have developed good solutions to handle this circumstance and can help guide you on the best way to protect yourself and your family.

 An Easily-Avoidable Estate Planning Mistake:

Consider Ashley’s story. A successful real estate agent with a stellar career in her hometown of Kalamazoo, MI, Ashley begins planning her estate in her mid-thirties.

She partners with an estate planning attorney, and together they draft a revocable living trust with Ashley’s preferred beneficiaries and charities in mind, figure out guardianship for her two sons in case she and her husband pass suddenly, and settle on an appropriate beneficiary for her life insurance policy. Now that she knows where her assets will go after her death, Ashley rests easy assuming there’s nothing more that needs doing in her estate plan.

Save Your Family From Obstacles and Conundrums:

But forty years down the road, Ashley’s children realize her MCI is developing into Alzheimer’s. Although she’s occasionally visited with her attorney to adjust her plan, she never added any provisions for how she wanted her children and other guardians to handle a situation like this. Here’s where things get complicated.

Ashley did not work with her estate planning attorney to put disability provisions into her trust and never worked with an insurance professional to purchase adequate income insurance or long-term care insurance. The care she requires to live her best life possible with cognitive impairment doesn’t come cheap. Those mounting care costs will likely quickly erode Ashley’s estate. As a result, her estate plan may no longer work as intended, since it no longer lines up with her actual asset portfolio.

But since Ashley does not have the ability to rework her estate plan in her current mental state, her family is left with the burden of figuring out what to do while navigating a complex and bureaucratic legal system in the guardianship or conservatorship court. No one in the family really knows what Ashley’s wishes are regarding both serious medical decisions and financial changes. All Ashley’s family wants is to see her enjoying her remaining years in peace and security, but they are now tasked with using guesswork to make difficult choices on her behalf while a guardianship or conservatorship court watches every move.

Give Us a Call Today:

Factoring the potential for cognitive impairment into your estate plan doesn’t have to be a headache. In fact, a little effort now by legally designating who you want to be in charge and what you want them to do can have a wonderful impact on you and your family later on. We can work together to ensure your estate plan is ready for whatever life throws your way. If you want to ensure that your family is cared for, please click here to schedule your complimentary Estate Planning Strategy Call with San Francisco’s premier estate planning attorney, Matthew J. Tuller.

Friday
Feb172017

Why Factoring Long-Term Care Into Your Estate Plan Pays Off

For most people, thinking about estate planning means focusing on what will happen to their money after they pass away. But that misses one pretty significant consideration: the need to plan for long-term care.

The last thing any of us want to contend with when a health issue arises later in life is having to throw together a hasty estate planning solution in the face of mounting medical costs. Your best defense is careful planning with the help of a trusted expert.

Why it’s so important to plan for long-term care:

While only about 19 percent of current U.S. residents will need to reside under long-term care for a period of over three years, that number sharply increases when factoring in nursing home stays of a shorter duration — which will still have a substantial impact on your estate.

Whether the care you need takes place in a nursing home, assisted living facility, or with an in-home provider, the costs can mount with alarming speed. For example, national average rates for assisted living hover around $3,500 per month. As those costs add up, you could see your assets dwindle much sooner than you’d hoped. Luckily, estate planning attorneys can help in several ways.

What to go over with your estate attorney:

If long-term care isn’t factored into your estate plan, you are probably not looking at a truly realistic and accurate representation of your assets. Talk to your estate planning attorney about the following factors in order to get on the right track:

  1. Set reasonable expectations for long-term care:

It’s impossible to know what life will bring, but we can certainly make educated guesses. For example, are there any major diseases that run in your family? There is a chance you will have the good fortune of staying healthy well into your golden years, but estate planning is an aspect of your financial life in which it’s helpful to protect yourself against worst-case scenarios.

In the estimated likelihood that you will require such care, at what age could you reasonably predict you’ll need it? Do you have any current health conditions to consider? Exploring these possibilities may not be the most enjoyable exercise, but it’s far better than facing the reality of long-term care with no plans in place.

