Read more about the article Why You Need a Second Beneficiary
I

Why You Need a Second Beneficiary

A second beneficiary, sometimes called a contingent beneficiary, is a person or entity entitled to receive assets from an estate or trust after the estate owner’s death, if the primary beneficiary is unable or unwilling to accept the assets. Secondary beneficiaries can be relatives or other people, but they can also be trusts, charities or other organizations, as explained in the recent article titled “What You Need to Know About Secondary or Contingent Beneficiaries” from yahoo! life.

An estate planning lawyer can help you decide whether you need a second beneficiary for your estate plan or for any trusts you create. Chances are, you do.

Beneficiaries are commonly named in wills and trust documents. They are also used in life insurance policies and in retirement accounts. After the account owner dies, the assets are distributed to beneficiaries as described in the legal documents.

The primary beneficiary is a person or entity with the first claim to assets. However, there are times when the primary beneficiary does not accept the assets, can’t be located, or has predeceased the estate owner.

A secondary beneficiary will receive the assets in this situation. They are also referred to as the “remainderman.”

In many cases, more than one contingent beneficiary is named. Multiple secondary beneficiaries might be entitled to receive a certain percentage of the value of the entire estate. More than one secondary beneficiary may also be directed to receive a portion of an individual asset, such as a family home.

Estate planning attorneys may even name an additional set of beneficiaries, usually referred to as tertiary beneficiaries. They receive assets if the secondary beneficiaries are not available or unwilling to accept the assets. In some cases, estate planning attorneys name a remote contingent beneficiary who will only become involved if all of the primary, secondary and other beneficiaries can’t or won’t accept assets.

For example, a person may specify their spouse as the primary beneficiary and children as secondary beneficiaries. A more remote relative, like a cousin, might be named as a tertiary beneficiary, while a charity could be named as a remote contingent beneficiary.

Almost any asset can be bequeathed by naming beneficiaries. This includes assets like real estate (in some states), IRAs and other retirement accounts, life insurance proceeds, annuities, securities, cash and other assets. Secondary and other types of beneficiaries can also be designated to receive personal property including vehicles, jewelry and family heirlooms.

Naming a secondary beneficiary ensures that your wishes as expressed in your will are going to be carried out even if the primary beneficiary cannot or does not wish to accept the inheritance. Lacking a secondary beneficiary, the estate assets will have to go through the probate process. Depending on the state’s laws, having a secondary beneficiary avoids having the estate distribution governed by intestate succession. Assets could go to someone who you don’t want to inherit them!

Talk with your estate planning attorney about naming secondary, tertiary and remote beneficiaries.

Reference: yahoo! life (Jan. 4, 2023) “What You Need to Know About Secondary or Contingent Beneficiaries”

 

Comments Off on Why You Need a Second Beneficiary

We are Moving our New City / Rockland Office!

Why did the law office cross the road?

Because we found a new office.

On January 28 through January 30, 2023,  the Parker Law Firm is moving our Rockland County office to 120 North Main Street, Suite 230, New City, New York 10956. (its the building next to the bowling alley)

There is ample parking but the best place to enter the building is on the left side which is handicapped accessible.

We will be fully up and running in our new space on January 31, 2023.

Our Westchester/ White Plains office remains the same.

See you there  – – David Parker

 

Comments Off on We are Moving our New City / Rockland Office!

Who Controls Actress Brittany Murphy ’s Estate?

Tony Bertolotti has contended that his half-sister Britanny Murphy was murdered 13 years ago — and added in a recent interview that he has no idea who has the “Clueless” star’s $10 million fortune.

New York Post’s recent article entitled “Brittany Murphy’s brother reveals who controls her estate — while insisting she was murdered” reports that he did say he does now know who’s been controlling her estate: her mother Sharon, a journalist and Murphy’s doctor. They’ve been overseeing it in a private trust, and neither its contents nor expenditures have been made public.

“The estate was left to Sharon, an editor of a major Hollywood newspaper — he was on the paperwork for her estate — and also a diabetes doctor from Miami she was seeing,” Bertolotti explained. “Those were the controlling names on the estate.”

Bertolotti didn’t name the newspaper editor, and it’s unclear how he knew Brittany Murphy. He claimed that family members have been trying to get details about Murphy’s estate but haven’t been successful.

At the time of her death, the actress was married to Simon Monjack, a British screenwriter with money issues and legal woes. Reports at the time said Monjack had been written out of her will. Bertolotti has claimed that Murphy’s death had something to do with her money.

A coroner report said Brittany Murphy died in 2009 from pneumonia that was worsened by anemia and prescription drug abuse.

