ESTATE PLANNING (WILLS & TRUSTS)
You have been working hard. You sacrificed, make smart financial decisions, and there is so much to be proud of. But!
A solid estate plan can protect you, your family, and your wealth during your lifetime and beyond. It begins with a will or a living trust to pass assets after your death. Next, a comprehensive estate plan includes many other elements: healthcare directive, power of attorney, provision for guardianship of minor children, and other documents.
MEDICAID SPEND-DOWN PLANNING
One of the most urgent areas of modern estate planning is addressing longevity and financing long-term care. According to the U.S.Department of Health and Human Services, 70% of people over 65 will likely need, at some point, long-term care services.
Will it be your family?
A crisis may arise because a loved one suffered a sudden stroke or heart attack, going from healthy and self-sufficient to needing nursing care overnight. You may have taken a loved one to the hospital, only to hear that he or she must be discharged to a nursing home or other skilled-care facility. And if it’s up to 100 days, Medicare will pay the bill. But what if it’s longer? What if it’s custodial care?
Or, an elderly loved one who isn’t local may have been quietly deteriorating, catching the family off guard when they arrive for a holiday visit.
Are you ready to write a check or start spending down your assets? And apart from financial devastation, won’t you be overwhelmed caring for a sick person and juggling between business and family?
Of course, the best time to plan for long-term care assistance is long before you need it. And too often, people who find themselves in immediate need of long-term care for themselves or a loved one believe it’s too late to protect assets and qualify for Medicaid. Fortunately, you still have options.
SPECIAL NEEDS PLANNING
While there are many ways to provide for the needs of healthy heirs and beneficiaries, planning for a loved one with special needs requires excellent care and attention. Leaving money or property directly to a disabled person in your will or making her or him a beneficiary of a standard living trust can put critical benefits at risk.
If a loved one is dependent or is likely to become dependent on Medicaid or other public benefits, there is a better option. Federal law provides for the creation of a Special Needs Trust, also called a Supplemental Needs Trust. When properly structured and managed, a special needs trust can benefit your disabled loved one without jeopardizing benefits.
Are you a business owner or a partner?
Buy/sell agreements are one of the most frequently overlooked elements in creating and maintaining a successful business.
Also known as a “buyout contract,” it provides that when one partner or shareholder leaves the business, his or her interest will be sold to the company or the remaining members.
The agreement typically sets forth a formula for determining value and distribution. It is often paired with life insurance policies to ensure that the company has sufficient liquid assets to make the purchase.
Without this type of agreement in place, heirs of the deceased partner may refuse to sell their interest, or lengthy estate administration may hold up the sale. In addition, there may be a conflict of overvaluation, and the remaining members or partners may be faced with a higher price than they were prepared to pay.
Are you willing to put your business interest at risk?
A carefully drafted buy/sell agreement can help a business to remain stable during a difficult transition. This type of arrangement ensures the firm or its members can reclaim the interest of a departing principal, rather than risking the sale of one party’s interest in the business to an outsider.
EXECUTIVE BONUS PLAN
An Executive Bonus Plan also referred to as Section 162 Plan, is a way for business owners or companies to provide additional supplemental benefits to key employees or executives of their choice.
The benefits usually include a life insurance policy with death benefits and cash value accumulations that can be used as a retirement income supplement. With an executive bonus plan, the business can use tax-deductible company funds to provide valued benefits to key people. An executive bonus plan, used effectively, can be a valuable tool to attract and retain key executives. Below are its main aspects:
With a double bonus arrangement, the company will provide the key executive with a bonus large enough to pay the life insurance premiums and income taxes incurred on the bonus. The company can use the double bonus arrangement to eliminate any out-of-pocket expense for the key executive.
If the company wishes to retain some control over the bonus, the controlled executive bonus design is a good choice. With a controlled executive bonus, the company and the key executive enter into an agreement that includes a vesting schedule on the policy’s cash value growth.
A vesting schedule is a form of “Golden Handcuffs” that allows a company to limit the availability of the cash value benefits until the executive has fulfilled the terms of the agreement. At that time, the executive is “vested.” Once the key executive is vested, they gain full access to the policy’s cash value.
ASSET AND DIVORCE PROTECTION
Well, you work hard to build a solid financial foundation. Do you want to be sure that your loved ones receive the benefit of your efforts?
But that won’t happen by chance. Ensuring that your assets stay in the family requires careful planning. If not, your estate may be dissipated as it passes from one generation to the next.
ESTATE PLANNING DURING DIVORCE
Unfortunately, it happens that your marriage is irretrievably broken. Now, either you or your spouse has filed for a dissolution of marriage.
What can happen next?
We have seen several cases within our practice where one of the spouses died while a divorce was still pending. When it happens, the pending divorce action “dies” as well. Without proper planning, the outcome could have a deceased spouse spinning in his or her grave.
Because if estate planning documents haven’t been drafted or updated, your soon-to-be-ex-spouse could inherit everything.
Similarly, it is essential to create or amend advance healthcare directives during a divorce unless you are comfortable with your soon-to-be-ex-spouse having medical decision-making authority over your life.
ESTATE PLANNING AFTER DIVORCE
Of course, these same issues apply when your marriage has been dissolved. Although divorce severs some legal ties and allocates assets, you cannot assume that the final decree will resolve all issues—or even the most critical ones. Every aspect of your estate plan should be reviewed, from a will and advance healthcare directives to the question of nominating a financial guardian to manage any assets you may leave to minor children.
TAX PLANNING AND PHILANTHROPY
Are you charitably-inclined? Want to support your favorite cause?
You can incentivize the combination of philanthropy and advance tax planning using the Charitable Remainder Trust (CRT) which has several practical applications.
The CRT can be used to create a tax-deferred sale of business interests, appreciated securities, or appreciated real estate. It is also an effective way to stretch an IRA [Individual Retirement Account] for inherited retirement accounts.
In some instances, charitable remainder trust can defer income until the beneficiary moves from a high-income tax state to a lower income tax state.
Finally, CRT can be used as an income tax-efficient and gift tax-efficient way to transfer an income stream payable to children or grandchildren over time.
With all tax benefits, it’s important to note that CRT planning is not cost-free philanthropy. It is simply a way to time more thoughtfully when income is taxed while also increasing the extent to which the government subsidizes the taxpayer’s desired charitable giving.