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

For most people going through estate planning, the goal is to pass on as many assets and as much wealth as possible. Most people don’t engage in estate planning with the goal of paying the most taxes possible or distributing assets to creditors. In fact, creditors can take a bigger chunk out of your assets than taxes can, so if you want to avoid costly claims during your lifetime and upon death that could significantly impact your estate it is important to take proactive steps to protect your assets from creditors as part of a comprehensive estate planning strategy.

In fact, there are several strategies that could help you save on taxes while keeping your assets secure from creditors, though it is important to make sure that whichever actions you choose comply with the Uniform Voidable Transactions Act that covers the transfer of assets in an attempt to defraud existing creditors. Some options for protecting your assets from creditors that comply with the provisions of this act might include:

Gifting

A growing family often includes children. Sometimes, children come with special needs that need to be attended to throughout their lives. These special needs can include physical, mental, emotional, and/or developmental disabilities. When such needs arise, they can cost a great deal of money on a regular basis. A common concern parents or family members of individuals with special needs often have is how those individuals with special needs will be taken care of later in lifer when parents or family members have passed on. For these families, a special needs trust might be the answer.

An Introduction to Special Needs Trusts

A special needs trust is a trust established to address the long term needs of an individual with a disability that may require lifelong care. Many individuals with disabilities may qualify for state benefits and assistance to help offset the cost of long-term medical care and other costs that may arise. If the parents or family members of a person with special needs were to leave assets to the person with special needs, the inheritance may cause the individual to lose benefits provided by the state because the inheritance could cause their income to surpass the level under which a person is eligible for state benefits.

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.

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