Estate Planning

US History’s Largest Wealth Transfer

In all of human history, there has never been a financial time like this one. Baby boomers preparing to pass on their legacies through estate plans put America on the brink of the largest ever transfer of wealth. Over the next 25 years, projections estimate 68.4 trillion dollars will be in motion to create an unprecedented transfer of generational wealth. 

The post-WWII economic environment allowed the growth of assets during decades of economic prosperity. Rising real estate values, stock markets, and favorable tax policies contributed to the baby boomers’ ability to aggregate significant wealth. These 45 million households will see their generational wealth pass to Generation X and millennial inheritors, dramatically shifting the landscape of American wealth management.

Baby boomers collectively hold thirty to forty trillion in assets, controlling roughly seventy percent of all disposable income. While families of already established generational wealth may have plans in place, much of the upcoming wealth transfer hails from self-made men and women who have avoided discussing estate plans and family fortunes with their heirs. Predictions are that Gen X will inherit about 57 percent of these assets, with millennials inheriting the rest. Yet the mechanisms for inheritance through sound estate planning are missing in many of these family systems.

Wealth management groups and estate planning attorneys posit that inheritors will needlessly lose much of their wealth due to parents who failed to develop comprehensive end-of-life plans. On the other side of the equation, younger generation inheritors must ramp up their knowledge about asset management to grow their inheritance for future generations.

Generation X and millennials have vastly different financial experiences and attitudes towards money than their parents. On average, while millennials are the highest-earning generation, they have significantly less money, controlling just 4.6 percent of US wealth in 2021. They have lower levels of financial literacy, are less likely to own a home, and have less interest in investing in the stock market. They also tend to have higher debt after experiencing two recessions before the age of 40, cost of living increases that outpaced wages, and increasing college tuition and vehicle loans.

These younger generations will also change the landscape of financial planning and management. Financial firms will have to bridge the gap of immediate expectation with a generation raised in an era of enormous technological transformation. Smart technology can provide an incrementally higher return on investment through transaction speed alone. Digital financial tools and apps will be the norm, including robot-advisors as a convenience for investing.

Are these younger generations ready to be stewards of generational wealth? Will they see the need to protect this wealth through comprehensive estate planning? To better protect their inheritors’ interests, baby boomer parents can include their children in estate planning goals. The older generation can implement or update an existing plan and guide their inheritors to protect from squandering assets.

Some family systems may find the surest and safest way to protect generational wealth is via trusts. Both revocable and irrevocable trusts can create structure and limit new inheritors’ access to assets. A trust can grow wealth and also save on taxes. The objectives and conditions of a family trust are wide-ranging and easily tailored to a family’s specific needs. 

Charitable trusts and charitable remainder trusts can generate income for heirs while protecting assets and favorable tax consequences. There are also asset-protection trusts, testamentary trusts, and special needs trusts. A qualified estate planning attorney will assess the best trust type(s) for you and your family based on your unique set of parameters. With trillions of inheritable dollars in motion over the next twenty-five years in America, proactive estate planning is key to securing generational wealth for your family. We hope you found this article helpful. If you have questions or would like to discuss your personal situation, please don’t hesitate to contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700.

Estate Planning

How to Plan the Estate for an Unmarried Couple

As a result of record levels of divorces and widows among older Americans, many new partnerships have emerged. The US Census Bureau reports that more than half of all older adults have only married once, opting to stay legally single in their future relationships. Cohabitating can have unforeseen and unintended consequences without a legally recognized civil union, marriage, or domestic partnership certificate. 

For instance, your assets are not mutually inheritable without careful estate planning that includes a “living together contract.” This contract type can be specific and, as an example, cover one transaction, such as purchasing a new home. The contract can also encompass every aspect of your property and finances, including asset distribution in the event of incapacitation, death, or breakup.

Many believe they can address domestic decision-making, such as permissions for owning pets, entertaining guests, even including minor tasks like who will do the dishes in a casual contract, but it is unlikely to be enforced by the courts. If you’re an unmarried couple, it is safer to draw up a comprehensive agreement, enforceable by the courts, that will see you through your lives together. However, you won’t want to co-mingle personal and financial clauses in a single contract as it may render the agreement unenforceable, negating the importance of the contract’s financial clauses. 

