What are Three Areas of Giving Not to Skip?

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It may be important to you that your family and the charities in which you believe, benefit from your success. Giving lets you practice your core values. However, for your giving to be meaningful, you need a plan to maximize your generosity.

Kiplinger’s recent article entitled “Gifting: 3 Areas You Shouldn’t Overlook” advises that there are many things to think about before gifting, and although there are benefits to estate planning, there are other issues to consider.

Think about your gifting goals. Any amount given to a family member, friend, or organization will no doubt be treasured, but ask yourself if the recipient really wants or values the gift, or it only satisfies your personal goals.

As far as giving to a charity, you should be certain that your donation is going to the right organization and will be used for your intended purpose. Your giving goals, objectives, and motivations should match the recipient’s best interests.

If gifting straight to a family member is not a goal for you now, but you want to engage your family in your giving strategy and decision making, there are several gifting vehicles you can employ, like annual gifts, estate plans, and trusts. Whichever one you elect to use, it will let you place an official process in the works for your strategy. Family engagement and a formalized structure can help your gift make the greatest impact.

There is more to gifting than just determining who and how much. It’s critical to be educated on the numbers, in order to maximize your gift value and decrease your tax exposure.

You can now gift up to $11.58 million to others ($23.16 million for a married couple) while alive, without any federal gift taxes. The amount of gift tax exemption used during your life also decreases your federal estate tax exemption. You should also be aware that this amount will fall back to $5 million (and $10 million for a married couple) indexed for inflation after 2025, unless renewed.

If you transfer your wealth to heirs and beneficiaries early and letting it compound over time, you can avoid significant estate taxes. In addition, note the annual gift exemption because, with it, you can gift up to $15,000 ($30,000 as a married couple) to anyone or any kind of trust every year without taxes.

An experienced estate planning attorney can help you create a giving strategy to achieve success for you and those you are benefiting.

Reference: Kiplinger (March 19, 2020) “Gifting: 3 Areas You Shouldn’t Overlook”

Did Little Richard Have a Smart Estate Plan?

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Little Richard’s primary career was about 35 years in length, which was plenty of time to generate significant wealth, says Wealth Advisor’s recent article entitled “Does Little Richard’s Son Inherit His $40 Million Career Or Will God Get Everything?”

Estimates are that Little Richard generated at least $40 million in the span of his career, but the question is whether much of that money is left or even if there are people around to claim it. Little Richard most likely left the majority of his estate to his son Danny.

There is also a good chance that religious charities will get some of his estate, since Richard may have decided to leave it all to one or more church organizations.

The big question is how much money and property there is to distribute. As far as assets, they may be scarce. The authorship of the hits like “Tutti Frutti” is disputed, but Richard’s birth name “Penniman” is on the original singles as composer. However, Little Richard sold the publishing rights in the mid-1950s and the intellectual property eventually ended up at Sony. He sued numerous times, trading cash settlements for royalty rights each time. As a result, Little Richard has no vast copyright library with which his heirs can generate income.

Everything else is cash. Little Richard had no foundations or charities. He was a private person and died that way.

Little Richard’s challenges were the same as the ones that face others: longevity and income. You should plan well enough to have sufficient income on which to live. You don’t want to outlive your income.

His song publishing should have been the major component to Little Richard’s retirement plan, but he sold that away very early. Without the royalties or the ability to trade them for a lump sum check, he was effectively a mere performer paid by the show. When he stopped touring, that money stopped. Likewise, because he stopped recording decades ago, that money dried up as well.

Little Richard seems to have garnered enough money settling his lawsuits to live nicely, so he didn’t need to work. However, who knows if he left $40 million. He was still able to pay his bills and didn’t have to tour from a wheelchair at county fairs. He made choices that aligned with his conscience and religious views.

Perhaps Little Richard didn’t have a lot of money in the end, but it was “enough.”

Reference: Wealth Advisor (May 11, 2020) “Does Little Richard’s Son Inherit His $40 Million Career Or Will God Get Everything?”

How Long Do You Have to Settle an Estate?

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The beneficiaries of an estate are recently eager to receive their inheritance. In a common scenario, a trust was left instead of an actual will. All the parties received their respective shares, except for the two brothers and a sister who is the trustee. The trust instructed the brothers to divide the estate property in half for each of them. The sister was to get $15,000.