2. Consider a long-term care insurance policy:

As Medicare or standard health insurance may not cover your costs, a long-term care insurance policy is one way to protect yourself against draining your financial assets. Ask for resources for finding an affordable premium that isn’t likely to increase prohibitively over time. Begin this process as soon as possible, as your premium will be lower the younger you are when you apply.

Another potential oversight is assuming your long-term care will be covered by Medicaid. Discuss it as an option to determine your qualifications and get authoritative insights about the specificities of your unique financial situation in terms of Medicaid benefits.

3. Get Smart About Living Wills and Trusts:

To best prepare your loved ones for complex medical decisions, go over advance directives. In addition, discuss options for setting a revocable living trust, and possibly one or more irrevocable trusts, like a life insurance trust or a charitable remainder trust, as part of your long-term care planning.

It’s also important to create a plan that allows someone you trust to access and utilize your financial resources for your benefit in the event of unforeseen medical circumstances. One common mistake is tying up assets in investments that lack liquidity when you need them most. For example, money locked into annuities can result in a fee for early withdrawal. Working with a team of that includes an estate planning attorney, financial advisor, and insurance professional can provide you and your family with the best overall solution.

Take the time now to talk to an estate planning attorney about the best ways to maintain financial security in tandem with the demands of long-term care. Even if you don’t end up needing long-term care in you lifetime, you can enjoy the peace of mind knowing you’ll be covered.

The process of completing a long-term care plan may sound daunting, but we’re here to help you by making it a streamlined experience—simply get in touch with us today and let us put you in a more secure position for the future. If you want to ensure that your family is cared for, please click here to schedule your complimentary Estate Planning Strategy Call with San Francisco’s premier estate planning attorney, Matthew J. Tuller.

Friday
Dec092016

3 Celebrity Probate Disasters and Lessons to Learn from Them

With all the wealth accumulated by the rich and famous, one would assume that celebrities would take steps to protect their estates once they pass on. But think again: Some of the world’s richest and most famous people have passed away without a will or a trust, while others have made mistakes that tied their fortunes and heirs up for years in court. Let’s look at three high-profile celebrity probate disasters and discover what lessons we can learn from them.

1. Tom Carvel:

As the man who invented soft-serve ice cream and established the first franchise business in America, Tom Carvel had a net worth of up to $200 million when he passed away in 1990. He did have a will and accompanying trust that provided for his widow, family members and donations for several charities, but he also named seven executors, all of whom had a financial stake in the game. The executors began infighting that lasted for years and cost millions. In the end, Carvel’s widow passed away before the disputes could be settled, essentially seeing none of the money.

Lesson learned: “Too many cooks spoil the broth.” Your trustee and executor may have to make tough decisions. Consider naming executors and trustees who have no financial interest in your estate to reduce the risk of favoritism. Also, consider have only a single trustee and executor rather than a committee.

2. Jimi Hendrix:

Passing away tragically at age 27, rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix left no will when he died. What he did leave behind was a long line of relatives, music industry bigwigs, and business associates who had an interest in what would become of his estate - both what he left behind, and what his intellectual property would continue to earn. An attorney managed the estate for the first two decades after Jimi’s death, after which Jimi’s father Al Hendrix successfully sued for control of the estate. But when Al attempted to leave the entire estate to his adopted daughter upon his passing, Jimi’s brother, Leon Hendrix, sued, launching a messy probate battle that left no clear winners.

Lesson learned: When you don’t leave a will or trust, the effects can last for generations. An experienced estate planning attorney can help put your wishes in writing so they are carried out after your death rather than opening a door to costly conflict.

3. Prince:

The court battle currently in preparation over Prince’s estate is a celebrity probate disaster in action. When the 80’s pop icon died in early 2016, he left no will, reportedly due to some previous legal battles that left him with a distrust of legal professionals in general. The lines are already being drawn for what will likely be a costly and lengthy court battle among Prince’s heirs. Sadly, there’s even a battle looming about determining who his heirs are—for certain.