For estate planning purposes, a comprehensive living together agreement includes all assets and property owned before the relationship and another for any acquisitions during the relationship. The property and asset division is much like a prenuptial agreement. Remember, joint obligations to a mortgage company or a landlord do not create a contractual relationship or entitle you to a property settlement in the event of death or the parting of ways. With non-marital agreements, each partner should also have a valid will for the state in which they live.

A living together contract often includes rules regarding gifts received, living expenses, property purchases, inheritable rights, and a method for dispute resolution that may arise later, typically through mediation. Having a living together agreement in writing can avoid a host of future legal issues and can be developed in the spirit of two fair-minded individuals clarifying the understanding of a partnership.

Many older Americans prefer not to remarry as it can have consequences to social security income, pension benefit awards, alimony (as part of a divorce settlement), tax consequences, and rights of survivorship. A new spouse’s income may disqualify a child for college financial aid or, in the case of a disabled child, impact the eligibility for government assistance programs.

Because many seniors and near seniors live together in non-legally recognized ways, estate planning can create challenges when partners want to provide for the other after their death.

A legally binding living together contract must work in concert with existing plans for already named heirs. A qualified estate planning attorney can draw up this contract and make necessary changes to current estate plans to avoid future legal conflicts. Like all estate planning documents, the regular review of its content to account for major life changes or preferences is crucial. If you plan to make substantive changes, it is best to be open with your partner and any adult children.

Avoid the possibility of personal and family conflict through open communication channels and mutual understanding. A newer, unmarried partner of a beloved parent may provoke suspicion of intent by adult children. Cohabitating is becoming more popular; however, as states adjudicate separations and inheritance, there is much to consider about planning property and asset control. To protect and provide for your partner and your adult children, consult an estate planning attorney about a living together contract in conjunction with your estate plan to ensure your documents reflect your wishes and are legally enforceable. We hope you found this article helpful. If you have questions or would like to discuss your personal situation, please don’t hesitate to contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700.

Estate Planning

Getting to Know Creditor Rights and Probate

By avoiding probate through legal methods, you can save taxes, keep your estate out of public view, and avoid needing court approval every step of the way. It can save you time, frustration, and in many cases, significant attorney and court fees. Your personal representative sometimes referred to as an executor, must formally notify all your creditors of your death. This action is one of the first steps in the probate process. Often this is as simple as placing a notice of death in a local newspaper(s) to which creditors respond and file a timely claim to the probate court for estate payment of the said claim.

Outstanding debts typically include credit card payments, mortgage, car payments, insurance, real estate taxes, utility bills, medical and funeral expenses, and other legal debts incurred but not yet paid. The probate timeline for creditors to file a claim varies by state. On average, between three to six months is a creditor’s window of opportunity to submit formal claims to your estate for payment. If there is no contest over the debt, the personal representative will pay the outstanding bill with estate funds; the creditor will receive payment in full, which completes the claim.

Personal representatives, beware. Do not distribute assets to beneficiaries before the balance of the estate’s taxes and all outstanding debts are completely paid or dismissed by the probate court. It is the responsibility of the personal representative to cover all estate expenses, and you may become personally liable for deficiencies in estate debt payments unless beneficiaries return their portions of inheritance to cover those outstanding debts. If you feel you must make a partial distribution to heirs, withhold enough monies to cover all estimated expenses.

If the decedent’s property does not go through the probate process, creditors’ claims remain pursuable for a longer time. Partly this is because there is no legal requirement to notify creditors of a person’s death. By the time a creditor may learn of the death, the debt might be so small they are unwilling to pursue its collection. A creditor may find a tax write-off of bad debt more advantageous than chasing down repayment that is not cost-beneficial.

In other cases, an estate may not have liquid assets yet hold real property with enough value to cover the outstanding debt claim if sold. Valuable inheritable property can be lost to a forced sale to cover creditor claims in probate court. A creditor forcing this type of sale drags out probate proceedings, incurring additional costs. Secured creditors receive priority over unsecured creditors. Banks are the primary secured creditor with which a personal representative may have to contend.

