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Your Estate Planning New Year’s Resolution Checklist

(This is an updated post from December 2014)

Need a New Year’s resolutions to kick start 2016? Here is an idea you probably hadn’t considered: review your estate planning documents.

If you are like most people, you are probably thinking that reading legal documents does not sound like an even remotely enjoyable way to start a new year. But, it doesn’t have to be as unpleasant as it sounds. Reviewing your documents does not mean you have to read them cover to cover. If you know what are the most important elements, it is easy to review your will, trust, and powers of attorney regularly to ensure they still comply with your wishes. These documents not only determine who will receive your property when you die, but also likely determine who has the right to make financial and major medical decisions during your lifetime. Needless to say, it is important

Filing Trust Modification As Public Record Started Statute Of Limitations

December 23, 2015

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Fiduciaries should always be thinking of ways to get the statute of limitations started.  Why have a claim hanging over your head for many years, when you can take actions that shorten the time in which a claim may be brought against you?  Typically, we think of getting that time running in terms of sending regular account statements to the trust beneficiaries.  In Domino v. Braswell, the Court of Appeals of Mississippi got us thinking about another way to start the clock running:  by publicly recording documents.

A grantor, the trustees, and the beneficiaries of a trust modified the trust to correct a clerical error.  The trust modification was filed as a public record in 1997.  After the grantor died, in 2013, a complaint was

To Do: Year-End Gifting. Check (or not)

With the end of the year approaching, we thought now would be a good time to re-post and update this blog from the end of 2014.

For 2016, the annual exclusion gift amount will remain the same at $14,000 but the lifetime gift tax exemption will increase to $5,450,000 (up from 2015’s $5,430,000).

With fourteen days left in the year, many people are still planning how to make 2015 gifts, whether by making “annual exclusion” gifts of $14,000 per beneficiary, or by taking advantage of the 2015 gift tax exemption amount of $5,430,000.  Whatever the reason for the last-minute gifting, as the end of the year approaches, people may be tempted to make a “quick and easy” gift to their beneficiaries by simply writing a check. As the year draws to a close, however, if your gift is dependent on utilizing 2015 tax law, beware of the potential trap of making a gift

How Property Was Titled Did Not Control Disposition Of Asset

December 9, 2015

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A deed transfers a lake cottage to a revocable living trust.  Title to the cottage is still in the name of that trust when the grantors die.  The cottage gets distributed according to the terms of that trust, right?  According to the Wisconsin Court of Appeals in Simon v. Sheedy, maybe not.  It depends whether someone can show that the grantors wanted the asset disposed of in another way.

Patrick and Margaret Sheedy created a revocable living trust in 1995.  They deeded their lake cottage along with some other properties to that trust.  Under the terms of the 1995 trust, the cottage would essentially end up being jointly owned by the Sheedys’ children.  In 2004, Patrick and Margaret created another revocable trust, the terms of which were different from the 1995 trust.  In particular, the cottage was to be

IRS: Transcript Can Be Alternative to Estate Tax Closing Letter

Back in August, we wrote about how the IRS would no longer automatically issue closing letters for filed Form 706, United States Estate (and Generation-Skipping Transfer) Tax Returns.  Instead, the IRS will only issue closing letters upon request by the taxpayer.

However, on December 4, the IRS updated its Frequently Asked Questions on Estate Taxes website to provide estates with an alternative to requesting and obtaining an IRS closing letter:

“Account transcripts, which reflect transactions including the acceptance of Form 706 and the completion of an examination, may be an acceptable substitute for the estate tax closing letter.”

Further, transcripts are easily available:

“Account transcripts are available online to registered tax professionals using the Transcript Delivery System (TDS) or to authorized representatives making requests using Form 4506-T.”

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