Lesson learned: Correct legal documentation protects your legacy. Don’t let a general distrust or a bad experience cause your heirs to fight and potentially lose their inheritance.

These celebrity probate disasters serve as stark reminders that no one’s wealth is exempt from the legal trouble that can occur without proper estate planning. As always, we are here to help you protect your family and legacy. If you want to ensure that your family is cared for, please click here to schedule your complimentary Estate Planning Strategy Call with San Francisco’s premier estate planning attorney, Matthew J. Tuller.

Thursday
Sep152016

4 Famous Estate Planning Debacles—The Importance Of Proper Planning 

These four celebrity estate planning fiascos offer lessons about how to handle your own planning and legacies.
  1. Pablo Picasso – The great artist died in 1973 at 91 without a will, a status referred to as “intestate.” Of course, Picasso isn't the first, or the last, celebrity to die intestate. However, after he died, his six heirs fought for six years over the wealth of assets he left behind. One lesson for us all: Make sure you have your estate planning documents in place before you go. 
  2. Heath Ledger – It was a huge surprise, and disappointment, to millions of adoring fans when Heath Ledger died in 2008 at the age of 28. He did leave a will. Unfortunately, he didn't update the will after the birth of his daughter. Fortunately for his daughter, the family decided to include her in the inheritance, which proves that sometimes people do the right thing. But what if his family had insisted instead on the terms of Heath’s will?  One lesson for us: When there’s a big change in your family situation (or when you have a life changing epiphany about your core values and legacy), update your plans accordingly. Do not assume that just because you’re young and healthy that you will have lots of time to get things in order. Do not assume that, since you have a plan in place, it will automatically update to match your current desires and needs.
  3.  Philip Seymour Hoffman – Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman didn't want his children to grow up as “trust-fund babies.” Fair enough, but he decided to leave his inheritance with his girlfriend, counting on her to care for his children on his behalf. The problem: there was no guarantee that would happen. Since the two weren't married, Hoffman's estate was hit with a huge tax. One lesson for us: A trust that includes your guidance about the proper use of the funds is better than hoping for the best with one that leaves your wishes undefined.
  4. Tom Clancy – Author Tom Clancy left behind a huge fortune, but his estate planning documents weren't clear about some of the important details. These issues led to drama for family members. One lesson for us: the more complicated your family, your assets, and your business dealings are, the more accurate, precise, and proactive you need to be in working with us on your estate plan.
 

Whether you’re just starting to explore the need for estate planning or you’re a seasoned veteran with a well-worn trust binder, we should all remember a few key points:

1. Have estate planning documents in place, even if you’re young and healthy and think you’ll have plenty of time to get things in order later.

2. When there’s a change in your family situation (marriage, birth, or death) or if you’ve changed your mind about something, update your plans accordingly. Do not assume that since you have a plan in place, it will automatically update to match your current desires and needs.

3. Provide guidance to your family about how you would like them to use their inheritance. Do not rely on hope or verbal instructions. The best place for guidance is in your trust or in an intent letter that can help your trustee manage your trust.

4. If you’re well-off or have complex assets, you need to work with your estate planning attorney in a more proactive way to avoid potential missteps while still achieving your goals.

If you want to ensure that your family is cared for, please click here to schedule your complimentary Estate Planning Strategy Call with San Francisco’s premier estate planning attorney, Matthew J. Tuller.
Friday
Apr222016

Revocable Trust v. Irrevocable Trust: Which Is Best for You?

Trusts allow you to avoid probate, minimize taxes, provide organization, maintain control, and provide for yourself and your heirs. In its most simple terms, a trust is a book of instructions wherein you tell your people what to do, when.