Suppose a person dies with substantial debt and there are limited assets to cover these debts. In that case, the estate is deemed insolvent, and there is a generally accepted prioritization of debt payment by all states. A personal representative should always pay debts in order of a state’s recognized priority list. Otherwise, debts that may be dismissible, pro-rated, or forgiven may receive payment, while secured debts never “go away.” It is essential to understand the priority order for estate debts. Note that these are generalities, and some state laws may prioritize these categories differently.

  1. Administrative costs – Common costs include court fees, filing fees, notice costs, attorney’s fees, and the administrator’s commission.
  2. Family exemptions – Many states will provide for payments helping family members handle their living expenses during the estate’s probate. This family exemption usually gets high priority to lessen financial stress as a family mourns the loss of their loved one.
  3. Funeral and burial costs – These expenses address funeral and burial costs by state law. Costs of cremation, interment, urns, markers, and associated funerary service costs are permissible as part of funeral and burial costs.
  4. Government debts – Income taxes, property taxes, and estate taxes take priority over other debt obligations.
  5. Final medical bills – The decedent’s final sickness or injury receive priority over other unsecured debts. Some hospitals will reduce final medical bills if the newly negotiated amount is paid promptly and in full.
  6. All other claims –  Usually, states do not prioritize these other more general unsecured debts. Some cases permit debt payment based on the filing date of claims, and other times debts may be pro-rated.

Assets such as retirement accounts and insurance proceeds with a designated beneficiary receive different treatment and provide more protection from creditors. The same holds for an irrevocable trust which upon death also provides protection from creditors. A beneficiary designation and specific trust entity can help to shield an estate with a heavy debt burden.

When someone dies, their estate assets must be secured and eventually distributed according to the existing Will or state intestate laws. Another vital function of the estate is for the personal representative to ensure the decedent’s genuine debt obligations receive payment. When an estate has sufficient assets to pay all outstanding debts, payment can occur in any order. If the estate leans to insolvency, the personal representative should withhold asset distribution to heirs until the probate court approves the debt fulfillment priorities. We hope you found this article helpful. If you have questions or would like to discuss your personal situation, please don’t hesitate to contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700.

Estate Planning

A Lifetime Money Management System for Special Needs Children

Estate planning presents unique challenges when it comes to special needs children. Optimizing your estate to use, enhance, and enrich assets for your special needs child while maintaining their enrollment in public benefits programs requires careful planning. An estate planning attorney can prepare a special needs trust to accomplish these and other goals you have for your child.

A special needs trust can meet strict financial eligibility rules for means-tested assistance programs because the assets held in the trust are not directly available to the child. A trustee provides benefits to the child via the trust. Parents select this trustee with great care because they will act as the child’s money manager, ensuring proper financial supervision after the parents die. A letter of intent is also a powerful tool to guide the trustee to make decisions that best benefit the child’s unique needs.

In most cases, your special needs child will benefit by selecting a non-family member who is independent to act as your special needs trustee. The range of options includes:

  • A parent, sibling, or another relative, which can be risky,
  • An estate planning attorney,
  • A financial institution or a trust company,
  • A non-profit organization, particularly one with special needs experience, or
  • Co-trustees, such as a trust company, acting in conjunction with a family member.

Each option has advantages and disadvantages that require close counsel with your estate planning attorney or financial advisor before selecting your trustee.

The creation of your special needs trust can happen while you are living or at the time of your death. A last will and testament can incorporate creating the trust, known as a testamentary trust. Parents often set up the trust while alive, known as a living trust (inter vivos trust). The living trust has advantages, including the avoidance of probate, the permission for other family members to make trust contributions (usually grandparents), and the opportunity for a co-trustee to experience what it is like to administer the trust.

Whether or not your trust is revocable or irrevocable affects tax consequences. Generally, you’ll want to choose a revocable trust if the goal is to maintain maximum control over the trust and income tax considerations aren’t a concern. Establish an irrevocable trust when there are concerns regarding income tax consequences, particularly if the trust funds exceed one million dollars. In this instance, both federal estate and gift taxes may apply to the trust.

