Massachusetts Estate Planning & Asset Protection Blog

Understanding Long Term Care Planning

Posted by Dennis Sullivan & Associates on Fri, Jan 19, 2018

Facing the enormity of long term care, whether it is the financial, healthcare, emotional or psychological issues, it is so overwhelming. 

It's needs a team effort!  With the help of family, friends and our team here at Dennis Sullivan and Associates you can make the enormity of long term care manageable 

 

What exactly is "Long Term Care Planning" ? 

Here's one way to look at long term care planning: 

In today’s world, the question is no longer only, “What happens when I die?, but now we need to plan for “What happens if I live?” An estate plan covers the scenario of, What happens when I die.  But long term care covers a large variety of other factors and scenarios that sometime families forget to consider such as what happens if I live but am not healthy and have increased health-care costs and need to rely on others for assistance, either temporarily or on a permanent basis. The estate plan does not address this need. An estate plan can help you answer the first question, but a long-term care plan can help you answer both the first and second questions. Let’s put it another way. An estate plan insures that if you have assets when you die they will be passed in the manner you wish. The key word is “if.” The plan will not, however, guarantee that there will be anything left at that time to pass. Your assets could be mostly or entirely wiped out by a lengthy illness, hospital, and/or nursing home stay, leaving your spouse and other heirs with nothing.

 long Term Care and Medicaid:

I had a conversation last week with a married couple for whom we are preparing a Medicaid application. John is in a nursing home, and Mary is healthy and living at home. I explained to them that Mary can keep half of their countable assets, in their case $75,000, but that they must spend down to below that dollar amount by the last day of the month directly preceding the month we want to qualify John for Medicaid. I have had this conversation numerous times with clients in John and Mary’s situation, and know all too well that this simple instruction is not always followed. The largest part of most spend downs typically goes to the nursing home. But, as most people do, myself included, we wait until we get a bill before we pay it. If I owe you money, I’m not going to chase after you for a bill. Whenever you get around to it and invoice me, then I’ll pay it. The longer the money stays in my bank account, the happier I am. However, this can get you into big trouble and cost you tens of thousands of dollars if you wait for the nursing home bill. If we want John to be eligible for Medicaid next month and we know that he owes the nursing home $20,000 for the past two months of care, but the nursing home hasn’t yet presented Mary with a bill, it does not matter that Mary and John legitimately owe the facility the money. If that $20,000 is still sitting in their bank account next month, causing their account balance to exceed $75,000, John cannot qualify for Medicaid. Even worse than that, he can’t even qualify for next month. He has to wait until the following month, which means they will owe the facility another $10,000, leaving Mary with $65,000 to live on.


So Much to Discuss

For more information on Long Term Care Planning we encourage you attend one of our free educational workshops, call 800-964-4295 and register to learn more about what you can do to enhance the security of your spouse, home, life savings and legacy. January sessions are filling up fast call or register on line to reserve your seat today.  

At the Estate Planning & Asset Protection Law Center, we help people and their families protect their home, spouse, life-savings, and legacy for their loved ones.  We provide clients with a unique educational and counseling so they understand where opportunities exist to eliminate problems now as they implement plans for a protected future. 


Click Here to Register For Our Trust, Estate & Asset  Protection Workshop

Tags: Dennis Sullivan, Elder Law, Estate Planning, Estate Planning Recommendations, Estate Planning Tip, Financial Planning, Retirement, coverage, senior, Attorney, Baby Boomers, Capital Gains Tax, GST tax, Massachusetts, New estate tax law, IRS, Massacusetts Estate Tax, Tax Savings, federal, new regulations, tax, tax reform, tax deductions, taxes, tax liability, tax exemption, New Tax Bill, Tax Bill, 2018 Tax Bill

New Tax Bill: What you need to know

Posted by Dennis Sullivan & Associates on Fri, Jan 05, 2018

How does the new tax bill affect you and your family now and in the future?

The new tax bill has officially been passed by Congress and signed by President Trump, what does this mean for us?  The answer to this depends on many variables discussed here. 