While there are many types of trusts, the major distinction between trusts is whether they are revocable or irrevocable. Let’s take a look at both so you’ll have the information you need:

Revocable Trusts. Revocable trusts are also known as “living trusts” because they benefit you during your lifetime and you can alter, change, modify, or revoke them if your circumstances or goals change.

1. You stay in control of your revocable trust. You can transfer property into a trust and take it out, serve as the trustee, and be the beneficiary. You have full control. Most of our clients like that.

2. You select successor trustees to manage the trust if you become incapacitated and when you die.   Most of our clients like that they, not the courts, select who’s in charge when they need help.

3. Your trust assets avoid probate. This makes it difficult for creditors to access assets since they must petition a court for an order to enable the creditor to get to the assets held in the trust. Most of our clients want to protect their beneficiaries’ inheritances.

Irrevocable Trusts: When irrevocable trusts are used, assets are transferred out of the Grantor’s estate into the name of the trust.  You, as the Grantor, cannot alter, change, modify, or revoke this trust after execution. It’s irrevocable and you usually can’t be in control.

1. Irrevocable trust assets have increased asset protection and are kept out of the reach of creditors.

2. Taxes are often reduced because, in most cases, irrevocable trust assets are no longer part of your estate.

3. Trust protectors can modify your trust if your goals become frustrated.

As experienced estate planning attorneys, we can help you figure out whether a revocable or irrevocable trust is a good fit for you and your loved ones. If you want to ensure that your family is cared for, please click here to schedule your complimentary Estate Planning Strategy Call with San Francisco’s premier estate planning attorney, Matthew J. Tuller.

Wednesday
Apr132016

10 Types of Trusts: A Quick Look

Considering the myriad of trusts available, creating an estate plan that works can seem daunting.  However, that’s what we, as estate planning attorneys, do every day. We know the laws and will design a plan which addresses your specific situation. 

Here’s a look at the basics of ten common trusts to provide a general understanding. There will not be a quiz at the end. All you need to do when we meet is share your goals and insight into your family and financial situation, we’ll design a plan that incorporates the best documents for your situation.

1. Bypass Trusts. Commonly referred to as Credit Shelter Trust, Family Trust, or B Trust, Bypass Trusts do just that: bypass the surviving spouse’s estate to take advantage of tax exclusions and provide asset protection. 

2. Charitable Lead Trusts. CLT's are split interest trusts which provide a stream of income to a charity of your choice for a period of years or a lifetime. Whatever’s left goes to you or your loved ones.

3. Charitable Remainder Trusts. CRTs are split interest trusts which provide a stream of income to you for a period of years or a lifetime and the remainder goes to the charity of your choice. 

4. Special Needs Trusts. SNT's allow you to benefit someone with special needs without disqualifying them for governmental benefits. Federal laws allow special needs beneficiaries to obtain benefits from a carefully crafted trust without defeating eligibility for government benefits.

5. Generation-Skipping Trusts.  GST Trusts allow you to distribute your assets to your grandchildren, or even to later generations, without paying the generation-skipping tax.

6. Grantor Retained Annuity Trusts. GRAT's are irrevocable trusts which are used to make large financial gifts to family members while limiting estate and gift taxes.

7. Irrevocable Life Insurance Trusts. ILIT's are designed to exclude life insurance proceeds from the deceased’s estate for tax purposes. However, proceeds are still available to provide liquidity to pay taxes, equalize inheritances, fund buy-sell agreements, or provide an inheritance.

8. Marital Trusts. Marital Trusts are designed to provide asset protection and financial benefits to a surviving spouse. Trust assets are included in his or her estate for tax purposes.

9. Qualified Terminable Interest Property Trusts.  QTIP's initially provide income to a surviving spouse and, upon his or her death, the remaining assets are distributed to other named beneficiaries. These are commonly used in second marriage situations and to maximize estate and generation-skipping tax exemptions and tax planning flexibility.