While there is much to consider and decide, the crucial step to providing for your special needs child is to make it legal. Verbally telling your family how to care for your child is insufficient. In the absence of a will, testamentary trust, or living trust, the state in which you live will determine the outcomes of your estate’s distribution. This situation is not a viable option for a special needs child or any of your children.

Receiving proper legal guidance to implement your estate plan using appropriate trusts is crucial to maintaining a healthy lifestyle for your special needs child. Do not attempt to craft these legal documents on your own, use existing forms, or copy some internet template. Each special needs child requires careful considerations that are unique to them and the challenges they face moving forward. With so much at stake, a qualified estate planning attorney with expertise in special needs planning will best suit your wishes and the child’s needs. Protecting public benefits such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid and establishing a special needs trust through your estate planning can best achieve these goals. We hope you found this article helpful. If you have questions or would like to discuss your personal situation, please don’t hesitate to contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700.

Estate Planning

Inheritance Income Can Be Provided by Charitable Trusts

An irrevocable charitable trust provides income to heirs while benefiting you or a charity. If you are philanthropically minded with nonessential assets like stocks or real estate, a charitable trust can offer many financial advantages for all those involved. Once in place, a charitable trust is irrevocable even if you experience a personal or business financial loss. There are two primary charitable trust types:

Charitable Lead Trust (CLT) – This trust is designed to distribute a portion of its proceeds to charity for which you receive a tax deduction equal to the payments. The remainder of the principal is distributed among your beneficiaries.

Charitable Remainder Trust (CRT) – This trust grants income to a designated individual by distributing non-income-producing assets first placed in the trust. A charitable donations tax deduction applies to the remaining assets earmarked for the charity. The chosen charity receives the remaining assets at the end of the trust’s term or upon your death.

Each trust type comes with many options to consider and strategies for maximizing its benefits. Both trust types do not require you to choose your charity beneficiary. Instead, you create a donor-advised fund that directs payments from either trust type to your chosen charities. This tactic allows flexibility to change your mind about an existing charity or add a new one.

For income-producing purposes to heirs, a charitable remainder trust provides options from the sale of your non-income-producing assets. For example, purchasing a life insurance policy can have premiums paid by the charitable remainder trust while using residual funds to support philanthropic intentions.

Charitable Remainder Trusts are also known as a split-interest trusts, making payments from income first to the beneficiary or beneficiaries in a set amount with the remaining income supporting the organization, which is the opposite of a Charitable Lead Trust. Often the grantor is the primary beneficiary, with contingent beneficiaries named after the grantor’s death. 

The two ways to receive trust payments in a Charitable Remainder Trust are either a fixed annuity or a percent of trust assets known as a unitrust

In a Charitable Remainder Annuity Trust, it is not permissible to change the annuity amount once the trust is created, so it is best to over-fund rather than not have enough. An annuity trust provides a fixed dollar amount each year even if the trust’s income is less than anticipated.

A Charitable Remainder Unitrust allows receipt of a fixed percentage of the trust’s assets each year. The trust’s value receives an annual appraisal which determines the dollar amount of the set percentage for distribution. This funding method ties income to the trust’s success, providing more in good years and less in years when assets are underperforming. If trust payments are not a significant source of income for beneficiaries, this can be a good option. The IRS requires a minimum five percent distribution of the trust valuation annually.

Work with an estate attorney to design a charitable trust. They can help you determine which charitable trust type is best for you and what assets to place in the trust. An estate planning attorney will help you identify beneficiaries and payment strategies, as well as the value of your tax deduction. Once you draw up the trust document, the assets will be moved to fund the charitable trust unless you create the trust as part of your will.

The charity you seek to benefit may have preferences about how and when to donate. Speak with the organization before creating an irrevocable charitable trust. This trust type can lessen your income, estate, and capital gains taxes by making 501(c)(3) donations to a charity and providing a steady income to heirs. Creating a charitable trust is a practical, multipronged approach to leaving your legacy, permitting the allocation of money for both a charity and your beneficiaries while realizing specific tax advantages. We hope you found this article helpful. If you have questions or would like to discuss your personal situation, please don’t hesitate to contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700.