“There’s no way that she died of natural causes. It’s impossible. It’s bulls–t, total crap,” said Bertolotti, who has the same father as Murphy. “It was obvious to me, she was taken out.”

Monjack died five months after his wife, and the coroner said pneumonia and the anemia were also the cause. A toxicity report was completed on Murphy after her death and it showed “impurities in her blood, including arsenic.” She was found passed out on the bathroom floor by her mother, and Monjack said he brought her into the shower to try to revive her.

“Why did they put her in a hot shower? That’s how you get the temperature up,” the half-sibling said.

“I just pray for my sister to rest in peace,” Bertolotti added.

Reference: New York Post (Dec. 18, 2022) “Brittany Murphy’s brother reveals who controls her estate — while insisting she was murdered”

 

Comments Off on Who Controls Actress Brittany Murphy ’s Estate?

How Does My Co-op Fit into My Estate Planning?

Parents bought a studio apartment in a New York City co-op for their adult son with special needs. He’s able to live independently with the support of an agency.

The couple asked the co-op board to let them transfer the property to an irrevocable trust, so when they die, the son will still have a place to live. However, the board denied their request.

An individual with special needs can’t inherit property directly, or he’ll no longer be able to receive the government benefits that support him. What should the parents do?

The New York Times’ recent article entitled “Can I Leave My Co-op to My Heirs?” explains that parents can leave a co-op apartment to their children in their will or in a trust. However, that doesn’t mean their heirs will necessarily wind up with the right to own or live in that apartment.

In most cases, a co-op board has wide discretion to approve or deny the transfer of the shares and the proprietary lease.

If the board denied the request, the apartment will be sold and the children receive the equity. Just because the will says, ‘I’m leaving it to my children,’ that doesn’t give the children the absolute right to acquire the shares or live there.

In some instances, the lease says a board won’t unreasonably withhold consent to transfer the apartment to a financially responsible family member. However, few, if any, leases extend that concept to include trusts.

The parents here could wait to have the situation resolved after their deaths, leaving clear directives to the executor of their estate about what to do should the board reject a request to transfer the property into a trust for their son. However, that leaves everyone in a precarious position, with years of uncertainty.

Another option is to sell the co-op now, put the proceeds in a special-needs trust and buy a condo through that trust. The son would then live there.

Unlike co-ops, condos generally allow transfers within estate planning, without requiring approval.

While this route would involve significant upheaval, the parents would have more peace of mind.

However, before buying the condo, an experienced estate planning attorney should review the building’s rules on transferring the unit.

Reference: New York Times (Oct. 1, 2022) “Can I Leave My Co-op to My Heirs?”

 

Comments Off on How Does My Co-op Fit into My Estate Planning?

What Happens When Property has Joint Ownership and an Owner Dies?

When property joint ownership, the property may pass automatically to the other owner, passing without going through probate, according to a recent article titled “Everything you need to know about jointly owned property and wills” from TBR News Media

Your will only concerns assets in your name alone without a designated beneficiary. Let’s say you have a joint checking account with another person. On your death, the account automatically becomes the property of the surviving owner. This is outside of probate, and any directions in your will won’t apply.

Real estate is most commonly in joint ownership, in several different ways and each with its own set of laws.

Joint Tenancy or Joint Tenancy with Rights of Survivorship. On the death of a joint owner, the owner’s share goes to the surviving joint owner. Simple. The main advantage is the avoidance of probate, which can be costly and take months to complete.

Tenancy by the Entirety. This type of joint ownership is only available between spouses and is not used in all states. A local estate planning attorney will be able to tell you if you have this option. As with Joint Tenancy, when the first spouse passes, their interest automatically passes to the surviving spouse outside of probate.

There are additional protections in Tenancy by the Entirety making it an attractive means of ownership. One spouse may not mortgage or sell the property without the consent of the other spouse, and the creditor of one spouse can’t place a lien or enforce a judgment against property held as tenants by the entirety.

Tenancy in Common. This form of ownership has no right of survivorship and each owner’s share of the property passes to their chosen beneficiary upon the owner’s death. Tenants in Common may have unequal interests in the property, and when one owner dies, their beneficiaries will inherit their share and become co-owners with other Tenants.

The Tenant in Common share passes the persons designated according to their will, assuming they have one. This means the decedent’s executor must “probate” the will and file a petition with the court. However, a Tenant in Common may be able to avoid probate if their share of the property is held in trust, in which case the terms of the trust and not their will controls how the property passes at death. In this case, there’s no need for any court involvement.

