Attorney & Mediator
Attorney & Mediator

The kids are home for the holidays!

 

christmas1

I know that we all want to keep the holidays fun filled and upbeat.  If your adult children are coming home for the holidays, this might be a good chance to take some time to talk about estate planning issues.

It doesn’t have to be a morbid conversation – it can be upbeat and done over a holiday beverage.  It is important that your children know your wishes.  It is also important that your children attend to this business as well.

If your adult children have kids – do they have Wills?  Have they named a Guardian and Conservator for your beloved grandchildren?  This is the most important decision that they will have to make.

Do your children have Patient Directives?  If they are married, they can speak for one another; however, if they are single, there is no one who can legally step in to assist them if they are ill or injured.  They may think that you can, but you can’t.

These all are “family business” issues and a family gathering is the time to discuss these matters – maybe not on Christmas Eve – but while the troops are assembled.

Snowbirds, are you getting ready to leave for the South?

 

palm tree

The holidays are upon us.  Most people are planning for the Christmas holidays and nothing could be further from their mind than estate planning and legal affairs.

Many of our snowbirds have already flown south for the winter; however, there are a number that stay here until the holidays are over.   If so, don’t wait until the Monday before you are ready to leave to address those estate planning issues that were on your mind last month.

If you are taking copies of your documents with you, do you know where they are?  Now is the time to look.

When you find them, take a quick look at them to see if they are accurate.  If changes need to be made, now is the time to call your attorney for an appointment.  There is still plenty of time to make amendments to your documents.

Scrambling at the last minute is not pleasant for anyone.   A little planning now will assure that you are all ready to fly south after the holidays.

Taxes

I am often asked by clients about taxes when it comes to inheritances and gifts.  There seems to be confusion about what gets taxed, when and why.

Income taxes are imposed on the money that you earn, either through wages, or through income from your investments

Inheritance taxes or estate taxes are upon what you own and give away during your lifetime or at your death.

First, there is no income tax to the recipient of gifts or inheritances.  Just as with life insurance, the money passes to the recipient or beneficiary income tax free.

There is one exception to this rule.  When a beneficiary receives all or part of an IRA or 401K, there is income tax as the money is withdrawn.  This is not because it is an inheritance but rather because the money was never taxed in the first place.  For IRAs and 401K’s, whoever withdraws the money pays the tax.

Inheritance and gift tax is levied against the estate or the individual who makes the gift.  We are each allowed an exclusion amount of $5 Million.  Therefore, no tax will be paid on the first $5 Million that each of us gives away during lifetime or at death.

So why do we worry about the $14,000 per year limit of gifts?  In order to keep track of what we give away during our lifetimes, we must file a Gift Tax Return with the IRS.  Therefore, if you gave away $100,000 per year for 20 years, you would have gifted away $2 Million.  Thus at death, you could only give away an additional $3 Million before taxes would be imposed.

The exception to this rule is that we can gift $14,000 to each person that we chose to in any given year without filing a gift tax return.  If you made 10 gifts of $14,000 each, you would gift away $140,000 without filing a gift tax return.  If you need to give more money to an individual in a calendar year, you won’t have to pay tax on the money; however, you will have to file a Gift Tax Return.

For most of us, we don’t have to worry about exceeding the limit of taxable gifts.  It is just a matter of knowing the rules and keeping track.