Estate Planning, Uncategorized

Living Trusts Have Many Benefits for Seniors

It’s an unfortunate fact that seniors are prime targets for financial abuse and scams. Sadly, the elderly are often taken advantage of by strangers — and sometimes even their own family members. That’s why it’s important that planning is in place to help seniors protect themselves and their assets.

As we age, it can become increasingly difficult to manage our assets. Most of us will, at some point, need assistance with these details to help ensure that our financial and other assets aren’t depleted. If you or an aging loved one are looking for ways to safeguard assets, a Living Trust is often the best way to do so. Living Trusts allow seniors to rest assured that their finances and assets are managed by a trusted person.

What is a Living Trust?

Living Trusts help protect and manage the assets of those who cannot do so themselves due to age, illness, or disability. Many seniors assume that a will is the only protection they need. However, trusts are designed to safeguard the assets of the living, while wills only outline what happens to a person’s assets when the pass away. Furthermore, wills must go before a probate court and taxes must be paid on inheritances, while Living Trusts allow beneficiaries to avoid probate after their loved one’s passing.

To establish a Living Trust the owner, or grantor, places assets within the trust. The grantor then appoints a trustee to manage it and names beneficiaries to receive the assets of the trust when the time comes.

There are different types of Living Trusts. Let’s take a look at each and the ways these trusts can benefit seniors.

Testamentary Trust

A Testamentary Trust protects an elderly person’s assets when a spouse dies. Assets of the deceased are transferred into a trust — enabling the appointed trustee to make all financial decisions regarding those assets. This helps a surviving spouse by protecting him or her from fraud or mismanagement of assets. Trustees can help the surviving senior generate income from remaining assets via sales or investments and take advantage of tax benefits.

Revocable Living Trusts

A Revocable Living Trust safeguards seniors by making it more difficult for non-trustee family members to mismanage money or assets. The grantor (senior) can amend or revoke the trust at his or her own discretion without the consent of the beneficiary. This type of trust allows the grantor to stay in control of assets by either serving as a trustee or appointing one. In this case, the grantor, serving as trustee and beneficiary of the trust, appoints a successor in the event he or she becomes incapacitated or dies. This appointed person is then responsible for the disposal of the trust’s assets.

Irrevocable Living Trusts

An Irrevocable Living Trust is one that cannot be changed or revoked by the trustmaker. This means that the grantor/trustmaker gives up his or her rights to the assets once they are transferred. Seniors over 65 who are eligible for Medicaid often choose to transfer assets into an Irrevocable Living Trust to avoid having to dispose of assets in order to remain eligible for Medicaid coverage or long-term care benefits.  Once assets are in an irrevocable trust, they cannot be counted for Medicaid eligibility purposes, but there could be a penalty for transferring assets to an irrevocable trust.

An elder law attorney can assist in determining the best way to set up this type of trust and how to best transfer assets based on Medicaid stipulations. An Irrevocable Living Trust can provide income for seniors and their spouses. It also protects their property and other assets from being seized to pay for medical costs, without impacting Medicaid eligibility. This type of trust can also remain in place for a surviving spouse after the grantor’s death.

The sooner assets are placed in an Irrevocable Living Trust the better, as a penalty will be assessed by Medicaid during the first 5 years the trust is in existence (if Medicaid is required during that time).

Ultimately, Living Trusts give seniors more control over their assets than a will, allowing them to set parameters and stipulations and appoint a trusted advisor to help them make decisions. If you or your loved one would like more information about setting up a Living Trust, we can help. We hope you found this article helpful. If you have questions or would like to discuss your personal situation, please don’t hesitate to contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700.

Estate Planning, Healthcare

Inoculated Against COVID-19 Successfully? What’s Next?

