Massachusetts Estate Planning & Asset Protection Blog

Avoiding Massachusetts Estate Taxes, NOT Just for the Rich

Posted by Wellesley Estate Planning Attorney, Dennis B. Sullivan, Esq., CPA, LLM on Fri, Aug 19, 2011

When you pass away, who do you want as the primary beneficary of your estate, your loved ones or the government?

Estate Tax Facts

Many people, as you may guess, do not want their life savings and legacy to be swallowed by estate taxes.  What most people are not aware of however, is the fact that if they passed away today their heirs would be forced to pay state and federal estate taxes, even if the deceased is far from what most would consider "wealthy".  They also do not realize that an experienced estate planning attorney can help them AVOID taxes ENTIRELY.  

Massacusetts Estate Tax

Massachusetts taxes every dollar in an estate above the $2 million threshold, recently increased from $1 million.  What Estate Tax this means is in an estate worth $2.5 million dollars, $500,000 will be subject to a Massachusetts estate tax.  Many are concerned with budget cuts and sweeping reform that state legislators will consider dropping the tax exempt amount, thus subjecting more estate to a tax.  within the last 10 years, the federal estate tax exemption, which now stands at $5 million, has been as low as $675,000.  

If your current estate exceeds the state and federal tax exempt amount, without proper planning you can expect to lose 50 cents of every dollar to the government. 

You may be reading this, thinking that your estate is not in jeopardy of being destroyed by taxes because you are well under the exemption amount.  You may think your estate is well under, but there are several catagories of non-obvious wealth you need to include in your estate valuation.  The most common of these are life insurance death benefits and retirement accounts such as 401(k)'s and IRA's.

An Example on the Impact of Estate Taxes

Person A is married, has 2 college age children and belives his estate to be worth $700,000.  Person A failed to take into consideration his IRAs and life insurance policies.  Believing their net worth to be well below the $2 million Person A and his wife executed simple wills with no consideration paid to tax planning. 

Tragedy stirkes and Person A dies.  After his death his wife collects a $2 million life insurance benefit and his $500,000 IRA.  In another tragic turn, Person A's wife dies shortly after him.  Their estate, which they believed to be under the Massachusetts exempt amount, is now worth $3.2 million, leaving $1.2 million subject to estate tax, even if the state and federal thresholds are not lowered.

Avoid Massachusetts Estate Tax

Luckily, many people like Person A and his family can completely avoid paying any estate taxes.  To take steps to protect your life savings from the reach of state and federal estate taxes, register online to attend a free educational workshop hosted by Dennis B. Sullivan, Esq, CPA, LLM or by calling 800-964-4295 (24 hours a day).  You can also check out Free Elder Law Guides developed by the team of professional at Dennis Sullivan & Associates.  By planning now you can save you and your family the stress of having to worry about the future. 

Tags: will, Estate Planning, trusts, Estate Planning, Massacusetts Estate Tax, Baby Boomers, Tax Savings, estate reduction, legacy, elder care, budget cuts, tax deductions, tax liability, estate, estate tax, tax exemption, tax reform, taxes, Debt Ceiling, 2011, Massachusetts estate tax

What the Debt Ceiling Means for Massachusetts Seniors and Massachusetts Medicaid

Posted by Wellesley Estate Planning Attorney, Dennis B. Sullivan, Esq., CPA, LLM on Thu, Aug 11, 2011

Since the signing of the Budget Control Act of 2011, the Act which includes the increase in the national debt ceiling, senior advocates have been working to determine its effect on programs including Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid.

