Building Legacies that Last Estate Planning and Elder Law

Options Are Important When Inheriting an IRA

    Americans hold a lot of wealth in IRAs. However, do you know the tax consequences?

Forbes recently discussed some possibilities for beneficiaries of IRAs, including the good deals and the bad deals in "What To Do If You Inherit an IRA."
While inheriting an IRA account can be great news for some, it can also turn to bad news, if the beneficiaries make the wrong decisions about what to do with those accounts.

The single most important thing to keep in mind is that an inherited IRA can be the source of lifetime payments or it can be a source of a very large and immediate tax bill.

If you are smart, then you will want it to be the former, unless you absolutely need a large sum of money right away.
The general rule of thumb is that you should never take more out of an inherited IRA than you are absolutely required to take by law. It is recommended that you take no more than the required minimum distribution.
Exactly how much that is, will depend on several factors.

Before you make a decision on an inherited IRA, it would most likely be beneficial to consult an attorney.
Reference: Forbes (July 10, 2017) "What To Do If You Inherit an IRA."

Train Your Heirs

MP900442211[1]If you want your wealth to last and be available for future generations of your family, then you need to make sure that your heirs are ready to handle the responsibility of maintaining your wealth.

The ability to manage and preserve a large amount of wealth is not something most people are born with. If it were, then there would be few stories about big lottery winners ending up with less money after a few years, than they had before they won millions.

There are many stories like that.

There are also numerous stories about families that once had a lot of wealth that was lost over the generations.

These stories are actually so common that the few families who successfully preserve wealth for generations, are considered the exceptions to the rule.

Recently, the Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog discussed ways to make sure your family might be one of the exceptions in "Preparing Heirs for Successful Wealth Stewardship."

The key to such success actually seems relatively simple. In practice, however, it can be difficult.

Heirs need to be trained to handle the wealth.

They need to know how to make good investments and how to avoid bad ones. They also need to learn what good uses for the money are and what type of spending would be wasteful.

Perhaps, most importantly, heirs need to know who to turn to for advice.

A good estate plan is also vital to preserving family wealth.

The wealth cannot be maintained without the proper legal instruments, but estate planning is not enough by itself.

Reference: Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog (June 29, 2017) "Preparing Heirs for Successful Wealth Stewardship."

 

 

How to Blow a Big Inheritance

MP900408932_(1)[1]It is often noted that great family wealth has a tendency to disappear after a generation or two. That is because the same mistakes in handling that wealth are made over and over again.

There is little doubt that an ever increasing amount of America's total wealth is being concentrated in fewer and fewer hands. Many wealthy people are amassing large fortunes that could potentially pass down through their families for generations.

This "generational wealth" has the potential to make some families wealthy for hundreds of years.

However, we know from history that rarely actually happens, when great wealth is passed down by families.

Most of the time, the wealth dissipates after a generation or two, even if we do remember the exceptions where that did not happen.

If you are someone who is going to receive an inheritance of generational wealth, then you need to know how to make sure that you are one of the exceptions that preserves the wealth.

Financial Advisor recently discussed in this challenge "These 5 Mistakes Destroy Generational Wealth."

Things to avoid doing include:

  • Do not spend recklessly as soon as you get an inheritance. Buying all of your dream items, is not a good idea immediately after receiving an inheritance.
  • Do not think you can handle the assets without receiving proper financial advice.
  • Take your time to make a plan about what to do with the money. There is no need to act right away.
  • Make sure that you are not paralyzed by all of your investment options. You should not act right away in a rush, but you do need to act eventually.
  • Avoid giving to every friend or family member with a hand out at your expense.

On the other hand, contact an experienced estate planning attorney who can help you form a team of advisors to help guide you to prudent decision-making.

Reference: Financial Advisor (May 23, 2017) "These 5 Mistakes Destroy Generational Wealth."

 

Leaving A Large Inheritance? Pros & Cons

MP900422581[1]Many wealthy people are torn between wanting to leave a large inheritance for their children and fears that their children will not be able to handle the wealth.

Wealthy parents whose children do not get independently wealthy on their own, often fear that leaving those children a large inheritance would be a mistake. The children might not be able to handle the money and it might cause them to give up their own careers.

In some cases, the children might also waste all of the money and leave nothing for their own children. Despite this common fear, the wealthy parents do want to leave their children large inheritances.

This tension creates problems for many people as they plan their estates, as the Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog points out in "New Focus for Estate Planning."

The key to resolving this tension is to understand that estate planning can be about more than just transferring a lot of assets to heirs. With a traditional Will, heirs get all of the assets at once, which leaves open the possibility that assets will be misused.

There are many kinds of available estate planning tools that can be used to make sure that heirs do not waste everything.

Many types of trusts will help preserve the assets.

Of course, this can only be done, if an estate planning attorney knows that the client fears his children will waste an inheritance. The attorney needs the client to express these fears, so the attorney can devise the best plans.

