Hey Dad, Can I Get an Advance on the Inheritance ?

Most parents want to divide their estate equally among their heirs, but sometimes things just don’t work out that way. That’s especially the case when one child needs more help than another. Therefore, what parents will often do is count the distributions they make during their lifetime as an advance on the inheritance . This doesn’t always go smoothly, says the article “Lifetime advances of inheritances” from Lake County News.

Equalizing distributions to some children to offset any substantial distributions made to offset the total distribution can lead to trouble, if certain legal requirements are not addressed. In California, the Probate Code is very specific. There are three different approaches in which lifetime distributions are counted as advances of inheritances at death:

  1. The instrument provides for deduction of the lifetime gift from the at-death transfer
  2. The transferor declares in a contemporaneous writing that the gift is in satisfaction of the at-death transfer or that its value is to be deducted from the value of the at-death transfer and
  3. The transferee acknowledges in writing that the gift is in satisfaction of the at-death transfer or that its value is to be deducted from the value at the at-death transfer.

In the first example, the decedent’s will, or trust expressly says that lifetime distributions are to be counted against the future inheritance. This may state a specific dollar amount or may refer to a ledger that tracks ongoing lifetime gifting. The ledger approach is often used when a child is dependent upon a parent for ongoing support, paying off school loans or paying a mortgage.

The second example, which involves a written record of the gift, was the subject of a recent appellate court decision. The deceased father kept track of all monetary gifts to his children. The father’s bookkeeper maintained a spreadsheet and was told by the father that the list was important, so that the payments would be deducted from inheritances. At the father’s death, the son had received more than $450,000 more than the daughter. The son contested the daughter’s request for equalizing the inheritance based on the ledger. The appellate court stated that the ledger met the requirements to serve as a contemporaneous written record. The court also found that the permanent ledger was property authenticated and entered into evidence, based on the daughter’s testimony that she found the ledger among her father’s papers and that it was written in her father’s handwriting.

In the third scenario, where there was a written acknowledgment by the person receiving the “advance” that the money was in satisfaction of the at-death transfer, the court found that the requirement was satisfied and the son had acknowledged that the assets given to him were advances on his inheritance.

A better scenario, and one that would have prevented some, if not all, of the litigation described above, would be to have estate planning documents that clearly state whether any disproportionate lifetime gifting to beneficiaries is to be offset with equalizing payments to the other beneficiaries at death. Your estate planning attorney will be able to create the best plan if your heirs need financial support, following the laws of your state.

Reference: Lake County News (March 14, 2020) “Lifetime advances of inheritances”

 

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The Coronavirus and Estate Planning

Coronavirus and Estate Planning – As Americans adjust to a changing public health landscape and historical changes to the economy, certain opportunities in wealth planning are becoming more valuable, according to the article “Impact of COVID-19 on Estate Planning” from The National Law Review. Here is a look at some strategies for estate plans:

Basic estate planning. Now is the time to review current estate planning documents to be sure they are all up to date. That includes wills, trusts, revocable trusts, powers of attorney, beneficiary designations and health care directives. Also be sure that you and family members know where they are located.

Wealth Transfer Strategies. The extreme volatility of financial markets, depressed asset values,and historically low interest rates present opportunities to transfer wealth to intended beneficiaries. Here are a few to consider:

Intra-Family Transactions. In a low interest rate environment, planning techniques involve intra-family transactions where the senior members of the family lend or sell assets to younger family members. The loaned or sold assets only need to appreciate at a rate greater than the interest rate charged. In these cases, the value of the assets remaining in senior family member’s estate will be frozen at the loan/purchase price. The value of the loaned or sold assets will be based on a fair market value valuation, which may include discounts for certain factors. The fair market value of many assets will be extremely depressed and discounted. When asset values rebound, all that appreciation will be outside of the taxable estate and will be held by or for the benefit of your intended beneficiaries, tax free.

Grantor Retained Annuity Trusts (GRATS). The use of a GRAT allows the Grantor to contribute assets into a trust while retaining a right to receive, over a term of years, an annuity steam from the Trust. When the term of years expires, the balance of the Trust’s assets passes to the beneficiaries. The IRS values the ultimate transfer of assets to your intended beneficiaries, based on the value of the annuity stream you retain and an assumed rate of return. The assumed rate of return, known as the 7520 rate comes from the IRS and is currently 1.8%. So, if you retain the right to receive an annuity stream from the trust equal to the value of the assets plus a 1.8% rate of return, assets left in the trust at the end of the term pass to your beneficiaries transfer-tax free.