COVID-19 is being administered to a growing number of people either through the program or becoming eligible for it. According to the medical community, vaccinated individuals are significantly less likely to contract COVID-19; however, they may pose a health risk to others. What then is appropriate behavior for vaccinated Americans when considering the health of others? For the moment, not much has changed.

First of all, experts have told us that the COVID-19 vaccines take at least two weeks from receiving the second dose (or the single dose of Johnson and Johnson) to build up your immune response. The Pfizer vaccine offers 95 percent efficacy, while the Moderna vaccine provides 94 percent efficacy, so you are highly resistant to COVID-19 but not completely immune. According to MarketWatch, Dr. Gregory Poland, infectious disease expert and director of the Mayo Clinic’s Vaccine Research Group in Rochester, Minnesota, the .9 percent difference in efficacy rates is “meaningless.” However, according to preliminary data, those who are vaccinated may still contract coronavirus though, they are more likely to be asymptomatic. In the same MarketWatch post, Dr. Thomas Russo, chief of infectious disease, University at Buffalo in New York, says, “… it’s not clear whether those vaccinated people would be able to pass it to others.” We are still in a time of great uncertainty regarding this pandemic.

There is a low risk of infection when socializing with other fully vaccinated individuals; however, most experts believe it will take months to achieve herd immunity as a nation. Herd immunity occurs when a large enough percentage of the population develops long-lasting immunity through naturally occurring infection resistance or vaccinations to a particular virus or disease.

Should you visit your local grandparent or other older relative now that you have the vaccine? Dr. Russo told MarketWatch if both you and your loved one are fully vaccinated, “the benefits of the visit will outweigh these small risks that they could have of developing a severe case of coronavirus.” The unprecedented rates of social isolation of the American elderly have taken a huge toll on their physical, mental, and emotional well-being. If you and your loved one have been fully vaccinated, make arrangements to meet safely.

The medical community speculates that a vaccination rate of 70 to 80 percent can bring about herd immunity in the US, but we are just beginning the nation’s vaccination journey. The advent of open borders and easing air travel restrictions from other countries continues to provide challenges. In the future, you might need to present a negative COVID-19 test to cross international borders. Currently, those Americans returning from Mexico must now meet this requirement before entering the US. The “slow the spread” protocols remain in place even though you are fully vaccinated.

Once you are fully vaccinated your way of life may not change for a while. It is still important to reach out to friends and loved ones who may still be suffering from feelings of isolation and/or depression. You may be able to visit a loved one in a care facility once you are fully vaccinated. And if you haven’t already, now is a great time to think about your future health, and to make sure you have the correct legal documents in place in case you are unable to make decisions due to illness or incapacity in the future. We would be happy to speak to you about what documents you should be thinking about, including a health care directive, living will, or other documents specific to your wishes and desires. If the past year has taught us anything, it is to expect the unexpected and plan accordingly. We can help! If you have questions or would like to discuss your personal situation, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Please contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700.

Elder Law, Estate Planning

A Power of Attorney Allows Another Person to Act On Your Behalf

While he awaited the closing on his Texas house, Michael was enjoying his time in Florida. Unfortunately, he took a bad fall and ended up in a Florida hospital. He had his Texas powers of attorney, but the problem was that they were “springing” powers. They were only effective if Michael lost capacity. Michael’s capacity was fine, it’s just that he wasn’t in Texas when an offer on the house came through.

A power of attorney is a legal document that allows someone else to stand in your shoes, to speak, and act on your behalf. A document that is effective immediately – even if you’re perfectly capable of managing your own affairs at the time – is the better choice. Michael should have designated a Texas agent with immediate powers, in a document that was comprehensive enough to authorize the agent to conduct real-estate transactions on Michael’s behalf.

A document like Michael’s, however, that “springs” into life only on incapacity, would not serve him as he needed. And even if Michael had lost capacity, a doctor would still have to certify that he could no longer make his own decisions. This would cause delay and uncertainty when swift action was required instead.

Many are concerned that if they have a power of attorney that is immediately effective, their agent will abuse privileges that aren’t even needed at the time. This is a sign, however, that they don’t trust that person. And after all, it’s better to be alert and aware if such a thing should happen, instead of discovering the problem only when you’ve lost capacity and it’s too late.