 

First of all, these changes don’t apply until you file your 2018 taxes, meaning that you won’t have to worry about the new law when filing your 2017 income tax returns this spring.  That being said, still we will be experiencing the greatest overhaul of the tax laws in more than 30 years.  The last major changes having been made under President Reagan in 1986. 

One change you can expect to see is that both corporate tax rates and personal income tax rates will drop.  There are also other changes which limit or eliminate personal deductions.   The changes that affect corporate tax rates are permanent, and the changes that affect individual tax rates and deductions are not.

Also in the new tax bill you will find a “sunset” provision, meaning that the new law – as it applies to individuals – will expire on December 31, 2025.   That is, unless Congress agrees to extend the law.  That, of course, will depend on the political and economic climate 8 years from now, including whether the economy responds the way Republicans say it will

       Now let’s take a look at the changes that are likely to affect the average senior.  Good news, the tax rates have been lowered a bit.  There are still 7 tax brackets but the rates have changed with the top rate lowered from 39.6% to 37% and the threshold at which each rate is reached has been altered. (The corporate rate reduction is much greater, from 37% to 21%).

       Some of the most significant changes relate to deductions.  The standard deduction has been doubled to $12,000 for a single person and $24,000 for married couples but personal exemptions have been eliminated.  The deduction for state and local taxes will be capped at $10,000, something that could hurt many Massachusetts residents and especially homeowners because we have high real estate and state income taxes.  


So Much to Discuss:

For the first time in decades major overhauls to the tax system are happening! This is an enormous change that can affect your estate planning and asset protection as well. Be sure to stay tuned as we will discuss more about this new tax bill in our next blog post!    

For more information we encourage you to attend one of our free educational workshops, call 800-964-4295 and register to learn more about what you can do to enhance the security of your spouse, home, life savings and legacy. January sessions are filling up fast call or register on line to reserve your seat today.  

At the Estate Planning & Asset Protection Law Center, we help people and their families protect their home, spouse, life-savings, and legacy for their loved ones.  We provide clients with a unique educational and counseling so they understand where opportunities exist to eliminate problems now as they implement plans for a protected future. 


Click Here to Register For Our Trust, Estate & Asset  Protection Workshop

Tags: Dennis Sullivan, Elder Law, Estate Planning, Estate Planning Recommendations, Estate Planning Tip, Financial Planning, Retirement, coverage, senior, Attorney, Baby Boomers, Capital Gains Tax, GST tax, Massachusetts, New estate tax law, IRS, Massacusetts Estate Tax, Tax Savings, federal, new regulations, tax, tax reform, tax deductions, taxes, tax liability, tax exemption, New Tax Bill, Tax Bill, 2018 Tax Bill

A Trust For A Future Generation

Posted by Dennis Sullivan & Associates on Thu, Sep 25, 2014

A Trust For A Future Generation
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An Old Tool That Still Works

Dynasty Trusts also referred to as Legacy Trusts are an instrument that has been used by the wealthy to preserve the wealth and legacy of family assets for generations upon generations. Most of the high net worth families from the late 1800's to early 1900's enjoyed the benefits of the Dynasty Trust. It is also well known that the Kennedy's are still enjoying the benefits of the Dynasty Trusts established generations ago.

 

So What Is It, And How Does It Work?

A Dynasty Trust is an Irrevocable Trust used to pass wealth and assets to descendants of the person establishing the Trust. The trust does not leave assets to a spouse or the immediate children, but to grand-children, and in the past it was left to great-grand-children or even great-great-grandchildren. Essentially, a Grantor could leave a substantial estate to children multiple generations that he or she would never live to meet.

This process went on for many years and an extreme amount of wealth was passed on tax free. Eventually though the government saw how much money it wasn’t getting its hands on and cracked down on the practice. They created the Generation Skipping Tax: a law designed to prevent wealthy families from transferring their enormous wealth on without paying an inheritance tax. So, these trusts can no longer go on for generations after generation, since the government has now hedged themselves to ultimately get paid.