Charitable Lead Annuity Trusts. Known as “CLATs,” they are similar to a GRAT, where the Grantor transfers assets to a trust and a named charity gets an annuity stream for a set term of years. At the end of that term, the assets in the trust pass to the beneficiaries. You can structure this so the balance of the assets passes to heirs transfer-tax free.

Coronavirus and Estate Planning – Speak with your estate planning attorney about these and other wealth transfer strategies to learn if they are right for you and your family. And stay well!

Reference: The National Law Journal (March 13, 2020) “Impact of COVID-19 on Estate Planning”

 

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Revocation of Living Trust How Does That Work?

Revocation of Living Trust How Does That Work? A revocable trust is a flexible legal vehicle that lets the creator (known as the grantor) manage trust assets, as well as to alter the trust itself or its beneficiaries at any time in her lifetime. Also called a “living trust,” this trust is frequently used to transfer assets to heirs to avoid the time and expenses of probate. It is much different than if assets were simply bequeathed in a will. During the life of the trust, income earned is distributed to the grantor, and only after her death does its property transfer to the beneficiaries.

A recent Investopedia article asks “How exactly does one go about revoking a revocable trust?” According to the article, people might revoke a trust for several reasons, but typically it involves a life change. A common reason for revoking a trust, is a divorce when the trust was created as a joint document with one’s soon-to-be ex-spouse.

A trust might also be revoked because the grantor wants to make changes that are so extensive that it would be simpler to dissolve the trust and create a new one. A revocable trust may also be revoked, if the grantor wants to appoint a new trustee or totally change the provisions of the trust.

Note that while they avoid probate, revocable trusts aren’t exempt from estate taxes. Because of the fact that the grantor has control of the assets during his or her lifetime, the property is considered part of the taxable estate.

When attempting the revocation of Living Trust, first remove all the assets that have been transferred into it. This means changing titles, deeds, or other legal documents to transfer ownership from the assets of the trust back to the trust’s grantor directly. Next, have a legal document created that states the trust’s creator, having the right to revoke the trust, does want to revoke all terms and conditions of the trust and dissolve it completely. This is often called a “trust revocation declaration” or “revocation of living trust.” As a seasoned estate planning attorney to create this document for you to be sure that it is correctly worded and meets all the qualifications of your state’s laws. If the trust has a variety of assets, it is also often smarter to let an experienced attorney make certain that everything has been properly transferred out of the trust.

The Revocation of Living Trust document should be signed, dated, witnessed and notarized. If the trust being dissolved was registered with a specific court, the dissolution document should be filed with the same court. Otherwise, you can just attach it to your trust papers and store it with your will or new trust documents.

Contact you estate planning attorney to find out more. 

Reference: Investopedia (Jan. 13, 2020) “How exactly does one go about revoking a revocable trust?”

 

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C19 UPDATE: CDC Updates Business Response to Coronavirus
Businesspeople in Meeting --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

C19 UPDATE: CDC Updates Business Response to Coronavirus

C19 UPDATE: CDC Updates Business Response to Coronavirus

As we learn more about the coronavirus the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is updating the guidance they give to business owners and employers. They issued updates on Friday, March 21st to include

  • Updated cleaning and disinfection guidance
  • Updated best practices for conducting social distancing
  • Updated strategies and recommendations to be implement now to respond to COVID-19

If you are a business owner, you may want to bookmark this page and check back regularly for updates: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/guidance-business-response.html

Resource: Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), updated March 21, 2020, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/guidance-business-response.html

 

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New Blood Test May Make Alzheimer’s Diagnosis Easier

Researchers at the University of California – UC San Francisco have analyzed the blood test in more than 300 patients and believe that they will see such a test for an Alzheimer’s Diagnosis available in doctor’s offices within five years, according to a press release from The University of California- San Francisco’s entitled “New Blood Test Could Make Alzheimer’s Diagnosis Easier Than Ever.”

“This test could eventually be deployed in a primary care setting for people with memory concerns to identify who should be referred to specialized centers to participate in clinical trials or to be treated with new Alzheimer’s therapies, once they are approved,” said Adam Boxer, MD, PhD, neurologist at the UCSF Memory and Aging Center and senior author of the study published in Nature Medicine. Boxer also is affiliated with the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences.

There is currently no blood test for either condition. Alzheimer’s diagnoses can only be confirmed by a PET scan of the brain, which can be expensive or an invasive lumbar puncture to test cerebrospinal fluid.

If approved, the new blood test could make screening easier and help increase the number of patients eligible for clinical trials—vital to the search for drugs to stop or slow dementia. Patients who know whether they have Alzheimer’s or FTD are also better able to manage their symptoms.

