An estate planning attorney has the potential to help with a number of issues. Making sure to review all applicable issues with your attorney, however, can prove particularly difficult. Some people are not even sure what issues to bring up with their estate planning lawyer can prove particularly difficult. As a result, this article reviews some of the important questions that you should make sure to raise with your attorney.

# 1 – Who Will Receive What after Your Divorce?

If you do not have a will or trust, it is a wise idea to tell your attorney how you would like your benefits distributed to loved ones after your death. The only way to make certain that your assets are based in the way that you desire is to make sure that these wishes are reflected in writing. Even if you already have a will or trust, it is important to review this document and make sure that the people who you want to inherit from your estate are actually named in your estate planning documents. Many people go a number of years without reviewing their legal documents. This means that if you have not reviewed your will for some time, it might name individuals who are no longer alive. In addition to the death of a beneficiary, there are a number of other conditions that can change how a person would like their estate to be distributed. Some other things that can change a person’s condition include financial difficulties, marriage, or the birth of new family members.

Many people have discovered that funeral pre planning offers the opportunity to reduce the stress that is often associated with the end of life process.Unfortunately, however, people face a number of questions about the pre planning process. As a result, this article will reviews some of the most common questions asked by people in this situation. Before addressing any of these questions, it is important to understand that there are not any universals answers regarding how the end of life process should be performed. While some people prefer burials, other individuals decide that cremation is the best option.

# 1 – Understand the Costs Associated with a Funeral

It is important to understand how much money can be allocated to a funeral. This amount can change based on a number of variables. Understanding the exact amount that can be allocated to a funeral can greatly help a person anticipate the costs that might ultimately result from a funeral. For example, in many situations, cremation is less expensive than casket burial which can influence funeral plants.

A large number of people in New York are curious about 529 college plans as the result of campaigns run by the state. Not only do 529 college plans provide tax advantages, they are also particularly helpful when estate planning is involved. Despite the benefit of 529 college plans, there are still a number of questions that people have about these plans. This article focuses on addressing some of the most commonly raised of these issues.

What Is a 529 Plan?

These accounts are named after Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code, which allows individuals to reduce their taxable estate while preserving funds for higher education. Funds that are placed in 529 accounts are usually invested in mutual funds and the earnings from these accounts are most often tax-free.

On the heels of top Senate Republicans introducing legislation to fully repeal the federal estate tax, former Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders recently proposed to expand the estate tax on America’s wealthiest families. The proposal would create a 77 percent tax on the estates valued over $1 billion, a policy that would affect as little as 0.2 percent of Americans.

Senator Sanders’ proposal would levy a 45 percent tax on the value of estates between $3.5 million and $10 million, increasing gradually to 77 percent for estates valued at more than $1 billion. Under the current tax system, assets in estates valued over $11 million for individuals and $22 million for married couples are taxed at 40 percent.

The plan’s summary claims the measure would take  in an estimated $2.2 trillion in revenue rom the families of all 588 billionaires in the country with a combined net worth of more than $3 trillion. Senator Sanders is one of many would be nominee for the Democrat ticket for the 2020 presidential election putting forth ideas on taxing America’s wealthiest families to bridge what the party sees as a growing economic equality gap in the country.

Although passing an estate through probate can be an unnecessarily long and expensive process, it is usually an administrative task through which heirs receive their inheritance as the deceased saw fit to award. However, family dynamics can complicate the expediency at which executors are able to pass some estates through probate, leaving the courts, rather than the deceased in his or her last will and testament, to ultimately decide which heirs or other interested parties receive certain portions of the estate.

Instead of using the courts to settle these types of disputes, families should consider mediation as an alternative to expensive and time consuming litigation in front of judges with already heavy caseloads. Mediation is a type of dispute resolution where both sides meet with an independent party to help negotiate a settlement to the matter, out of court and without the need for extended litigation and costly legal fees.

Often times, disputes over who gets what during the probate process are the manifestation of long standing animosity between family members or individuals close to the deceased. While mediation has no authoritative decision making over who gets what, it can be beneficial because it allows both sides to keep control over their position, is less confrontational than a courtroom setting, and can preserve familial relationships by resulting in wins for both sides, rather than victory for one party and a defeat for the other.

Three of the Senate’s top Republicans recently introduced a plan to repeal the federal estate tax completely, a move that would save potentially billions of dollars for a small number of ultra wealthy families in America. The move comes after the 2017 tax cuts signed by President Donald Trump that significantly increased the estate tax threshold from $11 million for married couples to more than $22 million for the same filers.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) joined Sens. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and John Thune (R-SD), all members of the Senate Finance Committee, introduced the legislation to end what conservatives call the “death tax.” Those in favor of repealing the federal estate tax frequently make the argument that the tax is inherently unfair since it places an additional tax on money already taxed by the federal government.