 

Some Exclusions Apply

However, the government has also provided for the gift tax exclusion. The amount varies depending on the current administration in Washington, but currently there is a $5.34 million (adjusted to inflation) gift tax exclusion which means that you can give away in your lifetime up to that amount tax free. After that, you pay a significant percentage in taxes on gifted transfers of wealth. For a married couple, you can double the amount to $10.68 million.

One other item that affects the Dynasty Trust is a complex and convoluted law called the Rule Against Perpetuities. This law limits the number of generations that can be skipped before the Trust must commence distributions. The law puts a time limit on the Trust so that the money cannot be held in trust forever and must eventually be distributed. There are many other rules to this law that we do not have time to deal with here, but simply put, the Rule states that the distribution must take place within 21 years after the last remaining beneficiary, alive at the time of the making of the Trust, dies.

 

Who Gets What?

As mentioned earlier, your children do not benefit from the principle of the trust; however they will receive the income from the trust during their lifetimes. Your grandchildren would be deemed the true beneficiaries, thereby receiving the assets in the trust, inheritance tax free.

We have only scratched the surface of the complexity and usefulness of this trust in this blog. A Legacy Trust is not for everyone and a lot of thought and planning must go into determining whether this trust accomplishes your goals and intent. However, when used, this Trust is extremely powerful, not only for preserving wealth but for its asset protection functionality. If you have not used up your lifetime gift exclusion and you are interested in preserving some family wealth for future generations, we recommend you contact our office to learn more about the Dynasty Trust.

 

For further information on how to protect the inheritance for your children and grandchildren, please take a look at our book, The Ten Biggest Estate Planning and Asset Protection Mistakes and How to Avoid Them 2nd Edition, available for FREE kindle download between September 26th and October 2nd, or for purchase from Amazon.com

 

At the Estate Planning & Asset Protection Law Center, we provide a unique education and counseling process which includes our unique 19 Point Trust, Estate and Asset Protection Review to help people and their families learn how to protect their home, spouse, life-savings, and legacy for their loved ones, click here for more information. We provide clients with a unique approach so they understand where opportunities exist to eliminate problems now as they implement plans for a protected future.

We encourage you to attend one of our free educational workshops, call 800-964-4295 and register to learn more about what you can do to enhance the security of your spouse, home, life savings and legacy.

Click Here to Register For Our Trust, Estate & Asset  Protection Workshop

Tags: asset protection, Estate Planning, Massacusetts Estate Tax, massachusetts estate planning strategies, tax exemption, transfer of assets, Wills

Times Are Changing, So Are Tax Laws

Posted by Massachusetts Estate Planning & Elder Law Attorney, Dennis B. Sullivan, Esq., CPA, LLM on Tue, Aug 26, 2014

The Tax Game Has Changed | Massachusetts Estate Planning Attorney

 

Tax planning, estate tax, trust, congress

 

The Old Ways Don’t Work Anymore

For years, estate planners have done what is considered traditional estate planning. They drafted plans primarily concerned with minimizing future estate tax liability and gave minimal attention to income tax consequences.

This was perfectly fine years ago when the estate tax was much more severe than the potential for income tax. This was attributable to relatively high estate tax rates, low estate tax exemption that was not indexed for inflation, and comparatively low capital gains rates.

However, Congress has tinkered with the tax system in a huge way. Accordingly, the income tax impact of estate planning is taking on greater significance, especially for Massachusetts residents.

 

The Tax Man Cometh

More attention shall now be directed toward the importance of income tax basis considerations in estate planning due to the narrowing between the estate tax rates and the income tax rates. In fact, in most estates worth less than $5.34 million, estate taxes are no longer an issue. Now, income taxes loom large, primarily because of the lack of attention on the income tax basis (i.e. cost or adjusted basis) of capital assets. Also state estate taxes have become critically important because of the lower $1 million threshold for estate taxes in states like Massachusetts.