In the new study, scientists collected blood samples from 362 people aged 58 to 70, including 56 individuals who’d been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, 190 diagnosed with FTD, 47 with mild cognitive impairment, plus 69 healthy controls.

Researchers checked the blood samples for proteins that could serve as signs of dementia. One protein, called pTau181, is known to aggregate in tangles in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s. Blood levels of pTau181 were about 3½ times higher in people with Alzheimer’s as opposed to their healthy peers. People with FTD had normal levels of pTau181, and those with mild cognitive impairment due to underlying Alzheimer’s had an intermediate increase.

When researchers followed the patients for two years, they saw that higher levels of pTau181 predicted more rapid cognitive decline in those with Alzheimer’s or mild cognitive impairment.

The researchers note the new blood test has the same degree of accuracy as current PET scans and lumbar punctures in distinguishing Alzheimer’s from FTD. It would be less expensive and easier.

Alzheimer’s impacts nearly 6 million Americans and comprises two-thirds of dementia cases. FTD includes a broad group of brain disorders often linked with degeneration of the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain.

Reference: UCSF (March 2, 2020) “New Blood Test Could Make Alzheimer’s Diagnosis Easier Than Ever”

 

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Estate Planning uses a “Dynamic Document”

One of the most common mistakes people make about their estate plan is neglecting to coordinate all of the moving parts, reports the Dayton Business Journal’s article “Baird expert gives estate planning advice.” The second most common mistake is not thinking of your estate plan as a dynamic document. Many people believe that once their estate plan is done, it’s done forever. That creates a lot of problems for the families and their heirs.

In the last few years, we have seen three major federal tax law changes, including an increase in the federal estate tax exemption amount from $3,500,000 to an enormous $11,580,000. The estate tax exemption is also now portable. Most recently, the SECURE Act has changed how IRAs are distributed to heirs. All of these changes require a fresh look at estate plans. The same holds true for changes within families: births, deaths, marriages and divorces all call for a review of estate plans.

For younger adults in their 20s, an estate plan includes a last will and testament, financial power of attorney, healthcare power of attorney and a HIPAA authorization form. People in their 40s need a deeper dive into an estate plan, with discussions on planning for minor children, preparing to leave assets for children in trusts, ensuring that the family has the correct amount of life insurance in place, and planning for unexpected incapacitation. This is also the time when people have to start a plan for their parents, with discussions about challenging topics, like their wishes for end-of-life care and long-term care insurance.

In their 60s, estate plans need to reflect the goals of the couple, and expectations of what you both want to happen on your passing. Do you want to create a legacy of giving, and what tools will be best to accomplish this: a charitable remainder trust, or other estate planning tools? Ensuring that your assets are properly titled, that beneficiaries are properly named on assets like life insurance, investment accounts, etc., becomes more important as we age.

This is also the time to plan for how your assets will be passed to your children. Are your children prepared to manage an inheritance, or would they be better off having their inheritance be given to them over the course of several years via a trust? If that is the case, who should be the trustee?

Some additional pointers:

  • Revise your estate plan every three or five years with your estate planning attorney.
  • Evaluate solutions to provide tax advantages to your estate.
  • Review asset titling and beneficiary designations.
  • Make sure your charitable giving is done in a tax efficient way.
  • Plan for the potential tax challenges that may impact your estate

Regardless of your age and state, your estate planning attorney will be able to guide you through the process of creating and then reviewing your estate plan.

Reference: Dayton Business Journal (February 4, 2020) “Baird expert gives estate planning advice”

 

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What Do We Know about Early Onset Dementia ?

Rita Benezra Obeiter, 59, is a former pediatrician who was diagnosed several years ago with early onset dementia, a rare form of the disease. When this occurs in people under age 65, the conditions cause additional and unique issues because they are so unexpected and because most of the potentially helpful programs and services are designed for and targeted to older people.

One issue is that doctors typically don’t look for the disease in younger patients. As a result, it can be months or even years before the right diagnosis is made and proper treatment can start.

WLNY’s recent article entitled “Some Health Care Facilities Say They’re Seeing More Cases Of Early-Onset Dementia Than Ever Before” reports that her husband Robert Obeiter left his job two years ago to care for her. She attends an adult day care, and aides help at home at night.

If Dementia is a generic term for diseases characterized by a decline in memory, language, and other thinking skills required to perform everyday activities, Alzheimer’s is the most common. The National Institute of Health reports that there’s approximately 200,000 Americans in their 40s, 50s, and early 60s with early onset Alzheimer’s.