However, one of the brothers lives in the home.

As you may know, the administrator or executor of an estate has the job of collecting the decedent’s assets, paying debts, making distributions to the beneficiaries, and finally closing the estate in an expeditious manner.

nj.com’s recent article entitled “How long does it take to pay out a family trust?” tries to sort out what the siblings need to do to settle the estate. The key factor in this scenario is the wording of the trust.

There are situations in which a trust is used as a substitute for a will. In that case, a person’s assets are placed in a trust. The trustee pays all the liabilities and administers the assets in the trust in accordance with the instructions of the trust during the individual’s life and after her death.

Even when trusts are used as will substitutes, they aren’t always designed to be closed with distribution to happen immediately after the debts are paid, as in the case of the estate. The terms of the trust dictate the trustee’s duties as to the distribution of trust assets.

If you’re a beneficiary of a trust and think that the trustee is breaching his fiduciary duties, you should inform the trustee of the nature of the suspected breach. If nothing is done to remedy this, you may ask the court for help.

One option is that you can request the court to order the trustee to take actions, which you state in your complaint filed with the probate court. Another option is to request that the court direct the trustee to stop taking specific actions that you detail in your complaint.

A third choice is to ask the court to remove the trustee due to breach of fiduciary duties that you set forth in your complaint filed with the court.

However, such court intervention can be expensive. Another thing to consider is that the trustee may petition the court to have his legal fees paid from the trust funds—which will deplete the money in the trust. Because of this, it is usually best to attempt and resolve these issues before getting the court involved.

Reference: nj.com (Feb. 12, 2020) “How long does it take to pay out a family trust?”

Did Kirk Douglas Leave His Wealth to His Son Michael?

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Kirk Douglas, who died in March at the age of 103, made sure that he gave $50 million away via the Douglas Foundation at his death.

Wealth Advisor’s recent article entitled “Kirk Douglas’ $61M fortune given mostly to charity, none went to son Michael Douglas” reports that the beneficiaries included St Lawrence University, Westwood’s Sinai Temple, Culver City’s Kirk Douglas Theatre and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

Kirk’s Oscar-winning actor Michael is not listed as a beneficiary. That is okay, because he’s worth about $300 million on his own.

Michael announced the death of his father on February 5 in an Instagram post. He included several photos of his famous father and family members.

“It is with tremendous sadness that my brothers and I announce that Kirk Douglas left us today at the age of 103. To the world, he was a legend, an actor from the golden age of movies who lived well into his golden years, a humanitarian whose commitment to justice and the causes he believed in set a standard for all of us to aspire to.”

Michael went on to add, “But to me and my brothers Joel and Peter he was simply Dad, to Catherine, a wonderful father-in-law, to his grandchildren and great-grandchild their loving grandfather, and to his wife Anne, a wonderful husband.”

Michael finished his Instagram message by writing, “Kirk’s life was well-lived, and he leaves a legacy in film that will endure for generations to come, and a history as a renowned philanthropist who worked to aid the public and bring peace to the planet. Let me end with the words I told him on his last birthday, and which will always remain true. Dad – I love you so much and I am so proud to be your son.”

Kirk Douglas was a three-time Oscar nominee, known for his roles in “Spartacus” and “Ace in the Hole.”

He was buried at the Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park and Mortuary. In addition to Michael, some of the mourners were Kirk’s wife of 65 years, Anne Buydens, and his other sons Peter and Joel.

Reference: Wealth Advisor (March 3, 2020) “Kirk Douglas’ $61M fortune given mostly to charity, none went to son Michael Douglas”

What Do I Do If I’m Named Financial Power of Attorney?

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A financial power of attorney (POA) is a document whereby the “principal” appoints a trusted someone known as the “attorney-in-fact” or “agent” to act on behalf of the principal, especially when the principal is incapacitated. It typically permits the attorney-in-fact to pay the principal’s bills, access their accounts, pay their taxes, and buy and sell investments or even real estate. In effect, the attorney-in-fact steps into the shoes of the principal and is able to act for them in all matters, as described in the POA document.