There may be capital gains consequences when transferring ownership interests during and after life. Such gifts should never be made without speaking with an estate planning attorney. One of the more common errors occurs when the testator fails to account for the different types of ownership and how assets pass through the will. A comprehensive estate plan, created by an experienced estate planning attorney, ensures that both probate and non-probate assets work together.

Reference: TBR News Media (Dec. 27, 2022) “Everything you need to know about jointly owned property and wills”

 

Comments Off on What Happens When Property has Joint Ownership and an Owner Dies?

Some Expenses are Paid by Estate and Some by Beneficiary

Settling an estate can be complex and time-consuming—it all depends on how much “estate planning” was done. According to a recent article from yahoo! Finance titled “What Expenses Are Paid by the Estate vs. Beneficiary?,” the executor is the person who creates an inventory of assets, determines which expenses need to be paid and distributes the remainder of the estate to the deceased’s beneficiaries. How does the executor know which monies are paid by the estate and which by the beneficiaries?

First, let’s establish what kind of expenses an estate pays. The main expenses of an estate include:

Outstanding debts. The executor has to notify creditors of the decedent’s death and the creditors then may make a claim against the estate. Because a person dies doesn’t mean their debts disappear—they become the debts of the estate.

Taxes. There are many different taxes to be paid when a person dies, including estate, inheritance and income tax. The federal estate tax is not an issue, unless the estate value exceed the exemption limit of $12.92 million for 2023. Not all states have inheritance taxes, so check with a local estate planning attorney to learn if the beneficiaries will need to pay this tax. If the decedent has an outstanding property tax bill for real estate property, the estate will need to pay it to avoid a lien being placed on the property.

Fees. There are court fees to file documents including a will to start the probate process, to serve notice to creditors or record transfer of property with the local register of deeds. The executor is also entitled to collect a fee for their services.

Maintaining real estate property. If the estate includes real estate, it is likely there will be expenses for maintenance and upkeep until the property is either distributed to heirs or sold. There may also be costs involved in transporting property to heirs.

Final expenses. Unless the person has pre-paid for all of their funeral, burial, cremation, or internment costs, these are considered part of estate expenses. They are often paid out of the death benefit associated with the deceased person’s life insurance policy.

What expenses does the estate pay?

The estate pays outstanding debts, including credit cards, medical bills, or liens.

  • Appraisals needed to establish values of estate assets
  • Repairs or maintenance for real estate
  • Fees paid to professionals associated with settling the estate, including executor, estate planning attorney, accountant, or real estate agent
  • Taxes, including income tax, estate tax and property tax
  • Fees to obtain copies of death certificates

The executor must keep detailed records of any expenses paid out of estate assets. The executor is the only person entitled by law to see the decedent’s financial records. However, beneficiaries have the right to review financial estate account records.

What does the beneficiary pay?

This depends on how the estate was structured and if any special provisions are included in the person’s will or trust. Generally, expect to pay:

  • Final expenses not covered by the estate
  • Personal travel expenses
  • Legal expenses, if you decide to contest the will
  • Property maintenance or transportation costs not covered by the estate

Some of the expenses are deductible, and the executor must use IRS Form 1041 on any estate earning more than $600 in income or which has a nonresident alien as a beneficiary.

An estate planning attorney is needed to create a comprehensive estate plan addressing these and other issues in advance. If little or no planning was done before the decedent’s death, an estate planning attorney will also be an important resource in navigating through the estate’s settlement.

Reference: yahoo! finance (Dec. 29, 2022) “What Expenses Are Paid by the Estate vs. Beneficiary?”

 

Comments Off on Some Expenses are Paid by Estate and Some by Beneficiary

Beneficiary Designation Mistakes to Avoid

Beneficiary Designation – Planning for one’s eventual death can be a somber task. However, consider what would occur if you failed to plan: loved ones trying to figure out your intentions, a long and expensive legal battle with unintended heirs and instead of grieving your loss, wondering why you didn’t take care of business while you were living. Planning suddenly becomes far more appealing, doesn’t it?

A recent article from yahoo! finance, “5 Retirement Plan Beneficiary Mistakes to Avoid,” explains how to avoid some of the issues regarding beneficiaries.

You haven’t named a beneficiary for your retirement accounts. This is a common estate planning mistake, even though it seems so obvious. A beneficiary can be a person, a charity, a trust, or your estate. Your estate planning attorney will be able to help you identify likely beneficiaries and ensure they are eligible.

You forgot to review your beneficiary designations for many years. Most people have changes in relationships as they move through the stages of life. The same person who was your best friend in your twenties might not even be in your life in your sixties. However, if you don’t check on beneficiary designations on a regular basis, you may be leaving your retirement accounts to people who haven’t heard from you in decades and disinheriting loved ones. Every time you update your estate plan, which should be every three to five years, check your beneficiary designations.