One conference discussed a rise in early dementia because of the processed foods and fertilizers or the other environmental hazards, and there are definitely some genes more associated with Alzheimer’s—more so with early onset.”

There is no clear answer, and most of the treatments help to slow down the progression.

There is some research showing the Mediterranean diet can be protective, as well as doing cognitive exercises like crossword puzzles and Sudoku.

It’s true that no one can predict the future of their health, but there are ways financially that families can prepare. It can cost $150,000 a year or more. That’s why you should think about purchasing long term care insurance starting at the age of 40.

Long-term health insurance can pay for an aide to come into your home, and it can pay for the cost of assisted living. And, remember that health insurance doesn’t cover long-term care, nor does Medicare. Plus, everyone over the age of 18 needs a healthcare power of attorney and a financial POA.

Reference: WLNY (Feb. 12, 2020) “Some Health Care Facilities Say They’re Seeing More Cases Of Early-Onset Dementia Than Ever Before”

 

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Can a Healthcare Worker Post a Selfie with a Patient ?

The Minnesota Court of Appeals recently held that a social media post that included a patient’s photograph with no other identifying information wasn’t a violation of a state law that prohibits medical providers from sharing medical records. The attorneys for the patient’s husband sued the assisted-living facility, Madonna Summit in Byron, MN alleging that the post with a selfie with a patient revealed private information about the patient’s health condition.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune’s recent article entitled “Patient’s photo posted on social media not illegal, court rules” reported that the ruling surprised some elder care advocates, who think it lets facilities and workers carrying smartphones to post images of patients on social media without their permission and without any potential legal liability. Those who are particularly at risk are older patients with dementia and those with intellectual disabilities who may not know that their photos are being taken and shared on social media sites.

The posting of embarrassing and dehumanizing pictures is a new type of maltreatment in senior care facilities.

“This ruling could have serious implications for people living in residential long-term care,” said Joseph Gaugler, a professor who focuses on long-term care and aging at the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health. “Given that the majority of nursing home residents are living with cognitive challenges, the opportunity for anyone to post what could be personal and/or inappropriate posts on social media without the consent of residents or their legally authorized representatives is troubling.”

The dispute stems from a photo and degrading caption the nurse’s aide posted on her personal social media page. In the post, the patient is sitting in a chair and the nurse’s aide is wearing scrubs. Under the photo, which was taken in a mirror, the nurse’s aide wrote the caption, “This little [expletive] just pulled the fire alarm and now I have to call 911!!! Woohoo.”

The worker told state investigators that she posted the photo because she “thought it was funny,” according to a state Health Department investigation of the incident.

The issue was whether a social media post — even one with a patient’s photograph — should be categorized as a “health record” under Minnesota law. The court said that because the photo didn’t have any information about the patient or where it was taken, it wasn’t an unauthorized release of a health record, and the senior care facility couldn’t be held liable under state law.

The post didn’t satisfy the standard of a health record because there was nothing in the post that contained her private medical information, the judges ruled. While a person could guess the patient’s approximate age, and the nurse’s aide was wearing scrubs, there was nothing to identify that the photo was taken in a senior care facility, the court found.

“The photograph and accompanying caption are certainly not posted in the best taste, but they do not fall under the definition of a ‘health record’ in the Minnesota Health Records Act,” wrote Court of Appeals Senior Judge Roger Klaphake in the seven-page decision, which upholds a lower court’s dismissal of the patient’s lawsuit.

Peter Sandberg, an attorney in Rochester for the patient’s husband, William Furlow, disagreed and said the appellate court failed to recognize the “potent threat” posed by social media.

Although the post didn’t explicitly identify the patient by name, anyone who saw the photograph and knew the nurse’s aide could’ve pinpointed the location based on where she worked. They also could’ve inferred that the woman suffered from a mental impairment based on the demeaning caption under the photo, the attorney argued.

The facility responded to the incident, by instructing the aide to delete the photo from social media. According to the state health investigation, she was later fired, and management retrained the entire staff on patient privacy and cellphone use.

Reference: StarTribune (Feb. 7, 2020) “Patient’s photo posted on social media not illegal, court rules”

 

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Should I Buy a Vacation Home When I Retire?

Taxes, maintenance costs, insurance and potential rental-management expenses are some of the factors that can make the significant difference between a nice passive investment and a real money pit. Depending on where the home is located, the cost of ownership may need to account for property taxes, utilities, homeowners’ fees and other items.