 

Failing to Update Could Cost You

The bad news for most middle-class taxpayers is that for years they've been fed a steady diet of estate tax minimizing wills and trusts. Worse yet, they hang onto outdated documents for many years, thinking they are done with their estate planning and not wanting to be bothered. Sadly, these old documents will no longer serve their intended purpose of estate tax minimization. A major problem is also created when federal estate tax minimization plans, unless they are updated, will cause a completely avoidable Massachusetts estate tax for a married couple. While there may be no federal estate tax savings with these documents, because very few middle-class taxpayers will ever pay estate tax, the documents will increase income taxes for their heirs upon sale of appreciated assets. Moreover in Massachusetts, there may not only be a completely avoidable estate tax on an additional 1 million dollars, but it may also trigger a large, completely avoidable Massachusetts estate tax on the first death.

 

What to Do About a Completely Avoidable Massachusetts Estate Tax

Bottom line:  the game starts anew. Let's focus on income tax minimization for most taxpayers and forget about estate tax minimization. Unless your estate is worth more than $5.34 million, your biggest risk is Massachusetts estate tax as well as overpaying income taxes due to inattention to income tax basis planning in your wills and trusts.  Don't make that mistake. Review your documents today so that you eliminate these lurking tax problems

 

At the Estate Planning & Asset Protection Law Center, we provide a unified education and counseling process which uses a unique 19 Point Trust, Estate and Asset Protection Review to help people and their families learn how to protect their home, spouse, life-savings, and legacy for their loved ones, click here for more information. We provide clients with a unique approach so they understand where opportunities exist to eliminate problems now as they implement plans for a protected future.

We encourage you to attend one of our free educational workshops, call 800-964-4295 and register to learn more about what you can do to enhance the security of your spouse, home, life savings and legacy.

Click Here to Register For Our Trust, Estate & Asset  Protection Workshop

Tags: massachusetts estate planning strategies, trusts, Nursing Home Costs, Mistakes, Tax on IRAs, Massacusetts Estate Tax, social security, Tax Savings, tax deductions, tax liability, tax exemption, tax reform, taxes, Massachusetts estate tax, transfer of assets, tax, trust, Nursing Home

Tax Fraud, Medicaid Penalty, or Both?|Massachusetts Elder Law Attorney

Posted by Massachusetts Estate Planning & Elder Law Attorney, Dennis B. Sullivan, Esq., CPA, LLM on Mon, Jan 20, 2014

 Taxes, Medicaid, Medicare, Fraud

Ed called me because he had just taken over Dad’s finances and the management of care from his brother, Tom.  That’s when he made a discovery that troubled him and caused him to reach out to us.

Dad was still living at home alone but his health was declining.  Ed began looking at assisted living facilities.  At a cost of approximately $4000 per month, Ed was concerned about whether Dad could afford it.  So I started to ask him about Dad’s assets and income.

Ed told me Dad has about $300,000 in assets but he then went on to explain that Tom had transferred almost $500,000 out of Dad’s name.  He explained that Tom bought and sold investments in Dad’s account so the income was being taxed at Dad’s income level, which was lower than Tom’s.   “Is that a problem”, he asked.

“It could be”, I told him.  If Dad runs out of money and needs to apply for Medicaid, he’ll have to produce 5 years of records and that’s where the problem lies.  They’ll see the money going back to Tom.  As I always explain, Medicaid works differently than the criminal system.  In the criminal system you are innocent until proven guilty, but the Medicaid system works the other way around.

I told Ed that he will have the burden of proving that the money was Tom’s and not Dad’s.  As long as Tom is able to show a paper trail of assets he deposited into Dad’s account that matches the money going back to Tom then no Medicaid penalty will be assessed for a “transfer for less than fair value”.

“But I’m not sure Tom will cooperate.  If he admits that the assets are his, could he or Dad run into problems with the IRS or Massachusetts Department of Revenue”, Ed asked.

I have to admit that if Tom is in a higher tax bracket, that would mean a higher tax bill.  And if Tom transferred assets to Dad for the purpose of avoiding income tax, he and Dad could be accused of committing tax fraud.  I told Ed he’d need to consult with a tax attorney.