10.  Testamentary Trusts. Testamentary Trusts are created in a will. These trusts are created upon an individual's death and are commonly used to provide for a beneficiary. They are commonly used when a beneficiary is too young, has medical or drug issues, or may be a spendthrift. Trusts also provide asset protection from lawsuits brought against the beneficiary.

There are many types of trusts available. We’ll help you select which trusts, if any, are a good fit for you. If you want to ensure that your family is cared for, please click here to schedule your complimentary Estate Planning Strategy Call with San Francisco’s premier estate planning attorney, Matthew J. Tuller.

Tuesday
Mar292016

James Brown’s Vague Estate Plan Equated To Years of Family Litigation

James Brown, the legendary singer, songwriter, record producer, dancer, and bandleader was known to many as the “Godfather of Soul.” Although he intended his estimated $100 million estate to provide for all of his children and grandchildren, his intentions were somewhat vague.  This forced his family into years of litigation which ended up in the South Carolina Supreme Court.

As an estate planning attorney, I work with my clients’ to ensure that we avoid these types of situations before they happen. In this author’s humble opinion, it is well worth spending the time up-front, to avoid the nightmares that can result later without proper planning.

Everything Seemed In Order…

Brown signed his last will and testament in front of Strom Thurmond, Jr. in 2000. Along with the will that bequeathed personal assets such as clothing, cars, and jewelry, Brown created a separate, irrevocable trust which bequeathed music rights, business assets, and his South Carolina home. 

At first glance, it seems as though everything in Brown’s estate plan was in order. In fact, he was very specific about most of his intentions, including:

  1. Donating the majority of his music empire to an educational charity
  2. Providing for each of his six adult living children (Terry Brown, Larry Brown, Daryl Brown, Yamma Brown Lumar, Deanna Brown Thomas and Venisha Brown)
  3. Creating a family education fund for his grandchildren

However, only days after his death in 2006 from congestive heart failure, chaos erupted. 

Heirs Not Happy With Charitable Donation:

Apparently, Brown’s substantial charitable donations didn’t sit well with his heirs. Both his children and wife contested the estate.

 i. Children. His children filed a lawsuit against the personal representatives of Brown's estate alleging impropriety and alleged mismanagement of Brown's assets. (This was likely a protest of the charitable donation.)

 ii. Wife. Brown’s wife at the time, Tomi Rae Hynie, and the son they had together, received nothing as Brown never updated his will to reflect the marriage or birth. In her lawsuit, Hynie asked the court to recognize her as Brown's widow and their son as an heir. 

In the end, the South Carolina Supreme Court upheld Brown’s plans to benefit charities and recognized Hynie and their son as an heir. 

Should You Anticipate Litigation?

Brown’s estate was substantial and somewhat controversial – and he failed to update or communicate his intentions to his family.  His heirs were taken by surprise.  And experienced attorney could have avoided much of the family upset.

If you want to ensure that your family is cared for, please click here to schedule your complimentary Estate Planning Strategy Call with San Francisco’s premier estate planning attorney, Matthew J. Tuller.


 

Friday
Feb122016

Investment, Insurance, Annuity, and Retirement Planning Considerations

If your clients choose to use a Standalone Retirement Trust (SRT) to provide asset protection benefits for their beneficiaries, then the tax-related asset allocation strategy would be essentially the same as without an SRT, with one small exception.

 Consider skewing your investment plan toward: 

  1. Loading retirement accounts and inherited retirement accounts with bonds, Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs), and other assets that produce income taxed as ordinary income;
  2. Housing stocks, Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs), and other qualified-dividend generating investments in taxable accounts; and
  3. Placing any high-growth assets in Roth or inherited Roth IRAs.
WARNING: SRT Tax Consequences:

That one small exception is that if your SRT is designed as an accumulation trust (necessary for asset protection), then the undistributed Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) accumulating in the trust will face tightly compressed trust tax rates. If the undistributed annual RMDs exceed $12,400 (2016), the SRT is hit with a 39.6% marginal tax rate, possibly much higher than a beneficiary's personal income tax rates. For this reason, you might select very low-growth assets you believe belong in a client’s total portfolio for the accumulation SRT. Examples of these assets might be cash, short-term bonds, etc.