You didn’t name your spouse as a primary beneficiary for a retirement account. When Congress passed the 2019 SECURE Act, the bill removed a provision allowing non-spousal beneficiaries to stretch out disbursements from IRAs over their lifetimes, also known as the “Stretch IRA.” A non-spouse beneficiary must empty any inherited IRA within ten years from the death of the account holder. If a minor child is the beneficiary, once they reach the age of legal majority, they are required to follow the rules of a Required Minimum Distribution. Having a spouse named as beneficiary allows them to move the inherited IRA funds into their own IRA and take out assets as they wish.

You named an estate as a beneficiary. You can name your estate as a beneficiary. However, it creates a significant tangle for the family who has to set things right. For instance, if you have any debt, your estate could be attached by creditors. Your estate may also go through probate court, a court-supervised process to validate your will, have your final assets identified and have debts paid before any remaining assets are distributed to heirs.

You didn’t create a retirement plan until late in your career. Retirement seems very far away during your twenties, thirties and even forties. However, the years pass and suddenly you’re looking at retirement without enough money set aside. Creating an estate plan early in your working life shifts your focus, so you understand how important it is to have a retirement plan.

An experienced estate planning attorney can help square away your beneficiary designations as part of your overall estate plan. The best time to start? How about today?

Reference: yahoo! finance (Dec. 19, 2022) “5 Retirement Plan Beneficiary Mistakes to Avoid”

 

Comments Off on Beneficiary Designation Mistakes to Avoid

Should Each Child Get Equal Inheritance?

Every estate planning attorney has conversations with their clients about how adult children should inherit. While most people assume siblings should all inherit equally, in many situations, equal is not always appropriate. There are many situations where an equal inheritance might be unfair, says a recent article, “How Should Your Children Inherit? 4 Scenarios Where ‘Equal’ Is Not Appropriate,” from Kiplinger.

The Caretaker Child Lives With the Parent. When one of the children lives with the parent and has taken on most, if not all, of the responsibilities, it may be fair to treat the child differently than siblings who are not involved with the parent’s care. Taking care of paying bills, coordinating health care appointments, driving the parent to appointments and being involved with end-of-life care is a lot of responsibility. It may be fair to leave this child the family home or leave the home to a trust for the child for their lifetime. The parent may wish to leave the caretaking child a larger portion of the inheritance to recognize the additional help they provided.

A Special Needs Child. If the parent has been the primary caregiver for a special needs child, the estate plan must take this into consideration to ensure the child will be properly cared for after the parents die or are unable to care for the child. Depending on what government benefits the child receives, this usually means the parents need to have a Special Needs Trust or Supplemental Needs Trust created. Most government benefits are means-tested. To remain eligible, recipients may not have more than a certain amount of personal assets. The Special Needs or Supplemental Needs trust could receive more or less than an equal amount of the estate the child would have inherited.

In this scenario, siblings are generally understanding. The siblings often know they will be the ones caring for the family member with special needs when the parents can no longer provide care and welcome the help of an elder law estate planning attorney to plan for their sibling’s future.

An Adult Child With Problems. It’s usually not a good idea to leave an equal portion of an inheritance to an adult child who suffers from mental illness, substance abuse, is going through a divorce or has a life-long history of making bad choices. Putting the money into a trust with a non-family member serving as a trustee and strict directions for when and how much money may be distributed may be a better option. In some cases, disinheriting a child is the unpleasant but only realistic alternative.

Wealth Disparities Among the Siblings. When one child has been financially successful and another struggles, it’s fair to bequeath different amounts. However, wealth can change over a lifetime, so review the estate plan and the wealth distribution on a regular basis.

How To Decide What Will Work For Your Family? Every family is different, and every family has different dynamics. Have open and honest discussions with your estate planning attorney, so they can help you plan for your family’s situation. If possible, the same frank discussion should take place with adult children, so no one is taken by surprise at a time when they will be grieving a loss.

Reference: Kiplinger (Dec. 18, 2022) “How Should Your Children Inherit? 4 Scenarios Where ‘Equal’ Is Not Appropriate”

 

Comments Off on Should Each Child Get Equal Inheritance?

Can Executor Take the Money and Run?

What if your executor or trustee decides to run off to the Bahamas with all your assets, leaving heirs with nothing? Ohio Farmer’s recent article entitled “What if trustee runs off with assets?” says that safeguards should be in place to protect the heirs of an estate.