An experienced attorney can help you find your way through many such pitfalls. If you have questions or would like to discuss your personal situation, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Please contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700.

Elder Law, Estate Planning

A Comparison of Irrevocable Versus Revocable Trusts

For estate planning, a wide variety of trust types are available; the most common are revocable and irrevocable trusts. While there is some similarity, these two major categories of trusts have different purposes in your estate plan. Both can substitute for a last will and testament as an alternative way to distribute property, though a trust and a will often exist concurrently. Whether a revocable or irrevocable trust works better for your estate plan depends on what you need the trust to do for you.

The most striking difference between the trust types is as defined in the names. A revocable trust permits changes, amendments, and revocations at any time while you are alive and mentally capable of doing so. In contrast, an irrevocable trust does not permit amendments or revocations of any type while you are alive. The only changes to the terms of the trust are as the trust agreement itself defines and allows.

Both trusts, when properly implemented, permit the bypass of the probate process. A revocable and irrevocable trust will survive your death, and your named successor trustee will be able to distribute trust property free from court interference after you die. The trustee may only distribute assets that the trust owns in title to avoid probate.

Why seek to avoid probate? The process is slow and time-consuming, taking anywhere from six months but in most instances one to three years to complete. Although it varies by state, probate can be costly as the court takes a portion of the gross estate in probate fees even before the deceased’s debts are paid. The fee can be as substantial as ten percent. Finally, probate is a public process, and all documents and information will become part of the public record. Estate debts and assets become public records, as are the distributions of assets. Anyone who cares to look up this public record can know which beneficiary received what and often make targets of inheritors for scams or burglaries.

Both trust types help you control property after you die with conditions you outline as to how to use trust assets once you pass away. Conditions are usually age restrictions, punishments for bad behavior, and incentives to promote good behavior. These conditions must not violate public policy. Revocable and irrevocable trusts can set up conditions regarding distribution while you are alive. However, in a revocable trust, if you create the trust, control the trust as trustee, and are the trust beneficiary, you will NOT receive protection from creditors or others who may have a claim against you. This lack of credit protection in a revocable trust is significantly different from an irrevocable trust.

An irrevocable trust can prevent the distribution of assets to certain entities or people, like a long-term care facility or a creditor. The irrevocable trust must be in place and active before protection from the debt accrued to be effective or be within certain time limits to qualify for government programs such as Medicaid. The irrevocable trust creates a legal wall separating you and your assets permitting the shielding from creditors or long-term medical care costs. Asset protection is one of the most useful aspects of an irrevocable trust.

An irrevocable trust is also a vehicle to shield your multi-million dollar wealth from excessive federal estate taxes to preserve generational wealth. 2022 tax exemptions include:

  • $12,060,000 federal estate tax exemption with a 40 percent top federal estate tax rate
  • $12,060,000 Generation-Skipping Transfer (GST) tax exemption and a 40 percent top federal GST tax rate
  • Lifetime gift tax exemption is $12,060,000 and a 40 percent top federal gift tax rate
  • An annual gift tax exclusion amount increase to $16,000

In summary, both trust types can provide estate planning benefits depending on your needs.

Revocable Trust

  • Permits control of your assets, their distribution, and how they are spent after you pass
  • Permits bypassing the probate process
  • Limits probate if you have properties in multiple states and want to avoid probate in each state
  • You desire to simplify the distribution of your property to your heirs and children when you pass away.

Irrevocable Trust

  • Permits control of your assets, their distribution, and how they are spent after you pass
  • Permits bypassing the probate process
  • You have concerns about future long term medical costs
  • You have implicit trust in your children or other family members to take care of your property
  • You want to preserve generational wealth by protecting your assets from creditors or long-term care facilities
  • You want to protect your assets from potential future lawsuits
  • You want to limit federal estate taxes on your estate

Trust types in estate plans are as varied as those individuals seeking to enact them. To best protect your interests and those of your beneficiaries, meet with a qualified estate planning attorney who can explain the type of trust that best suits your needs. We hope you found this article helpful. If you have questions or would like to discuss your personal situation, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Please contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700.