Reference: Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog (May 17, 2017) "New Focus for Estate Planning."

 

Tennessee’s Cowan Rule

MP900202201[1]In most states, to completely disinherit a child in a will, parents have to mention the child and specifically disinherit him or her. Otherwise, it is presumed that the child was left out by mistake. Tennessee has an exception to the rule.  Likewise, in Maryland, a parent must explicitly state an intent to disinherit a child to do so and should proceed with the advice of a Maryland estate planning attorney.

  1. Don Brock, the late CEO of Astec Industries, wrote many wills over the years. He executed new wills in 1994, 1998, 2006, 2012 and 2013. His first three wills all did different things with regard to his five adopted children.

They were given various amounts of money or cut out from receiving anything in the different wills. The last two wills did not mention the adopted children at all. They claim that was done by their stepmother, in order to preserve the assets of Astec Industries for herself.

The children filed a lawsuit against the estate, but lost in the lower courts. The Supreme Court of Tennessee has now agreed to hear their case, according to the Times Free Press in “Tennessee Supreme Court agrees to hear J. Don Brock estate challenge.”

The main issue in this case is a 110-year-old decision by the Supreme Court of Tennessee that created what is known as the Cowan Rule. It limits the ability of potential heirs to challenge a will, if they were not mentioned in the previous will.

The adopted children lost in the lower courts because they were not mentioned in the 2012 will. The rule makes some sense.

Why?

Merely having the 2013 will ruled invalid would not create an inheritance for the children,  since it would just validate the 2012 will, unless it is also successfully challenged.

However, this is not how other states handle disinherited children.

In other states, it is presumed that if a child is not mentioned in a will at all, it was a mistake and the child can challenge the estate, regardless of what an older will might state. In Maryland and DC, the will should explicitly disinherit.  Contact a Maryland estate planning attorney or DC estate planning attorney in order to successfully disinherit a child.

Reference: Times Free Press (March 21, 2017) “Tennessee Supreme Court agrees to hear J. Don Brock estate challenge.”

 

Audrey Hepburn’s Sons Use Mediation to Settle Estate Plan Dispute

Audrey-hepburn-actress-breakfast-at-tiffany-s-prominent-76961Audrey Hepburn's estate planning mistake has led to a long legal fight between her sons. It appears that they have finally reached an agreement. Like many, she gave vague instructions to her sons about dividing her legacy and did not include any instructions  for her sons on resolving disputes.

Audrey Hepburn starred in some of the most beloved movies of all time. She came to symbolize beauty and grace in mid-century Hollywood.

When she passed away in 1993, she left behind a gigantic amount of memorabilia from her acting career, including some of the costumes and jewelry that she wore in her iconic roles. These items have obvious value to collectors, but so far no one has gotten their hands on them.

Why?

The items have been the source of a long dispute between her two sons.

Hepburn specified in her estate plan that everything she owned should be split between those sons equally, but she left no instructions regarding just how that was to be accomplished.

Which son should get which item?  This dispute could have been resolved without costly litigation if she included in her will instructions for mediation to resolve such disputes.  Michelle Profit, an estate planning attorney, has written an article on how mediation can be used to peacefully resolve disputes.

Hepburn's will was silent, however, so memorabilia has been contested in court for the last two years, but the sons may have finally reached an agreement, according to the Daily Mail in "Audrey Hepburn's sons agree to split their late mother's treasure trove of belongings, including costumes, jewelry, scripts and awards, after two-year legal dispute."

The sons have agreed to submit the question to mediation and use that process to determine the distribution of particular pieces of memorabilia. However, this will not be the end of all battles concerning Hepburn's estate, since a charitable fund she founded is now suing one of the sons for interference with its affairs.  

Hepburn's mistake was not including some way for her son's to resolve any disputes about who gets what in her estate plan. She could have made provisions for a mediator to resolve the disputes. That would have saved a lot of headaches and legal bills for her family. Profit Law Firm, LLC can include dispute resolution in your estate planning documents to avoid these disputes, and reduce the cost of such disputes, when they occur.

Reference: Daily Mail (March 9, 2017) "Audrey Hepburn's sons agree to split their late mother's treasure trove of belongings, including costumes, jewelry, scripts and awards, after two-year legal dispute."

 

Signing an Inheritance Away. It Happens.

MP900202201[1]It is every parent's worst fear. A child will agree to give away their inheritance for far less than it is worth for quick money.

Recently, MarketWatch published an advice column with the following question as its title: "My drug-addicted friend signed away his $800,000 inheritance to his brother — now he’s clean, can he get it back?"

The title is an almost complete description of what happened. A reader wrote in with a story about his friend who inherited $800,000 from his father's will. The friend was addicted to drugs and agreed to sign his rights to the inheritance away to his own brother for only $10,000.