Kiplinger’s recent article entitled “What Are the Duties for Financial Powers of Attorney?” says these responsibilities may sound overwhelming, and it’s only natural to feel this way initially. Let’s look at the steps to take to do this important job:

  1. Don’t panic but begin reading. Review the POA document and determine what the principal has given you power to do on their behalf. A POA will typically include information addressed to the agent that explains the legal duties he or she owes to the principal.
  2. See what you have to handle for the principal. Create a list of the principal’s assets and liabilities. If the principle is organized, it’ll be easy. If not, you will need to find their brokerage and bank accounts, 401(k)s/IRAs/403(b)s, the mortgage, taxes, insurance, and other bills (utilities, phone, cable, and internet).
  3. Protect the principal’s property. Be sure the principal’s home is secure and make a video inventory of the home. If it looks like your principal will be incapacitated for an extended period of time, you may cancel the phone and newspaper subscriptions. You may need to change the locks on the principal’s home. If you have control of the principal’s investments and their incapacitation may continue for a long time, review their brokerage statements for high-risk positions that you don’t understand, like options, puts and calls, or commodities. Get advice on liquidating positions you don’t have the know-how to handle.
  4. Pay all bills, as necessary. Look at your principal’s bills and credit card statements for potential fraud. Perhaps you should suspend their credit cards that you won’t be using on the principal’s behalf. Note that they may have bills automatically paid by credit card and plan accordingly.
  5. Pay the taxes. Many powers of attorney give the agent the power to pay the principal’s taxes. If so, you’ll be responsible for filing and paying taxes during the principal’s lifetime. If the principal passes away, the executor of the principal’s last will is responsible for preparing any final taxes.
  6. Keep meticulous records. Track every expenditure you make and every action you take on the principal’s behalf. You’ll be asked to demonstrate that you have upheld your duties and acted in the principal’s best interests. It will also be important for you to receive reimbursement for expenses, and (if the power of attorney provides for it) the time you spent acting as agent.

Finally, you must always act in the principal’s best interest.

Reference: Kiplinger (April 22, 2020) “What Are the Duties for Financial Powers of Attorney?”

Should I Use My 401(k) Now in the Pandemic?

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Many Americans are struggling with what to do with their retirement savings, as we endure the COVID-19 pandemic. Many don’t know if they should stand pat or cash in their savings.

The new CARES Act makes it easier for us to tap our 401(k) and retirement accounts. However, there may be significant long-term effects for your financial security.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was passed by Congress signed into law by President Trump on March 27. The law provides more than $2 trillion in economic relief to protect the American people from the public health and economic impacts of COVID-19. The Act provides fast and direct economic assistance for American workers, families, and small businesses, as well as preserving jobs for American industries.

CNBC’s recent article entitled “Tapping Your 401(k): Is now the right time to do it?” says that if you need emergency cash, and your 401(k) is your only source of funds in this pandemic, taking a short-term loan from your retirement account as a “last resort” may be a wise option.

While you will be repaying yourself rather than paying 11% interest on average on a personal loan, know that you’re borrowing from your financial future and possibly risking your financial security in retirement.

The CARES Act lets you borrow up to $100,000 (double the previous loan limit of $50,000) from your 401(k) and delay repayment for up to a year. After you borrow, you’ll typically have to repay the loan within five years, depending on the terms of your 401(k) plan. Under the CARES Act, loan payments due in 2020 can be delayed for up to a year from the time you take out the loan. However, if you can’t pay back the loan within the time frame designated by your plan, your outstanding balance will be taxed like a withdrawal. That means you’ll also pay a 10% early withdrawal penalty.

If you leave your job — regardless of whether by choice — there’s a good chance your plan will require you to repay the money back quickly. If you don’t, your account balance will be decreased by the amount owed and considered a taxable distribution. This choice must factor in the length of time before you need your money, your ability to save, and your comfort level with risk.

You can also take a penalty-free distribution from your IRA or 401(k) of up to 100% of your balance or $100,000, whichever is less. You aren’t required to pay the 10% early withdrawal penalty, if you’re under age 59½ and you can pay taxes on the money you take out over a period of three years or pay no tax, if you pay it all back. However, your employer must agree to adopt these new rules for your existing 401(k) plan.

Reference: CNBC (April 20, 2020) “Tapping Your 401(k): Is now the right time to do it?”

What’s the Difference between Revocable and Irrevocable Trusts?