Brief Background

Congress has voted to raise the debt ceiling 10 times since 2001.  The ceiling was raised in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007 and twice in 2008.  Why all the debate this time around?  One side was insisting on reducing spending by cutting federal assitance to programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security to decrease the defecit, while the other was insiting on an increase in revenue (read taxes) while maintaining those programs.  Many questions remain on whether funding for senior programs will continue or in what amounts.describe the image

The Act's Impact on the Future

There are still many questions left unasnwered regarding what impact the Budget Control Act will have moving forward.  The Act consists of three steps:

STEP ONE:

The national debt ceiling is going to be raised $400 billion initially.  The President also has the option to institute an additional increase of $500 billion moving forward.  Congress is slated to reduce spending by $917 billion over the next 10 years.  In 2012, $21 billion is to be cut from federal spending.  Many people do not seem overly concerned with the scheduled reduction for 2012 because budget reduction occurs frequently and legislation is often amended.

STEP TWO:

A Joint Select Committee on Defecit Reduction is to be put together of 6 Democrats and 6 Republicans.  The Committee must come up with debt reduction legislation on or before November 23 of this year.  Their goal is to cut $1.5 trillion dollars of debt over the next 10 years, with a required reduction of at least $1.2 trillion.  Any proposal the Committee creates will be voted on by Congress before the end of 2011, and many speculate will include cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security spending.

STEP THREE:

If no plan is put in place to reduce at least $1.2 trillion over 10 years, whether Committe member do not agree or Congress refuses to pass their proposal, there would be sweeping federal spending reduction.  The reducution would equal the full amount, up to $1.2 trillion, that can not be agreed upon by the Reduction Committe and Congress.  Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security as well as veterans's benefits are all protected from large spending reduction if the process reaches this stage. 

What Can You Do Today ?

No on knows how these reduction will effect senior programs such as Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security.  One thing is clear, the future is alot less certain.  To take steps to protect your spouse, home and life savings today register online to attend a free educational workshop hosted by Dennis B. Sullivan, Esq, CPA, LLM or by calling 800-964-4295 (24 hours a day).  You can also check out Free Elder Law Guides developed by the team of professional at Dennis Sullivan & Associates.  By planning now you can save you and your family the stress of having to worry about the future. 

Tags: Estate Planning, Medicare, Retirement, Medicaid, Health Care, legacy, social security, tax liability, veterans benefits, Debt Ceiling

Don't Leave Your Legacy To Chance

Posted by Dennis Sullivan & Associates on Wed, May 18, 2011

If you are a Baby Boomer who has worked hard, accumulated significant assets, support charitable causes, and plan to continue working through “retirement,” you are not alone! And you won’t be particularly surprised by the findings of a recently released survey by US Trust: Insights on Wealth and Worth. The survey was conducted earlier this year, with 457 high net worth and ultra high net worth individuals, with $3 million or more in investable assets. The survey found a distinct generational mindset among the wealthy – many of whom are Baby Boomers, self-made, first generation wealthy who achieved financial success on their own.

You are probably familiar with some of these insights found by the survey:

  • Nearly half of these wealthy individuals plan to continue working into “retirement,” many starting a second career or new business.
  • Many also want to be able to travel – possibly “going mobile” with their business, perhaps even into retirement?
  • Many wealthy Americans want to give back to their communities and support charitable causes, and they may need professional legal advice to fulfill those ideals.
  • Few have the type of comprehensive estate planning in place that matches the complexity of their estate, their finances and their estate planning goals.

That last insight, about few people having the type of comprehensive estate planning they really need, may come as a surprise. I see this in my practice every day. Just because you have a simple will in place or believe the federal estate tax will not affect you, does not mean you have adequately met your estate planning needs. Some common “gaps” that turned up in the US Trust survey include:

  • No living will or health care directive
  • No durable financial power of attorney
  • No revocable living trust
  • Inadequate planning for life insurance
  • No charitable planning, despite charitable intent
  • No written plan for the distribution of personal property
  • No business succession plan.

If you saw yourself in the first paragraphs of this post, you likely saw yourself again in the last few. If you don’t take action, then you are leaving your legacy to chance.  

To learn more about protecting your legacy, attend a free, educational Trust, Estate & Asset Protection Workshop. Register online or call 800-964-4295.

Tags: will, power of attorney, living will, Estate Planning, trusts, Retirement, Baby Boomers, Business Succession Planning, Charitable Giving, durable power of attorney, legacy

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