The World Intellectual Property Organization defines intellectual property as “creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names, and images sued in commerce.” Typically, intellectual property is protected by legal mechanisms such as patents, trademarks, and copyrights that help people achieve and maintain recognition and financial benefits from things they have created. While intellectual property has many specific laws to help govern it and some attorneys choose to focus their practice on intellectual property law, intellectual property is personal property and can be an important part of comprehensive estate planning.

Distributing Intellectual Property

There are several considerations that come into play when determining how to distribute intellectual property. For some people, intellectual property can be the main source of their financial livelihood. Others may have inherited or otherwise acquired certain intellectual property rights throughout their lifetime and use them for supplemental income purposes. Regardless of the way in which you came to possess intellectual property, if you want to continue benefiting from it then you can and should keep personal possession of it until you no longer depend on or desire the income from it. If you do maintain control over intellectual property, make sure that you have provided for its distribution in your estate planning in case of unforeseen circumstances.

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.

Sometimes after setting up a trust, circumstances occur that change our goals for that trust. Recently, we wrote about how to fix a broken trust which occurs when a trust no longer serves the purpose for which it was established. However, a broken trust is not always the only reason a trust might need to be modified. Depending on the circumstances surrounding your trust, there are several factors to consider when deciding whether or not to move a trust.

Common Reasons to Move a Trust

One of the most common reasons for creating a trust is to take advantage of more favorable tax consequences related to trusts. As such, one of the most common reasons to want to move a trust is to take advantage of more favorable tax-related trust laws in another state. Some other reasons for moving a trust might include:

While Americans have definitely paid more attention to estate planning in the last several years, not enough are yet taking estate planning as seriously as they should. According to WealthManagement.com citing a survey from Caring.com, only slightly over 40 percent of Americans have estate planning documents in place. The number of those individuals that have a healthcare power of attorney document in place is even lower. It is critical for all Americans to consider comprehensive estate planning as an important part of aging and responsible financial planning. It’s also important to remember that effective estate planning doesn’t end at the creation of an estate plan, but also includes modifying that plan as your individual circumstances may dictate.

Planning in Politically Volatile Times

The last year has seen a great deal of political turmoil both here in the United States and in countries around the world. Regardless of how you may feel about these events, they may have a serious impact on your estate planning. One such event is the United Kingdom’s successful referendum to leave the European Union. Many retirement investment accounts were affected or even frozen because of the decision to leave the European Union, and many investors are still trying to figure out how to cope with these changes. If you have assets that could be affected by these types of political changes, it is important to work with a financial planner as well as an estate planning attorney to make sure that your estate plan accounts for these changes.

Unfortunately, traditional social security often doesn’t provide the means for seniors to live comfortably after they retire. The cost of living often rises quicker than adjustments can be made to social security allowances. There are many different types of retirement savings strategies to help supplement your retirement income so that you do not have to rely solely on social security. One such strategy is an Individual Retirement Account, or IRA, which is a type of retirement savings account where you can contribute funds for your own retirement. The two main types, traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs, differ in how they are taxed but offer the same basic benefit: supplemental retirement income. However, it is important to be aware of what happens to an IRA when the person who owns it passes away.

When the IRA Has a Valid Beneficiary

Typically, an IRA is a non-probate asset. That means that all you usually need to distribute an IRA upon death is a valid beneficiary form. In cases where a valid beneficiary form has been filed with the administrator of your IRA, then there is usually little issue ensuring that the IRA transfers to that beneficiary. In these cases, a beneficiary to an IRA that has not yet reached 70 ½ years of age can choose to withdraw the entire amount of the IRA within five years of the owner’s death. After a certain age, a beneficiary may have to make periodic withdrawals as the owner would have had to do, or they may choose to do this to stretch the funds within the IRA over a longer period. With a traditional IRA, the beneficiary withdrawing it will need to pay taxes on the amount of the IRA. Tax consequences of a Roth IRA can be different, and you should consult with an investment planner or estate planning attorney to find out more about rules governing their distribution.

Estate planning is not something that should be taken lightly, and understanding the gravity that comes with your estate planning decisions is an important part of creating a comprehensive estate plan. However, one of the most common problems with estate plans is that while they may accurately reflect your wishes, they don’t always reflect what your family thinks those wishes should be. That can leave them vulnerable to attack in court, which can cause unintended consequences for your assets. Aside from utilizing the services of an experienced estate planning attorney, there are some ways to avoid common issues that can give rise to litigation of an estate plan.

Pay Attention to Laws of Intestate Succession

Intestate succession laws help determine how a person’s assets are to be divided when they die if that person has no Will or their Will is found to be invalid. While you are certainly free to distribute your estate as you see fit, understanding the laws of intestate succession can help you distribute your estate in a way that will discourage Will contests because beneficiaries that stand to benefit little from having a Will invalidated will often think twice about doing so.

Today, moving across the world is far more common than it used to be. More college-age students leave their home countries to pursue educational experiences abroad, and many often remain in the country in which they choose to study. Others leave their home country for a job opportunity or to start a new family of their own. Whatever the reason for leaving, many residents of the United States born in other countries that still have strong, close familial ties in those foreign countries may be at risk of losing portions of the inheritance their family members in other countries may wish to give them.

Tax Consequences

Not every country has a version of the estate tax, though the United States estate tax is not the highest estate taxing country out there according to Tax Foundation. As a result, residents of many other countries may not have to contend with an estate tax in planning to distribute their estate. Leaving an inheritance to their children outright is likely commonplace and causes little disruption to the inheritance process in many places. However, when a citizen of a foreign country wants to leave an inheritance to their child that may be a U.S. citizen, there can be estate tax complications. With the United States estate tax rate of 40 percent, this can have a significant impact on a U.S. child’s foreign inheritance.

There are many factors that can influence how we decide to distribute our assets to heirs after our death. Most of the time, a large portion of our estate is left to our closest family members, including a spouse and children. However, determining exactly what we leave to those family members can be challenging especially when we consider the many additional factors that can be important in this part of the process.

When Equal Isn’t Necessarily Fair

Many individuals seek to make the asset distribution process easier by simply dividing assets among their heirs equally. However, depending on the personal dynamics of your family, that may not be the wisest choice. The following example, adapted from a recent article from Forbes, helps highlight this type of situation.

Almost every facet of today’s world seems to be based on technology in one way or another. From the phones we use to the cars we drive, technology is everywhere and new technology is emerging each day. We use technology to manage many of our assets as well as to store personal mementos and other important items. You may also have important information about insurance and retirement accounts stored online that isn’t necessarily readily accessible to your heirs. Unfortunately, traditional estate planning practices don’t always protect your digital property. The Legal Intelligencer recently reported on the importance of protecting your personal digital property with proper estate plan provisions.

Types of Personal Digital Property

Protecting your digital property begins with understanding exactly what is included, which can be more than you might think. The article breaks down personal digital property into three categories, which include:

With a new year comes many new changes. Now that we are already almost a quarter of the way into 2017, it’s important to look at the many options you have in the coming year to create a more comprehensive and up-to-date estate plan. Recently, we have written about ways to take care of your estate plan and important factors to keep in mind when making estate planning decisions. Below are some specific areas that you may want to consider regarding estate planning throughout the year.

  1. Review Documentation

Are all your documents complete? Are they signed where they need to be signed and placed in a secure location? An experienced estate planning attorney will review your estate planning documents for accuracy and to ensure they comply with the law, but you should be sure any additional documents – like insurance forms and beneficiary designations – are complete.

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