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A trust is an estate planning tool that you might discuss with an experienced estate planning attorney, beyond drafting a last will and testament.

KAKE.com’s recent article entitled “Revocable vs. Irrevocable Trusts” explains that a living trust can be revocable or irrevocable.

You can act as your own trustee or designate another person. The trustee has the fiduciary responsibility to act in the best interests of the trust beneficiaries. These are the people you name to benefit from the trust.

There are three main benefits to including a trust as part of an estate plan.

  1. Avoiding probate. Assets held in a trust can avoid probate. This can save your heirs both time and money.
  2. Creditor protection. Creditors can try to attach assets held outside an irrevocable trust to satisfy a debt. However, those assets titled in the name of the irrevocable trust may avoid being accessed to pay outstanding debts.
  3. Minimize estate taxes. Estate taxes can take a large portion from the wealth you may be planning to leave to others. Placing assets in a trust may help to lessen the effect of estate and inheritance taxes, preserving more of your wealth for future generations.

What’s the Difference Between Revocable and Irrevocable Trusts?

A revocable trust is a trust that can be changed or terminated at any time during the lifetime of the person making the trust. When the grantor dies, a revocable trust automatically becomes irrevocable, so no other changes can be made to its terms.

An irrevocable trust is essentially permanent. Therefore, if you create an irrevocable trust during your lifetime, any assets you place in the trust must stay in the trust. That’s a big difference from a revocable trust: flexibility.

Whether a trust is right for your estate plan, depends on your situation. Discuss this with a qualified estate planning attorney. This has been a very simple introduction to a very complex subject.

Reference: KAKE.com (March 31, 2020) “Revocable vs. Irrevocable Trusts”

Will Paris Hilton See Her Dad’s Wealth?

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Barron Hilton’s father, hotel magnate Conrad, purchased his first hotel in Texas in 1919. His timing was perfect, as the oil boom ensured rooms were fully booked and could sometimes be turned over three times in a day. He then built the Dallas Hilton in 1925 and three more Hiltons in the state in the next five years. He eventually expanded his holding to create the world’s first international hotel chain. By 1966, his son, Barron, replaced him as president of Hilton Hotels.

In 1979, at the age of 91, Conrad Hilton died of natural causes, leaving $10,000 each to his nephews, nieces, and daughter, and $500,000 to his two siblings. The remainder of the estate was bequeathed to the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, which he had founded in 1944.

Celebrity Net Worth’s recent article entitled “Barron Hilton Fulfilled His Promise To Not Leave Any Money To Paris Hilton,” notes that Barron contested his father’s will and ended up settling for four million shares of the company. Years later, Barron watched in horror as his granddaughter Paris tarnished the Hilton name. Barron sent a message. He made an estate plan that excluded Paris’ father and her siblings. His entire fortune would be donated to charity through the family’s foundation, because he felt Paris’ and Nicky’s sex tapes, reality shows, DUIs and other embarrassments sullied the family name.

At Christmas 2007, Barron announced to his family that he was making a major change to his will. Instead of leaving his $4.5 billion fortune to his family, he was leaving the bulk of his estate to the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. He left 97% to the foundation and split the remaining 3% ($135 million) between about 24 members of his family. So rather than inheriting about $181 million each, the Hilton family members would get $5.6 million each.

It looks like Paris was entirely cut out of her dad’s will, and she didn’t get a penny from her grandfather. Barron died in 2019, and his will instructed 97% of his fortune to be given to the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation for disaster relief, treating children with HIV and AIDS, poverty alleviation, and helping homeless shelters.

Barron continues to reinforce his message to Paris and his family from the grave. He was the second-largest philanthropist in U.S. last year with the $2.4 billion he donated to charity. He’ll probably be up there again, as one of the most generous Americans in 2020 since he still has $2 billion to donate.

Reference: Celebrity Net Worth (March 2, 2020) “Barron Hilton Fulfilled His Promise To Not Leave Any Money To Paris Hilton”

You Can Complete Your Estate Plan During the Coronavirus Quarantine

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The coronavirus lockdown is happening in many states, following the lead of California, Illinois, Florida and New York. Kiplinger’s recent article entitled “How to Get Your Estate Plan Done While Under Coronavirus Quarantine” says that these isolation orders create unique issues with your ability to effectively establish or modify your estate plan.

