Articles Posted in Asset Protection

Few people think about what will happen to their business after they die and therefore rarely put together a plan. Fewer may even think that a family or closely held business should be considered a part of their estate plan. However, for many small business owners, their financial interest in their business may be the largest asset that they have and represent most of the wealth that they will transfer at the time of their death. When transferring a family or closely held business, a well-funded life insurance policy can play a very large role in a smooth transition.

Providing For Your Children

There are a number of contingencies that a business owner has to consider when transferring their interest in their family or closely held business. While family businesses may be a truly family affair, with children working, operating and managing the business as well as the parents, it is a fact of life that not all of the children may be interested or suited to taking ownership of the business. In some cases, there might not be any children that wish to take over.

Parents believe that leaving their children the family home is a great boon but experience shows that beneficiaries are not happy with the bequest.

For many people in the United States chances are that their house is their most valuable asset. It makes sense then for most parents to leave their most valuable asset to their children. But this common inheritance is only a blessing for a small few of beneficiaries and a burden on most others.

Not A Quick Sell

Newly proposed IRS regulations meant to curb common estate and gift tax planning tactics is being met with a firestorm of resistance from financial advisers and estate planners across the country. The proposed regulations (REG-163113-02) place limitations on the use of current valuation discounts that reduce the overall value of assets in family-owned businesses, thus lowering a decedent’s estate and gift tax liability at the time of death. The IRS hope to achieve this end by disregarding restrictions that enabled taxpayers to use these discounts in the past.

Wealth Preservation In Closely Held Businesses

Currently, interests in closely held businesses are not taxed the same as other property interests due to their illiquid nature. Many tax and estate planners put a family’s assets in a closely held business to reduce their estate and gift tax liability. While this is a boon for many families seeking to preserve their wealth, others argue that what started out as a helpful tax break for legitimate family businesses is being abused and exploited by those who have no legitimate use of it.

It is common knowledge that in order for a New York will to be valid that there must be other people to witness you signing your will as well as putting down their own signatures on your will. Despite this knowledge though improper execution of the will is the most common reason that a will is found to be invalid.

Why Do I Need Witnesses At All?

Witnesses provide an important evidentiary function to the probate process. Witnesses to your signing can provide first-hand accounts of the execution of the will. If a will is ever contested, the witnesses can testify about the procedures that were followed when executing the will, the testamentary capacity of the testator as well as the mental capacity of the testator.

Pets Are Often An Overlooked Concern in Estate Planning

Despite their ubiquitous presence across the United States, few people consider the needs of their pets in their estate plan. People tend to be so concerned with providing for their children and making sure that their assets are protected from taxes that they forget about the members of their family that are always there for them.

When you consider providing for your pet after you are gone, it is important to have all of the necessary information. If you are putting together an estate plan that addresses the issue of taking care of your pets, keep the following in mind.

Most people plan their estate believing that everyone they have left money or bequests to will survive them, such as when a parent specifies that money or property will be left to a child. But sometimes unexpected deaths happen and when it does, many people are left wondering what will happen to the property that they specified to go to the predeceased. It is a tricky situation, but thankfully New York law and proper estate planning precautions can address the problem.

New York “Anti-Lapse” Statutes

Common law followed in the past dictated that gifts to someone who was deceased was null and void. This is due to the fact that a dead person cannot own property. Since they cannot have property, they cannot inherit it. When someone left property to a person who had predeceased them, the bequest would be said to have lapsed. This would have unintended consequences, such as cutting out people who would have inherited the property if the bequest had not failed and others receiving more than the testator intended.

It is not a common situation but it does happen. After you pass, your will is entered into probate and your beneficiaries are notified of your bequests but there is a problem: they do not want it. They refuse to take ownership of the property you have left them and in doing so have thrown a wrench in your well laid estate plan.

No Claim to the Bequest

When a beneficiary turns down a bequest this is known legally as a “disclaimer.” There is no requirement under a law that a person who is left assets or property under a will must take it. You cannot force property onto someone else. If a person disclaims a bequest, the person is treated as if they had predeceased the testator and the property will pass onto another beneficiary.

You are always told that you can leave whatever assets you want in your will to whomever you want. After all it is your last will and testament. Your will represents your final wishes and they are to be carried out to the letter. You may be shocked to learn that in some cases under New York law that your will can actually be disregarded almost in its entirety, and that special case comes into play if you do not leave anything to your spouse.

Sacred Institution, Sacred Inheritance Rights

Marriage holds a special place in society and the laws of New York not only reflect that distinctive position but also protects the institution of marriage. Under New York’s Estate Powers and Trusts law section 5-1.1, a surviving spouse has the right to collect assets from a deceased spouse’s estate if the deceased spouse’s will either does not provide for the surviving spouse or does not give enough to the surviving spouse. It does not matter if the will has bequeathed those assets to someone else; the surviving spouse’s rights to the property trumps all others.

There are many ways to pass on your assets without having to go through probate. Any account or policy with a beneficiary designation, payable on death clauses or joint ownership with rights of survivorship will not be considered to be a part of a probate estate. Those assets will pass to the person designated or the other joint owner at the time of your death. Despite being handy estate planning tools that help assure that the assets in question are never out of reach or frozen, many people fail to understand the nuances and rights associated with such designations and it is this failure that can frustrate and cause unintended consequences when dealing with a person’s estate.

Only After You Pass

Many people are familiar with a beneficiary designation on a life insurance policy. After you pass, the insurance company gives the money from the policy directly to your beneficiary avoiding probate. Similar to a beneficiary designation is what is called the payable on death clause (POD). At the time of your death, your designated beneficiary can claim the assets in the account by showing a death certificate, similar to claiming a life insurance policy. The designated beneficiary has no claim to the assets in the account while you are alive and cannot withdraw or otherwise dispose of them.

People are taught to hang onto important documents. Every person is instructed to hold onto deeds, mortgages, bank records and tax returns in a safe place where no one else can access them lest important information fall into the wrong hands. But wills, which might be the most important document a person can have, should not be held onto after a new one has been executed, and while it may be a good idea to keep it in a safe place, hiding it like the other documents may have unintended consequences.

Written Revocation

There are many ways to revoke an old will and it is always a good idea to do so if you have drafted a new one. The easiest and most common way to revoke a will is to draft a new one and have an explicit clause that revokes any previous wills and codicils that you have executed. Because your new will is dated later than the previous wills, the revocation will be effective.

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