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A Will Is Not Enough: An Estate Planning Lesson from Whitney Houston’s Passing

A recent Forbes.com article speculates that Whitney Houston’s estate will be worth anywhere between $10 and $20 million, or more. However, throughout her career, Houston has signed $100 million record deals and $10 million movie contracts for her roles in Blockbuster hits such as “The Bodyguard” and “The Preacher’s Wife.” Houston also completed the filming of “Sparkle” which is scheduled to be released in September of this year. Surely, with sound marketing, branding of Houston’s image, and increased record sales, her estate can bring in millions more in the upcoming years. Zach Greenburg, Forbes writer, said although Whitney Houston may not match Michael Jackson’s postmortem earnings, her artist royalties alone could bring the estate more than $10 million in the next year. Here’s an

Do You Really Want Your Trust Instrument To Prohibit Judicial Modification?

February 15, 2012

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From BryanCaveFiduciaryLitigation.com

This week, let’s take a look at another case from Florida.  You see a lot of trust instruments that ‘require’ a “corporate co-trustee.”  There are a lot of good reasons why the grantor may have wanted a corporate co-trustee to serve with a family member, friend, or other co-trustee.

Then again, as time goes by, a corporate co-trustee may no longer make a lot of sense.  It could be that the trust has been substantially administered or that the corpus is so small that a corporate trustee’s fee schedule just doesn’t work.  That’s when the beneficiaries and trustees usually get together and go to court to have the trust modified to permit the corporate trustee’s resignation and have the trust modified either to allow a single trustee or to allow an individual to serve as co-trustee.  These things are often done by consent

The Silver Lining – Transferring Assets in a Down Economy

The current economy has created a great opportunity for individuals to transfer assets, and future appreciation of such assets, with little to no transfer tax. This opportunity is created by the depressed asset values and historic low applicable federal interest rates (“AFRs”), which are the minimum interest rates, set monthly, permitted by the IRS. (The current AFR for a loan with a term under three years is 0.19%, three to nine years is 1.17% and over nine years is 2.63%.)

The federal gift tax is imposed on all lifetime gifts that exceed the annual exclusion from gift tax (currently $13,000 per person), and the federal estate tax is imposed on the value of all assets and property that an individual owns at the time of death. Each individual, however, has an exemption of $5,120,000 against the gift and estate tax.

A gift during life of an appreciating asset can reap

List of Things To Do Before Initial Meeting with Estate Administration Attorney

For those of you who are named as Executor or Personal Representative under the Last Will and Testament of a friend or loved one who recently passed away, below is a simple “to do” list that lays out steps you should take in preparation for your initial meeting with an estate planning attorney. Please realize that this list is not exhaustive! Rather, it is intended to help you gather necessary materials and take actions that may enable you and the estate administration attorney to streamline the estate administration process.

  • Cancel any club memberships in the decedent’s name.
  • Prepare a list of all assets owned by the decedent and indicate whether those assets were held in the decedent’s sole name, in the name of the decedent’s revocable trust (if applicable), or held jointly with another person.
  • Determine whether the decedent had any safe deposit boxes and, if so, prepare an

How Reproductive Technology Can Affect Your Estate Plan in Unforeseen Ways

On August 29, 2011, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis held that an eight-year-old Iowa girl born two years after her father died is not eligible to receive his Social Security benefits.   If your grandmother, like mine, would have thought it was fishy that a child was born less than nine months after a wedding, imagine her reaction to learning that a child was born two years after the father’s death!

But with the use of assisted reproductive technology, like in vitro fertilization and artificial insemination, it IS now possible for a baby to be born more than 9 months after a parent dies. The use of assisted reproductive technology means that, if a parent preserves his or her genetic material (his sperm, her eggs, or their

Intentionally Defective Irrevocable Trusts: A Great Way to Transfer Wealth, Especially In Low Interest Rate Environments

The current low interest rate environment provides excellent opportunities to transfer wealth to family members.   One approach commonly used to accomplish this goal is to sell assets to an intentionally defective irrevocable trust (“IDIT”).  An IDIT is an irrevocable trust for the benefit of someone other than the creator of the trust (the “Settlor”), perhaps Settlor’s descendants.  However, the “intentionally defective” component of the IDIT means that, for income tax purposes, the assets in the trust will continue to be treated as owned by Settlor.  Thus, Settlor’s sale of assets to the IDIT will not result in income tax consequences.   Additionally, Settlor’s payment of income taxes on the income earned by the IDIT provides an additional means of reducing Settlor’s taxable estate, while allowing the benefits of the income earned by the IDIT to benefit Settlor’s descendants.

Typically, Settlor will take back a promissory note for the assets

Lessons from 9/11

Lessons from 9/11

September 1, 2011

Authored by: Stacie J. Rottenstreich and Karin Barkhorn

We are rapidly approaching the tenth anniversary of the September 11th tragedy. There is much to be learned from an estate planning perspective in the aftermath.  

Many of those who perished died without having executed a Last Will and Testament. If you die without a Will, the state in which you are domiciled at the time of your death will determine under the laws of intestacy where the property you held in your own name will pass. It takes many people by surprise, but the list of intestate takers or heirs may not be the people you want to inherit and they might not take in the percentages or shares you would want.

Why Do I need a Trust?

August 24, 2011

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Why Do I need a Trust?

August 24, 2011

Authored by: alan-singer

In light of the increase in the estate tax exemption to $5,000,000, several clients of mine asked why they need a Revocable Trust if they don’t need advanced tax planning (at least in their minds).   The following discusses some of the reasons for doing so.

What is a Revocable Trust?

A Revocable Trust (also known as a “living trust” or an “inter-vivos trust”), is a legal arrangement in which the creator (referred to as a “grantor” or “settlor”) transfers, during life, all (or part) of his or her assets to a Trustee to be managed and administered pursuant to the terms designated in the trust until fully distributed to the beneficiary or beneficiaries.

Why Do I Need a Will? (Part II)

Why Do I Need a Will? (Part II)

August 12, 2011

Authored by: Kim Civins

(Please click here to see Part I of this series, entitled:  “Why Do I Need a Will?”)

If you divorce, you may need a Will (or an update to your existing Will) to prevent your ex-spouse from receiving assets at your death.

Here is a follow up to my post earlier this week.  In this recent article posted at AOL’s DailyFinance site, the author discusses the contents of Amy Winehouse’s U.K. Will.  The late Amy Winehouse had an ex-spouse, and the author mentions that English law may allow an ex-spouse to receive property bequeathed to him or her under their former (now deceased) spouse’s Will even if the divorce occurred after the Will’s execution.  This Forbes.com article implies that even if she had died without a Will at all, English law may look favorably upon an ex-spouse’s position and allow them to inherit.  Fortunately for Winehouse’s parents and brother, she

Why Do I Need a Will?

August 9, 2011

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Why Do I Need a Will?

August 9, 2011

Authored by: Kim Civins

A friend of mine (in the industry) recently asked how to respond to this question. My friend’s clients are a young wealthy couple with a new child. That is all I know about these people, but I thought I would share my answer with you:

The three main reasons for having estate planning documents for this couple are (1) naming a guardian for their child, (2) establishing a credit shelter trust structure to save the first-spouse-to-die’s estate tax exemption, and (3) establishing a trust for minors to avoid a conservatorship.

Here’s a little more on each of these:

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