The core documents for an estate plan are intended to oversee the management and distribution of your assets after you pass or in the event, you are incapacitated. Each document has requirements that must be met to be legally effective. Let’s look at some of these documents. Note that there is proposed federal legislation that would permit remote online notarization, and Illinois and New York have passed orders to allow notarization utilizing audiovisual technology.

Will. Every state has its own legal requirements for a will to be valid, and most require disinterested witnesses. Some states, like California, permit a will, otherwise requiring the signature of witnesses, to be valid with clear and convincing evidence of your intent for the will to be valid. An affidavit indicating that the will was signed as a result of the emergency conditions caused by the COVID-19 virus should satisfy this requirement.

Power of Attorney. This document designates an individual to make financial decisions regarding your assets and financial responsibilities if you’re unable to do so. This can include issues regarding retirement benefits, life, and medical insurance and the ability to continue payments to persons financially dependent on you. The durable general power of attorney is notarized in California.

Advance Health Care Directive. This document states whether you want your life extended by life support systems and if you want extraordinary measures to be taken. It may state that you wish to have a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) in place.

HIPAA Authorization. Some states have their own medical privacy laws with separate requirements, and most powers of attorney provide that the designated persons can act if you’re unable to do so. Financial institutions typically require confirming letters from your doctor that you’re unable to act on your own behalf. To be certain that this agent can act on your behalf if needed, they should be given written access to see your medical information.

During quarantine, these requirements can be fluid and may change quickly. Be sure to work with an experienced estate planning attorney.

Reference: Kiplinger (March 30, 2020) “How to Get Your Estate Plan Done While Under Coronavirus Quarantine”

Finalizing Estate Planning Documents while Social Distancing

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After the initial shock of the pandemic, people are realizing not just that they need to update their estate planning documents, but also the people who have been named in important roles. In a recent article from The New York Times, “What to Know About Making a Will in the Age of Coronavirus,” one person said, “I think I still have my jerk brother as the trustee. I need to change that.”

However, with social distancing now being the new norm, some necessary processes for finalizing estate plans are calling for extra creativity. While lawyers can draft any necessary documents from their home offices, the documents need to be signed by clients and, depending upon the document and the state, by witnesses and notaries. These parties usually need to be in the same room for the documents to be considered legally valid.

New York’s Governor Andrew M. Cuomo issued an executive order on March 7 that declared a disaster emergency in the state and temporarily gave notaries the authority to authenticate documents by videoconference. Other governors have also issued executive orders to allow video notarizations, including Connecticut, Iowa, New Hampshire, and Washington. It’s safe to say that more states will probably permit this as time goes on. California is not on the list of remote notarizations or videoconference.

However, besides needing notarizations, wills in New York State and other documents require two unrelated witnesses in the room when the document is signed. That also goes for the health care directive, which gives a person the ability to name someone to make medical decisions on their behalf, if they become incapacitated.

One New York attorney used a video conference to watch two clients and their witnesses, located more than 100 miles away from his home office, sign new financial powers of attorney and health care documents. He used his laptop to record a video of the proceedings, while clients used their phones. The client couple sat on the enclosed porch of a friend’s house in a distant county and signed the documents, while their friends stood six feet away. When the couple finished signing, they stepped away and their friends moved in to sign the documents, all in view of the attorney and all, of course, wearing vinyl gloves.

The documents were then scanned and sent to the attorney by email and he notarized them. They will also be mailed to him at his home, and then he will authenticate the documents.

In New Jersey, notaries need to be physically present at the signing of documents. One attorney took extra steps for two ER nurses, both single mothers and on the front lines of the coronavirus outbreak. He met them in the front yard of one of their houses, where a table had been set up and rocks were used to hold down the documents from blowing away in the wind. Everyone wore gloves and brought their own pens. One nurse served as a witness for each other, and another friend was a witness for both. After each person signed, they stepped away, while another stepped up to the table.

Not every state is making changes to permit these documents to be witnessed and notarized, so there may be many outdoor signings taking place in the weeks and months to come. Speak with your estate planning attorney, who will know the laws that apply to your state.

Reference: The New York Times (March 26, 2020) “What to Know About Making a Will in the Age of Coronavirus”