A year after the tax reforms took effect, an estimated 5,000 families filed estate tax returns, that according to projections by the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel, an organization of estate attorneys, based on Internal Revenue Service data. Of that number, only about 1,700 families each year end up actually paying federal estate taxes. The move is expected to anger many Democrats in Congress, as some prominent party members proposed their own modification to taxing estates, namely steep increases for ultra-wealthy families.

A last will and testament is an important legal document that tells our loved ones and the government how we wish for our estate to be apportioned to heirs and friends upon passing away. Although New York trust and estates law give testators wide latitude to decide what parts of their estates go to whom, there are still certain restrictions on what types of property can be given away if there is a surviving spouse and circumstances in which a testator may be coerced into created an invalid law.

In cases where some portions of the last will and testament are invalide, the surrogate court probating the will must admit the document if the court is satisfied the will is genuine, the testator was of sound mind or not under any undue restraint, and was executed in accordance with statutory requirements. However, the court will have to throw out parts of the will that are otherwise invalid so long as it can separate without defeating the testator’s intent or destroying the overall testamentary scheme.

Courts can also strike portions of a last will and testament they deem to be invalid due to improper execution, such as additions made to the document after a witness affixed his or her mark on the will. This same action may be applied when courts deem that addendums to a will were made when the testator was incapacitated or otherwise coerced into adding a section to the document. Courts are well within their power to isolate these particular sections of the will and preserve the original intentions of the testator that were properly executed.

A New York Surrogate’s Court judge recently handed down a ruling striking down a substantial state Tax Department penalty levied against the surviving spouse who became the beneficiary of a qualified terminable interest property trust (QTIP) established by the deceased husband. The judge’s order could have further reaching implications for other QTIP trusts established under similar circumstances.

The ruling effectively reverses a $462,546 levied by the state Tax Department against because the QTIP trust was established in 2010 during a one-year suspension of the federal estate tax. Under the wording of New York state tax laws, the state could not levy taxes on a trust that the federal government itself could not. The case represents a special set of circumstances that other individuals in similar positions may be able to take advantage of in order to avoid paying costly taxes on their QTIP trust.

Ordinarily, a QTIP trust allows a tax deferral on an trust, not a tax avoidance, by allowing the assets of a deceased spouse to pass on to the surviving spouse without taxation. However, upon the passing of the second spouse, the QTIP assets and the second spouse’s estate are subject to inheritance taxes. In this case, the lawyers for the trust holders were savvy enough to argue that the way New York estate laws were written would allow QTIP trusts established in 2010 to be passed on without any tax.

Starting in 219, seniors in many states will qualify for additional in-home services such as help with chores and respite for caregivers through private Medicare Advantage insurance plans, an expansion that can help some elders live in their own homes for longer periods of time. Many of the services now covered under the new Medicare Advantage plans are similar to those that seniors would receive in assisted living facilities but help prevent the immediate need for such types of care moving forward.

The expansions to Medicare Advantage plans offering these services will begin with 20-states in 2019, with the aim to expand the programs to more as time goes on. Eventually, the goal will be to incorporate some or many of what these programs to traditional Medicare plans, which is still the choice for two-thirds of seniors living in the United States.

To qualify, Medicare Advantage members will need a health related reason and while some plans may not have any added costs there will be some price variations for others, depending on the services offered. Some plans may cover up to one day a week at an adult day center while others may only provide for certain types of in-home care services.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently announced the official estate and gift tax limits for 2019 will increase over the previous year from $11.18 million in 2018 to $11.4 million in 2019 which means married couples can now leave up to $22.8 million in assets to heirs without paying taxes. While the estate and gift tax has increased over last year, the annual gift exclusion amount (the amount in gifts that may be given each year without tax) remains at $15,000 for individuals and $30,000 for couples.

Recent tax reform legislation has not only decreased corporate and income taxes but also greatly expanded the estate and gift tax threshold from previously long-standing levels. For many years, the estate and gift tax limits held firm at a base of $5 million per individual with adjustments for inflation but the 2017 tax reforms passed effectively doubled that until 2024 when the provisions expire. As a result, the number of estates subject to such federal taxes has fallen to less than 2,000 in 2018 from almost 5,000 in 2013.

In order for married couples to take advantage of the full $22.8 million in estate and gift tax exemptions, they will need to utilize a concept called portability. Essentially, this allows one spouse to leave his or her unused estate tax exemption to the surviving spouse and to do you must elect it on the estate tax return of the first spouse to die, even when no tax is due. If the portability option is not exercised, the surviving spouse may be left with a hefty federal tax bill.

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