Articles Tagged with fishkill estate planning

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.

There can be a lot of confusing terms involved in comprehensive estate planning. Estate plans are meant to be individual and flexible, and a New York estate planning attorney can provide you with a variety of options that help you create a plan that works for you and your wishes. One option that an estate planning attorney might present is a revocable trust, sometimes referred to as a living trust or a revocable living trust. The following provides some basic information about what these trusts are and how they operate.

What is a revocable trust?

Trusts are agreements between you and a third party in which you allow the third party, often referred to as a trustee, to hold assets for your beneficiaries. There are a variety of different kinds of trusts that each have different nuances that may work best for you. However, revocable trusts are often used in estate planning. A revocable trust is a trust you can create during your lifetime that may help you manage and protect your assets if you become ill or incapacitated. The American Bar Association notes that you may name yourself as trustee while also selecting a co-trustee, should you choose to do so. As the name states, revocable trusts can usually be created to be revoked or changed as you see fit. Revocable trusts should not be confused with irrevocable trusts which have distinct characteristics, especially related to taxes.

Planning your estate is an important step in ensuring that you, your loved ones, and your estate will be taken care of in the event of your incapacity or death. A few documents can determine the type of medical attention you receive, who handles your financial matters, and how your estate is distributed after your passing. Choosing a knowledgeable and experienced professional to guide you through the estate planning process can protect your family from trouble in the future.

A Relationship Built on Trust

Choosing a legal professional can be difficult. One of the most important things to consider is trust. Your estate planning attorney should be someone that you are comfortable with. In order to fully plan out your estate, you will be faced with a number of difficult questions and what-if scenarios, such as “who will care for your children” and “do you wish to be kept alive by artificial means”. Hiring an attorney you feel comfortable with who is able to talk through these situations with you can make the process much simpler and less stressful. In many cases, the attorney who drafts your estate planning documents will also be working with your loved ones to ensure that your wishes are carried out after your death. Choosing someone your trust who is aware of your wishes can make this process easier.

For people who reach age 65, the odds of needing long-term care benefits during their lifetime are nearly 70 percent. People are living longer and in turn needing care in their old age. On average men require 2.2 years worth of care and women require 3.7 years. Preparing for this level of care and any other type of medical care you may receive requires forethought and careful planning.

Appointing a Health Care Agent

We’ve previously discussed in this blog New York’s Family Health Care Decisions Act and the appointment of a patient’s family member or close friend to act as a surrogate decision maker for a patient who has become incapacitated. This act allows close relatives to make decisions even if the patient had never given them decision making power.

The legal entity that owns and controls a person’s property after they die is known as an estate. The person who leaves behind an estate is called the decedent. It is customary for the decedent to appoint someone to administer the estate and act as the executor of the estate in his or her last will and testament.

The executor of the estate fulfills many roles and responsibilities for the estate throughout the probate process. One of the most important duties that an executor performs is to pay off any final expenses that the decedent incurred as well as to pay off any debts and claims against the estate. New York Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act dictates what debts and expenses should be paid out of a decedent’s estate first. However, sometimes it is not possible for an estate to satisfy all of its debts and obligations.

The Insolvent Estate

The first presidential debate of 2016 was the most watched debate in United States’ history. The two candidates hold very different positions from each other and no more so than on the topic of the federal estate tax. The federal estate tax has a very checkered history in American politics, often serving as a talking point between the two biggest parties in Congress to emphasize how different each party is from the other and what purpose the federal estate tax should serve. No matter which candidate wins the office of the president, the federal estate tax is likely to change in the future.

Up and Down and Sometimes Not At All

Of course if any changes are made to the federal estate tax, it will be in line with its history. The only constant of the federal estate tax is that it is constantly changing. The federal estate tax was an early part of our nation’s history, but was repealed and implemented again over the decades. It was not until 1916 that the modern federal estate tax takes root and has been with us ever since.

Beneficiaries Often Treat An Inheritance As A Windfall And Spend It As Such

You spend your entire life working hard, accumulating wealth and you want to pass it onto your children, to provide for them and their families after you have passed. But will they appreciate your life’s earnings or will they blow through it without a second thought? Unfortunately, more likely than not any inheritance that you leave behind will most likely be spent much faster than it was earned, and the statistics are alarming.

“From shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations” the old saying goes and the research shows that the sentiment is true. One third of people who received an inheritance had negative savings within two years. Even if the wealth does last past the first generation to receive it, 70 percent of inheritances are completely gone by the end of the second generation.

Pets Are Often An Overlooked Concern in Estate Planning

Despite their ubiquitous presence across the United States, few people consider the needs of their pets in their estate plan. People tend to be so concerned with providing for their children and making sure that their assets are protected from taxes that they forget about the members of their family that are always there for them.

When you consider providing for your pet after you are gone, it is important to have all of the necessary information. If you are putting together an estate plan that addresses the issue of taking care of your pets, keep the following in mind.

A person planning their estate for the first time is confronted with a lot of uncomfortable questions that they most likely have never had to address. There are medical decisions to be made, executors and trustees to be chosen and appointed, burial instructions to spell out, and perhaps most importantly for some, deciding who will inherit from you when you pass on. This question can often be a prickly subject amongst families, with spouses disagreeing and children being angered by the ultimate decisions.

Someone Will Always Be Upset

There are many different strategies that testators, those preparing their will, employ in deciding who will inherit from their estate and how much they will be inheriting. Many parents are often uncomfortable with leaving their children unequal amounts of inheritance. Often testators believe that if they leave an unequal amount amongst the children that it may indicate that they loved or preferred one child over the others.

FURTHER CHANGES MAY BE NEEDED

When a person receives an asset via the probate process, the transaction must be reported to the IRS, even if it does not trigger any tax liability as to the estate or the recipient.  This is because the IRS needs to track the basis of the asset to determine any net capital gains or other calculations for tax liability purposes.  Price minus basis equals profit is the rough calculation to determine how much a person realized in a sale, which in turn determines the capital gain on the sale of the asset.  

There is a tension built into the system whereby the executor wants to assign the lowest possible value to the asset, so as to keep the value of the estate low, while the beneficiary wants to have the highest possible value assigned so when they dispose of the asset in the future it will incur less tax liability.  The IRS sought to address this tension when they lobbied Congress create 26 U.S.C. § 6035, which in turn enabled them to create the new IRS form 8971.  Form 8971 requires an executor to notify the IRS which beneficiary receives what and the value of the asset.  Part of the same legislation also created 26 U.S.C. § 1014 which requires beneficiaries to use the value of the asset at the date of death for purposes of reporting basis.  This value cannot be greater than the amount that the executor reported on the estate tax return.

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