Now, that the friend is sober, the reader wonders whether there is any way to get the inheritance back.

The column writer suggests that the friend hire an attorney and sue the brother for fraud based on the premise that he knowingly took advantage of someone who was mentally incapacitated. That might work in some cases.

But not so fast.

There are some states and courts that are not quick to undo agreements that drug addicts voluntarily enter into, especially if it cannot be proven they were high at the time of making the agreement.

This is the type of scenario about which many parents have nightmares, when it comes to their addicted children. Leaving the child an inheritance outright can quickly be lost.

Fortunately, there are ways to avoid the problem altogether without disinheriting the drug-addicted child. A trust can be used to protect the inheritance with a trustee who is granted the discretion to only distribute money when the child is able to handle it.

Reference: MarketWatch (Jan. 24, 2017) "My drug-addicted friend signed away his $800,000 inheritance to his brother — now he’s clean, can he get it back?"

 

Depression Era Trusts May Expire Soon


Bigstock-Extended-Family-Outside-Modern-13915094[1]Many family dynasty trusts created during the Great Depression to avoid rising taxation, will automatically terminate soon. Trustees and beneficiaries need to be prepared.

One of the lasting legacies of the Great Depression will soon come to an end. In response to that crisis, the government greatly increased the gift and estate tax rates. Wealthy families responded, in turn, by creating dynastic trusts to hold their wealth and preserve it for future generations.

Most of the trusts created at that time have mandatory termination dates at which time the trust assets must be distributed to the residual beneficiaries.

Successfully carrying out that process will require some planning as the Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog explained in “Preparing for Trust Termination.”

The first challenge for many trusts and trustees will be determining the residual beneficiaries. In many cases, they could be distant relations of the original trust settlors and not the same people who currently receive regular distributions from the trusts.

Once the beneficiaries are determined, they will need to plan for how receiving the trust assets, will  impact their lives and financial futures. Depending on the amount of money received, the beneficiaries’ tax and estate plans could change dramatically.

Those who do not plan appropriately, could face negative consequences that could have been avoided.

If you are a residual beneficiary of a depression era trust, you should seek independent legal advice. It might not be a good idea to rely on the advice offered by the trustees and their legal advisors.  Profit Law Firm, LLC can provide an independent consultation.

You need an attorney who will be acting only in your interests.

Reference: Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog (Dec. 5, 2016) “Preparing for Trust Termination.”

 

Making an Inheritance Work

Draft_lens6229982module49470302photo_1249598396business-man[1]If you receive an inheritance, it should not put you in a worse position than you were before. That happens all too often.

A common myth about people who inherit wealth is that it brings them financial security and they no longer need to worry about money. However, as is the case with people who win the lottery, people who suddenly inherit wealth are often soon in a worse financial position than they were previously.

Most of the time, inheritances do not grow a person’s or a family’s wealth.

They end up subtracting from it as Chase News & Stories reports in “How to make sure your inheritance is a boon, not a bust.”

The biggest problem is overspending, especially on unnecessary things. While it might be fine to splurge on one or two things, spending can quickly snowball until there is nothing left. There is always something more that can be purchased and heirs who are not careful, keep purchasing those somethings.

The best way to prevent this is to plan ahead.

Talk to your older relatives about what inheritance you might receive from their estate plans and ask for guidance in wealth management. Your relatives who have wealth, can teach you how they maintained that wealth.

If you do not know ahead of time that you will receive a large inheritance and get one suddenly, then you can still make plans if you are patient. Do not do anything with the inheritance for at least six months. You should take that time to think carefully and to get good financial advice.

Reference: Chase News & Stories (Nov. 23, 2016) “How to make sure your inheritance is a boon, not a bust.”

 

Adopting an Heir

MP900289365[1]To make sure that someone they love receives a portion of their estate some people decide to adopt the loved one. That is unnecessary and can create other complications.

When it comes to the law, having limited information can be dangerous.

For example, what if you know there is a default rule that says your children will inherit your estate if you do not have a living spouse. So what if you reared someone as if he or she was your own child and you would like to make sure they receive an equal share of your estate? Does that mean you should adopt that person?

That is what one person recently wrote and asked My San Antonio, as reported in "Should adoption be used to ensure an inheritance?"

In that situation adopting the person would work. However, there is a far simpler way to make sure someone receives an inheritance.

If you create an estate plan, then you can give an inheritance to anyone you want. The only restriction is that you cannot cut out your spouse or minor children completely.

On the other hand, adoption can create complications, since it severs the legal relationship between the adopted person and his or her biological family. It could potentially create other legal obligations for you and the other person.

Before adopting someone for inheritance purposes, visit an estate planning attorney.

In the end, getting a proper estate plan created may be an easier method of leaving your assets for another person than adopting them.

Reference: My San Antonio (Oct. 13, 2016) "Should adoption be used to ensure an inheritance?"