Articles Posted in Estate Administration

Many conversations mention estate and inheritance taxes together, but there are some substantial differences between these two things. Both these taxes, however, have one thing in common: not everybody pays them. 

As a result, it is a wise idea to begin by deciding whether you will be required to pay either of the taxes.

Is Inheritance Taxable?

The Supreme Court of Montana recently affirmed a judgment by the district court distributing assets from a trust established by a husband and wife to the couple’s three children. 

The district court had interpreted the trust creator’s handwritten codicil as a wish and not a specific bequest of the woman’s stock in a company that the couple had created and grown. Before the husband’s death in 1993, the couple executed identical wills under which the assets of the first spouse to die  passed into a trust with the assets in the trust intended to be distributed equally between the three children of the surviving spouse. 

As a result of the Supreme Court’s decision that the codicil was lacking in testamentary intent to specifically devise shares, this specific bequest was not passed on. 

Losing a parent is not easy. While being prepared for the event might not make the emotional aspect any easier, it can help to eliminate the potential for additional problems. As a result, this article reviews some of the important financial steps that you can take after a parent passes away.

# 1 – Determine if Your Parents Had an Estate Plan

The position of managing a parent’s estate after their death can be made much easier if a parent had an estate plan. Ideally, a parent will organize all of their estate documents in an easy to find but secured location. The best estate plans include wills that address how assets should be handled, dispositions of last remains regarding how a parent’s remains should be disposed of, and several other documents. 

Creating a living will is one of the areas of the estate planning that many people overlook. These documents, which are also sometimes referred to as advance health care directives, describe what types of life-prolonging measure an individual would like if they are placed on life support. 

Among other reasons why these documents are overlooked is that making decisions about these issues can be emotionally difficult for people. If you have decided to finally take the valuable step of creating a living will, it is a wise idea to ask yourself some critical questions.

The Worth of Creating a Living Wills

The federal estate tax is a tax that is placed on a person’s estate after death. 

While many people are familiar with this general concept, they have a number of more specific questions about what the federal estate tax does and does not include. 

For one, many people confuse estate taxes with income taxes. One difference between these two is that estate taxes are not a tax placed on a person’s income.

Electronic wills have the option of providing a variety of important benefits to individuals who are interested in the estate planning process. Considering the tendency of many individuals to delay issues related to estate planning, electronic wills provide individuals with an opportunity to quickly create a legal document that decides how their assets should be divided following their death.

Weaknesses in Electronic Wills

There are some dangers that exist in using an electronic will, which must be addressed before these wills are capable of being used before individuals. A skilled estate planning attorney, however, is often able to help individuals navigate these various issues which include the following:

Beginning with a list of your assets can be a simple way to begin estate planning. Unfortunately, statistics compiled by Caring.com reveal that more than half of Americans do not have a will. This is despite the numerous advantages offered by having a will which include avoiding potentially high legal fees and tax consequences. If you do not yet have a will or estate planning documents in place, it can be tempting to use one of the numerous do it yourself forms that are available online. Before writing an estate planning document in this manner, however, it is important to understand the numerous complications that can arise from creating an estate planning document on your own rather than obtaining the help of an experienced estate planning lawyer. This article reviews some of the important things that you should consider when creating an estate planning document online.

# 1 – Recognize All of the Available Options

There are several options to create an estate planning documents: a do it yourself service, on your own, or with the help of an experienced attorney. If you decide to create state planning documents on your own, it is critical to have a firm understanding of various applicable estate planning issues. If you decide to use an online service, you will not have any legal advice to create these documents or to warn if you create any mistakes while engaged in the planning process. Obtaining the assistance of an estate planning lawyer helps to make sure that you fully address any issues that can arise in the estate planning process.

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.

If you have assets that will likely appreciate in value, including property that provides income or stocks that demonstrate growth potential, there are ways you can plan accordingly to help you avoid severe tax consequences that might otherwise be related to retaining these assets or allowing them to become part of your general estate.

Two potential vehicles for you to explore are grantor retained annuity trusts (GRATs) and grantor retained unitrusts (GRUTs). With both of these options, you retain an interest in the income from assets placed in the trust. While there are taxes associated with each of these, they may be less costly than other options depending on your individual circumstances.

The Basics

When people begin the process of estate planning or take time to review their existing estate plan, they have many tax considerations to think about. How they distribute their assets will determine what taxes, if any, will apply to their estate. They may consider creating a trust for their children, they might want to “gift” some of their assets to take advantage of evolving tax law, and/or they may choose to donate some of their assets to charity. If you are considering donating real estate to charity as part of your estate plan, it is important to be aware of the possible tax consequences doing so might have.

Charities vs. Foundations

Both public charities and private foundations can be nonprofit organizations if they have applied for and been granted 501(c)(3) status, which means that contributions to such organizations can qualify for tax deductions. However, when real estate is involved, the tax deduction for a donation can vary depending on what type of organization it is.

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