The most common way to protect against this possibility is a fiduciary bond. An executor, trustee, or guardian would get a bond early in a probate case and file it with the court. The bond would remain in place while the fiduciary is serving his or her role. If the fiduciary absconds with estate assets, the bond is there to help the beneficiaries.

This expense would be covered by the fiduciary, who would need to find a bond company willing to issue it. The bond amount is connected to the value of personal property, such as financial accounts, vehicles and personal effects.

Do you need a bond to cover the value of land? No. The primary difference is that land can’t be picked up easily and moved, making a bond unnecessary. It’s also very hard to transfer land without extensive safeguards. In some cases, court permission is required for a transfer. To sell a farm or ranch, a title company might raise suspicion. Real estate-related actions are also often public record. In some cases, a court action can correct issues or order damages.

It’s possible to waive the requirement of a bond. That’s a default setting for bonds with estates, trusts, or guardianships. Most estate planning documents waive the bond requirement, because family members often serve as fiduciaries.

State law may also describe several situations where a bond isn’t required. However, if a party motions the court, and the judge thinks there’s good cause for a bond, one can be required for a fiduciary.

While a bond can provide some important protections for heirs, the likelihood of a fiduciary running off with assets is low. As a result, most administrations view the bond as an unnecessary step and expense.

However, if a family is concerned about the trustworthiness of an executor, the bond requirement should be reinstated.

If an administration is pending, the family can petition the court to require a bond. Consult with an experienced estate planning attorney to determine the role of bonds for your estate plan.

Reference: Ohio Farmer (Nov. 22, 2022) “What if trustee runs off with assets?”

 

Comments Off on Can Executor Take the Money and Run?

How Charitable Giving Benefits the Giver

Appreciated assets – A charitable donation tax deduction feels good in a few ways. Not only do you feel good about giving to a good cause, but you’re also cutting your tax bill. However, before you start writing checks or making online donations, you should know what rules to follow to ensure your good-hearted gifting is giving you tax deductions, explains the article “Charitable Donation Tax Deductions: An Additional Reward for the Gift of Giving” from Kiplinger.

First, you’ll need to itemize to claim a charitable tax deduction. If you took the standard deduction on your 2020 or 2021 tax return, you could also claim up to $300 for cash donations to charity. This deduction wasn’t available to taxpayers who claimed itemized deductions on Schedule A. This deduction wasn’t extended past 2021, so you can’t claim a charitable donation tax deduction on your 2022 tax return. For 2022 and beyond, you’ll have to itemize if you want to write off gifts to charity.

If your standard deduction is a little higher than your itemized deduction, consolidate charitable deductions from the next few years into the current tax years, known as “bunching.” This lets you boost your itemized deductions for the current year, so they exceed your standard deduction amount. Consider using a Donor Advised Fund, where you can make one large contribution to a fund and deduct the entire amount as an itemized deduction in the year you make it. Just be sure your donations align with your estate plan.

How do you know what donations are deductible? Contributions of cash or property are generally deductible. If you donate property, the deduction is equal to the property’s fair market value. If you give appreciated property, you may have to reduce the fair market value by the amount of appreciation when calculating the deduction. If the property has decreased, your deduction is limited to the current fair market value.

There are certain requirements and limitations for charitable tax deductions. For gifts of $250 or more, you must have a written acknowledgment from the charity stating the amount of a cash donation and a description of any donated property, but not value, and whether or not you received any goods or services in return for your contribution. At certain valuation points, you’ll need to file certain forms and if you donate a car, boat, or airplane worth more than $5,000, you may need to have the property appraised also.

Just because your donation was used for a good cause doesn’t mean you can deduct it. Only contributions to certain charitable organizations are deductible. For instance, if a neighbor starts a Go Fund Me page, those donations, while greatly appreciated, are not tax deductible.

The IRS makes it easy to determine if any donations are tax deductible with the Tax Exempt Organization Search tool on its website to find out if an organization is tax-exempt.

For seniors who are at least 70 ½ years old, you can transfer up to $100,000 directly from a traditional IRA to charity through a Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD). The charitable donations made by eligible Donor Advised Fund, Qualified Charitable Distribution, QCD, Required Minimum Distribution, Standard Deduction, Fair Market Value, Appreciated, Estate Planning Attorney, Adjusted Gross Income, Tax Exempt Organizationeniors via a QCD aren’t deducible. However, you can still save on taxes, since QCDs aren’t included in taxable income.

QCDs also count towards senior’s Required Minimum Distribution, without adding to your adjusted gross income.

Reference: Kiplinger (Nov. 28, 2022) “Charitable Donation Tax Deductions: An Additional Reward for the Gift of Giving”

 

Comments Off on How Charitable Giving Benefits the Giver