Always Use an SRT?
  1.      Of course not. No planning is one-size-fits all. There may be cases where your client’s circumstances do not warrant the hassle and expense of creating an SRT. An example might be if the inherited IRA is quite small in relation to all the other assets your client is protecting. In such cases, here are some other approaches to consider:
  2.   For clients who are still working but not fully funding their workplace retirement plan (e.g. 401(k), 403(b), 457, SIMPLE IRA, SEP IRA, etc.) accelerate the depletion of the beneficiary IRA and use the extra taxable cash flow to max out tax-deferrals into the workplace plan. If for every dollar pulled from the inherited IRA an additional dollar is contributed to the workplace plan, the tax impact is neutral but the assets are now easily consolidated into a single account.
  3.       For clients who are in retirement, if the optimal liquidation strategy in their case is to consume qualified assets first (as might be the case for those who enjoy a window of low income tax rates between retirement and deliberately delayed Social Security benefits), then consider consuming the inherited IRAs first of all.
  4.       Depending on the circumstances, it may make sense for the client to hasten withdrawals from the inherited IRA to fund 529 plan contributions, to fund life insurance premiums, to fund Roth IRA conversions, HSA contributions, etc., in order to pass assets to heirs through those sorts of channels instead.
 

As a note to insurance agents or annuity-oriented brokers, though qualified longevity annuity contracts (QLACs) were approved in 2014 for a portion of the assets in one’s own IRA, they are not allowed in inherited IRAs.  And while life insurance is allowable in ERISA plans, it is not allowable in inherited IRAs any more than in one’s own IRA.

Team Up with Us:

We’d be happy to answer all SRT and retirement protection questions.  Please feel free to call with questions or if you’d like help planning for a client.  It takes a village.

If you want to ensure that your family is cared for, please click here to schedule your complimentary Estate Planning Strategy Call with San Francisco’s premier estate planning attorney, Matthew J. Tuller.

Monday
Feb242014

Understanding Losses: Liability Exposure

We live in a litigious society. Lawsuits abound, whether deserved or not. If you own property or stock that was purchased at a low price and has had high appreciation, it is at risk to litigation and creditors—even if you are not in a high-risk profession. Others may be in a private business such as medicine or law that bring with it additional exposures to monitor.

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Tuesday
Feb182014

Wealth Protection: Avoiding Losses

You can’t create wealth until you preserve it first. Each dollar lost unnecessarily isn’t just a single dollar lost, but a compounded dollar lost. A dollar not lost allows wealth to compound from a higher floor. Losses can occur from many places beyond investments: property, income, taxes and fees. It is well worth paying for the expertise of professional advisors who are able to prevent or reduce losses in all of these areas.

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Thursday
Feb062014

Understanding Losses: Property

Property insurance provides protection against most risks to property, such as fire, theft and some weather damage. However, if property has appreciated and there isn’t sufficient insurance for replacement value, any losses must be paid out of pocket. To protect your wealth from these kinds of losses, it is important to determine replacement values so you will have adequate insurance.

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Tuesday
Jan282014

Passion Investing as a Spark to Your Life

Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and over 50% of the Fortune 400’s The Richest People in America list have decided to give away their wealth for charitable pursuits. Of course, not many of us have that kind of money or are inclined to give away all we own. However, giving to charitable organizations is something that anyone can do, and we can all derive a similar satisfaction by investing in causes that light our passion.

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Sunday
Dec152013

The Many Needs for Life Insurance in Our Lives

While many people are hesitant when it comes to life insurance, the potential benefits are so great, that we recommend that you place your reservations on hold—if only momentarily—to consider the benefits, before writing off the idea completely.

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