Estate Planning

The Procedure for Settling an Estate Without a Will

Caring.com reports, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the percentages of older Americans without a will have remained the same. Remarkably, younger adults with a will show an increase of sixty-three percent compared to pre-pandemic times. This 18 – 34 year old demographic is now sixteen percent more likely to have a will than those 35 – 54 years old. These younger adults typically cite COVID-19 as the impetus to start taking estate planning seriously.

caring.com

Dying without a will (dying intestate) or dying with an invalid will cause logistic problems, becoming financially and emotionally draining on the loved ones you have left behind. In the absence of a will to name an executor, the state will provide a list of people eligible to fill the role. Should probate court be necessary, the court will make a selection based on this list.

Who Will Settle My Estate without a Will?

Typically, states make a surviving spouse or registered domestic partner their first choice. If there is no spouse or partner, then adult children usually follow next on that priority list, then parents or other closest family members related by blood. Further next of kin includes grandparents, grandchildren, aunts and uncles, nieces, and nephews.

There are rare instances where the state can find no next of kin. In this instance, your assets will wind up in the state’s coffers. Suppose your heirs are more distant next of kin. In that case, they may require an affidavit notarizing them to be heirs to the estate property and further documentation requirements to transfer ownership of assets. State intestacy laws encourage reasonable efforts by probate authorities to identify heirs in the absence of a valid will or no will at all.

In all cases, without a will, there must be a petition to the court to appoint a personal representative to settle your debts, final taxes, minor guardianship of children, and distribution of your personal property. In the absence of any legal heirs, the law permits the court to appoint any legally competent person.

What Relationships Are Acceptable for Representation without a Will?

Each state has relationship qualification requirements of intestate succession that may not be as obvious as you think. For instance:

  • Surviving Spouse – must have been legally married to the decedent at the time of death.
  • Legal separation or pending divorce – a judge will determine whether or not the surviving member of the couple is a surviving spouse.
  • Common-law marriage – Very few states recognize common-law marriages, and each state has its own sets of circumstances for approval.
  • Same-sex couples – Same-sex marriage is now legal in all 50 states and has the same rights and responsibilities as all legally married couples. Same-sex registered domestic partners or civil union partners recognition is state law dependent.
  • Adopted children – in all states, legally adopted children inherit from their adoptive parents in the same manner as biological children.
  • Stepchildren – Most states will not include stepchildren who were never legally adopted.
  • Foster children – These children will not usually inherit as foster parenting is not adoption.
  • Children adopted by an unrelated family or adult – Most states recognize that placing a child up for adoption severs the legal tie between them and their birth parents. Under intestate succession laws, neither the child can inherit from the parents nor the parents from the child.
  • Children adopted by a stepparent – Depending on state law, a child adopted by a stepparent may still inherit from their biological parents.
  • Children born after the parent’s death – Any child conceived before a parent’s death but born after (posthumous child) inherits just as children born during the parent’s life.
  • Children born out of wedlock – These children always inherit from their birth mother unless an unrelated family adopts them. To inherit from the father, the child usually must show some paternal proof.

Inheriting under intestate succession laws may require an heir to live a certain amount of time longer than the decedent. Depending on the state, this can be 120 hours, five days, or merely having outlived the decedent for any period of time qualifies them as an heir. If an heir dies, close relatives such as the deceased person’s child may inherit all or some for what their parent would have received. Known as the “right of representation,” these children or grandchildren may be eligible as heirs though it can be complicated to establish depending on state law.

What Could Happen to My Minor Children Without a Will?

If you have minor children having a valid will allow you to name a personal guardian(s). In the absence of a will, a judge will have to appoint an interim guardian until enough information about the situation is gathered to determine the best decision for the welfare of the children.

Depending on your circumstances, a will can be a straightforward document that removes the onus on your surviving loved ones to handle your responsibilities. If you have minor children or substantial assets, your will may be part of a larger estate plan.

Don’t let the state decide who inherits your money and your property. We would be happy to help you figure out a plan that works for you. Please contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700.