Articles Posted in Trusts

The stock market over the last ten years has increased the valuation of many retirement accounts. Consequently, many people interested in estate planning are focused less on internal growth necessary for succession planning than at other times.

Inflation is much like gravity. Both rise and fall. With inflation occurring at substantial levels during the war in Ukraine, people interested in making the most of their estate plans should recognize that their plans ultimately might require a proactive effort. This article reviews some important details that you should consider when creating a strong succession plan.

Focus on Your Goal

If you’re creating a plan for what will happen to your estate after you pass away or become incapacitated, you’ve likely familiar with the advantages you can realize by creating a living trust. Items positioned in a trust do not pass through probate, which can be a costly and time-intensive process. Living trusts (also referred to as revocable trusts) let a person appoints a trust administrator to look after an estate after the creator passes away. 

Living trusts often simplify how assets in estates are passed on. Unfortunately, countless opportunities exist to make errors, especially if you’re tasked with transferring items to a trust. Certain kinds of accounts should never pass into a trust.  These certain accounts should not pass into a trust even in situations where they represent the majority of an estate. This category includes retirement accounts like 401(k) plans as well as other types of retirement accounts. 

If you pass on assets to a trust, the Internal Revenue Service will classify the interaction as a distribution and you will be required to pay income taxes.

In the recent case of MBM Family Trust, one party initiated legal action against another concerning a foreign judgment. The party who initiated the lawsuit later added a trustee of a trust that the plaintiff claimed helped the defendant conceal assets. The trustee pursued a special appearance and argued over personal jurisdiction.

Ultimately, the trial court did not accept this object. Instead, the trustee appealed. On appeal, the court found that claims intended to recover assets from a trust can only be brought against the trustee who is the trust’s legal representative. 

The appellate court commented that the trial court had evidence that the family trust was a lender and that the trustee stepped in to function as the lender of a home equity line. The home equity line of credit provided the line of credit was secured by a deed of trust to the trustee and apart from the home equity line. 

Over half the marriages in the United States result in divorce. For many people, divorce ends up being one of the most difficult experiences in their life. As a result, when attorneys present a person with divorce paperwork, this individual often fails to consider every little detail of how it will impact their life and does not update their estate plan. Unfortunately, failing to update estate planning documents after divorce could lead to many undesirable complications

A Hypothetical Situation

Imagine, a couple who got married in 2005. The wife had one daughter from a previous marriage. Even though the husband never officially adopted the girl, he treated the girl as she were his daughter during the marriage. A joint trust even referred to the girl as the couple’s “only living child” and named the girl as a residuary beneficiary. These terms have substantial meaning under the law and not considering these statements after a divorce can create substantial challenges.

As the country enters a third year of living in a pandemic, estate planning is seeing an increase in millennials who are surpassing the baby boomer generation as the generation who performs the most caregiving for both children and aging parents. 

Millennials are creating their own families, while simultaneously caring for their aging parents during a pandemic. This, in turn, is leading more caregivers to plan for the future. Even though millennials are taking responsibility for writing wills and creating trusts to establish families’ financial status, most adults in the United States lack an estate plan. Hopefully, by making digital estate planning as easy as possible, more people will create estate plans that achieve their wishes.

Key Findings from the Study

In a recent opinion, a Minnesota Appellate Court rejected a petition to revise a trust’s terms to permit the early distribution of trust assets to beneficiaries. The court also rejected a request by the petition for the trust to pay attorney’s fees and held that the litigation was neither necessary nor existed for the benefit of the trust. This opinion functions as a reminder of the high threshold that a person must overcome when beneficiaries attempt to revise a trust’s distribution terms.

The Court’s Decision

In Skarsten-Dineman v. Milton, a trust settlor established a revocable naming his six children as the primary beneficiaries following his death. Assets were to be passed to the man’s children until three of them had passed away then the trustee was to end the trust and pass on the principal equally divided to the surviving children. 

In the recent case of Riverside County Public Guardian v. Snukst, a California appellate Court resolved an issue involving the Medi-Cal program, which is California’s version of the federal Medicaid program. The program is overseen by the California Department of Health Services. In Riverside, the Department of Health Services pursued payment from a revocable inter vivos trust for the benefits provided on behalf of a person during his life. After the man’s death, the probate required the assets in the revocable inter vivos trust be passed on to the sole beneficiary instead of the Department of Health. 

The Court of Appeals determined that federal and state law involving revocable inter vivos trusts required the Department of Health receive funds from the trust before any distribution to the beneficiary. Subsequently, the judgment was reversed and remanded.

For trusts to work as a person wants, the trust must avoid future disagreements and disputes among those impacted by the trust’s terms. This article reviews some of the best things that you can do to avoid trust disputes.

In times of economic uncertainty, estate plans can benefit substantially from flexibility. As the country both continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic as well as face the challenges brought on by new strains of COVID-19, it’s a good idea to consider how to make your estate plan flexible. Not to mention, looming changes brought on by changes to tax law also make it a good idea to consider flexibility while creating an estate plan.

What SPA Trusts Do

Special power of appointment (SPA)  trusts (or as they are sometimes called SPAT trusts) is a type of irrevocable trust in which either the creator or settlor of the trust grants appointment power to another person. The person who receives these powers functions in a non-fiduciary role to direct the trustee to make distributions to anyone except for the person who made the appointment of powers.

Maintaining your Social Security number is something we have all been told to keep close, and to be wary of releasing to companies unless absolutely needed. Your Social Security number are a series of numbers that help identify individuals in the United States as either citizens, permanent residents, or temporary workers, for tax reporting purposes. If closely held, this series of numbers provides an easy way for you to identify yourself for various reasons including obtaining bills,  loans, applying for jobs, and when attempting to contact any government agency.

While the internet has provided us with a vast amount of knowledge, it has also provided hackers with a way of obtaining our personal data once entered into a database, for credit card processing, or many of the other reasons we use personal information. A website is recently under scrutiny when they began selling Social Security Numbers for $250 dollars each. The website guarantees that as long as the seeker of the Social Security Number has the correct name, last known address, and date of birth of the person they are looking for, they will provide the correct Social Security Number.

The way in which Peopleinfofind.com, the website behind this scheme is able to claim what they are doing is legal is by stating they they provide this information in order to help debt collectors or those who have forgotten their Social recover it or locate an individual. However, the Better Business Bureau has caught on and is now investigating their website. While it is legal for employers to verify an employee’s Social Security Number with the Social Security Administration,  attempting to find someone’s Social Security Number through a reverse lookup should be seriously questioned.

Supplemental Needs Trusts (also called Special Needs Trusts) have become fairly popular in recent years. These trusts are designed to protect a disabled person’s assets in order to ensure the greatest amount of funds available for care and support. In 1993, Congress passed legislation in 42 U.S.C. § 1396 et seq. that specifically allows a disabled person to exempt assets from public aid determinations. You can click here to read more about how the government treats these unique trusts. One look at the complex federal regulations that control these trusts should be reason enough to consult an experienced elder law attorney to find out if it is right for your situation.

How much money can a disabled person keep and still be eligible for public aid?

In general, for a person to qualify for Medicaid, he or she must be impoverished. This means having less than $2000 in personal assets. Previously, there were fairly strict provisions that made it difficult for a disabled person to keep assets and still qualify for Medicaid funding of long-term care. Nursing home and rehabilitation costs can be exceedingly expensive, and people are often concerned that a disabled family member could quickly spend all of their assets on care and support before qualifying for government assistance.

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