The April 15th deadline to file taxes is fast approaching. As a senior, you may be aware of the steps you need to take to file your taxes as well as most of the information you need to gather and prepare. You may not know, however, that estate planning also plays an important role when it comes to your taxes. To help you be as prepared as possible, let us share a few key estate planning considerations that will guide you through this year’s tax season as a senior.
First, did you know that that uncompensated gift transfers can penalize you in the future, specifically as it relates to long-term care planning? Any amount of money transferred within a sixty month window prior to needing care without adequate compensation can disqualify you for public benefits. While planning to leave monetary gifts to close friends or loved ones can also help you avoid transferring money at death through the estate planning process, do not act alone. Talk to your estate planning attorney about when lifetime gifting may be right for you.
You can make gifts of money to your loved ones during your life instead of waiting until the end of your life. When you think about your legacy, however, and leaving money to your loved ones be cautious of the probate process. Probate is the court process of transferring wealth to your loved ones or intended beneficiaries through your last will and testament at death.
Unfortunately, if you are transferring a high dollar amount to your loved ones at death through your estate planning, you may unwittingly open yourself up to federal estate tax penalties. Consider the recent case of Aretha Franklin who did not plan for the transfer of her wealth. Whether this was an intentional decision or not, this resulted in her being penalized at a forty percent rate for the amount over the federal estate tax limit. Further complicating this issue, our state is one of the last states to keep a state estate tax as well.
For most seniors, gifting money may not be the best estate planning option. Children and other loved ones can have problems that you may not know about. For example, we encourage you to consider any incapacity or bankruptcy issues the person may have before committing to gifting that person a significant amount of money. While having the ability to shield this money from federal estate taxes may be appealing, be sure that the person you are gifting the money to is responsible enough to receive the gift. If you are eager to leave money to loved ones within the annual exclusion amount, creating a structured gift program with your attorney is one way to effectively accomplish this.
Above all, it is important that you reflect on and update your estate planning from time-to-time to make sure the tax laws in your state have not changed. Doing some independent research or checking in with an estate planning attorney can help you stay informed about changes you need to be aware of. Remember, we are here to help guide you through each step and can help you evaluate the best planning options for you and your family. If you are ready to discuss your planning needs, do not wait to sign up for a free educational-workshop.
Do not wait to think about the estate planning you need to protect yourself and your loved ones. Although tax season can be a great time to get things in order, remember, there is never a “wrong” time to ensure you have the planning you need. Do not wait to contact us with your questions and to schedule your attendance at one of our free Trust, Estate and Asset Protection Workshops.