Baron’s recent article entitled “What Retirees Should Know Before Buying a Vacation Home” says that there can be monetary benefits because a vacation home can appreciate in price over time, making it a potentially valuable asset. It also could be an income-generating enterprise, if you rent out the home.  However, you shouldn’t view a vacation home just as an investment. Remember that it’s not as liquid, so it’s not a replacement for stocks and bonds. Don’t rely on selling a vacation home for a top price, when you need the money.

First, before making a purchase, determine if you can afford a vacation home in retirement. Most retirees are living on a fixed income and may forget that the expense of a vacation home can go up faster than their income. You need to have a sufficient nest egg on which to live, so that you don’t need to make an emergency sale of the property.

Remember taxes. If you sell your second home, you can’t claim the capital-gains tax exemption that’s available when selling a primary residence. It’s only available for people who have lived in the home as a primary residence for at least two of the previous five years.

In addition to the tangible costs, if you want to keep the vacation home for the rest of your life, it will become part of your estate and subject to inheritance issues (depending on where you live). If you have children, some may want to keep the house, and others may want to sell. If there’s a split, you must find a way to give the house to those who want it and find another legacy for the others.

You could place the home into a limited liability corporation (LLC) with an operating agreement that defines it. This would allow each child to have a stake in the entity that owns the home rather than the home itself.

Whether you buy a second home for pleasure, profit, or both, think carefully before making a purchase. Ask your estate planning attorney about how to do this with your family situation.

Reference: Baron’s (Jan. 18, 2020) “What Retirees Should Know Before Buying a Vacation Home”

Suggested Key Terms: Estate Planning Lawyer, Inheritance, Asset Protection, Tax Planning, Financial Planning, Limited Liability Corporation (LLC)

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Common Myths about Your Estate When You Die

There are many misconceptions about the law in general and about estate planning in particular. There are also many opportunities to use the law to protect those we love, when it comes to helping families navigate life and the legal processes that happen after the death or disability of a loved one. The best option is to plan ahead, reports the article “I’m dead, now what? Myths about deaths in Georgia” from the Cherokee Tribune & Ledger-News. Here are the top four myths about what happens when someone dies.

A Will. If there’s no will, my spouse gets everything. Well, no. While you are a team, and you may want your spouse to get everything, if there’s no will, the laws of your state will determine who gets what. Your spouse in some states will split your possessions with your children. Your spouse in some states will get no less than a third of your assets. If you want your spouse to inherit everything, you need a will.

You also need a will if you want your spouse to receive everything so they can take care of your children, if something unexpected happens to you. Without it, your spouse will have to create a budget for your children’s needs and present that to the court before they can spend any of the children’s money. That’s how it works in Georgia. Check with a local estate planning attorney to make sure that’s what you’re prepared to leave for your spouse to do, or what your state’s laws say.

Having a will allows you to determine who you want to inherit what.

A will means there’s no need for probate court. Wrong again! Having a will does not mean you avoid probate court and the legal process known as probate. A will is not legally effective, until the nominated executor presents your will to the probate court and the court accepts the will and declares it to be valid. This is a longer process in some jurisdictions. However, there are potential problems. If there’s a disgruntled family member or a need for privacy, the probate process creates a public record and information can and often is obtained by family members. To avoid making your life a public matter, you need an estate plan that includes trusts, which do not go through the probate process and do not become public records.

If I don’t have a will, the state will take it all. It’s very rare that any state will take everything, even if there is no will. The state only does that if absolutely no family members can be found, or if the state’s Medicaid program has an aggressive claw back policy that seeks to recover the cost of nursing home care provided to the decedent. If the person who died did not need Medicaid services, then it’s unlikely that the state will take the assets. More likely? A family member, determined by degree of kinship, will be entitled to inherit. Again, the law varies by state, so check with an experienced estate planning lawyer in your state.

The family gets stuck with the debts. That’s a yes and no answer. The debts of family members do not have to be paid by the family. However, they are paid by the deceased’s estate, which will be decreased by the amount of debt owed. Therefore, the family members will inherit less, but it’s not coming out of their own pockets. The debts of the deceased are to be paid by whatever assets he or she owned at the time of death. If there’s not enough in the estate, the family is not obligated to pay the debt. The exception is if the spouse was a joint borrower or otherwise legally obligated to pay the debt.

What you know and don’t know about estate planning can hurt you and your family. An easy way to address this: meet with an experienced estate planning attorney and make a plan that will distribute your assets according to your wishes.

Reference: Cherokee Tribune & Ledger-News (Feb. 1, 2020) “I’m dead, now what? Myths about deaths in Georgia”

Suggested Key Terms: Will, Estate Planning Lawyer, Debts, Probate, Medicaid, Kinship, Attorney, Assets, Debt

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