My focus, however, was on the Medicaid issue.  I had some thoughts on how to avoid a Medicaid penalty.  Next time I’ll share them with you.

We encourage you to attend one of our free educational workshops, call 800-964-4295 and register to learn more about what you can do to enhance the security of your spouse, home, life savings and legacy.

Click Here to Register For Our Trust, Estate & Asset  Protection Workshop

Tags: Medicaid, MassHealth, tax exemption, taxes, medicaid qualification, tax, 2014

Massachusetts Estate Planning Lawyer | What Does Avoiding the Fiscal Cliff Really Mean?

Posted by Massachusetts Estate Planning & Elder Law Attorney, Dennis B. Sullivan, Esq., CPA, LLM on Mon, Jan 07, 2013

All anyone was talking about in the last days of 2012 was whether Congress and President Obama would work together to avoid an increase in taxes caused by the expiration of a number of tax breaks dating back to President Bush.  An agreement was reached at the 11th hour.  But what does it all mean?  And how does it affect seniors?

Click Here to Learn More About How to Avoid the Top Mistakes in Estate & Asset Protection Planning

First let’s talk income taxes.  The President and Republicans reached a compromise, raising the tax rate on individuals earning more than $400,000 and married couples making more than $450,000 from 35 to 39.6 percent.  Payroll taxes will increase as well, back to 6.2 percent, for all wage earnings up to $113,700 in 2013.  The past 2 years saw a 2 percent reduction in mandatory contributions to the Social Security program.  While this will impact 160 million American employees it won’t affect most seniors who are retired.

There was much speculation on the federal estate tax exemption and whether the $5,000,000 exemption would expire and return to $1,000,000.  Remember, at the end of 2010 we went through this when there was no federal estate tax and we waited to see if that law would expire and return the exemption to $1,000,000.  Well, this time, lawmakers decided to make the $5,000,000 exemption permanent .  That means we won’t automatically have to go through this insane process every two years of watching to see what Washington will do at the last minute.  Actually, the exemption, which is currently $5,120,000, is indexed for inflation and will rise year to year.  What Congress did do was raise the federal estate tax rate from 35 to 40 percent.

Another change for 2013, recently announced by the IRS, is that the annual gift tax exclusion, that amount that can be gifted annually per person without paying gift tax or using one’s lifetime exemption of $5,120,000, will rise from $13,000 to $14,000.  Massachusetts does not have a gift tax, however estates above $1,000,000. remain subject to the Massachusetts estate tax. Married couples with the right type of trust and funding may double the tax free amount to $2 million. This is not automatic so its important to make sure you create and maintain the proper estate plan.

Click Here to Learn More About Our 19 Point Trust, Estate and Asset Protection Legal Guide

Another change that threatened to impact seniors was avoided for at least another year.  Congress agreed to a one year extension of current Medicare reimbursement rates, avoiding what would have been a 27 percent cut in reimbursement rates for doctors participating in Medicare.

So, there you have the highlights of the law.  Looking at the bigger picture, the politicians in Washington haven’t tackled the bigger problems we are wrestling with such as the economy, budget deficits, and growing government spending.  But, in the short term, a financial crisis has been averted.

At the Estate Planning & Asset Protection Law Center, we help people and their families learn how to protect their home, spouse, life-savings, and legacy for their loved ones.  We provide clients with a unique educational and counseling approach so they understand where opportunities exist to eliminate problems now as they implement plans for a protected future.

We encourage you to attend one of our free educational workshops. Call 800-964-4295 to learn more about what you can do to enhance the security of your spouse, home, life savings and legacy.

 Estate Planning, Estate Planning Tip, Attorney, income, tax exemption, taxes, Tax Savings, tax reform, tax

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Tags: Estate Planning, Tax Savings, Estate Planning Tip, tax exemption, tax reform, taxes, tax, Attorney, income

Massachusetts Estate Planning Attorney | Uncertainty Makes Tax Planning Tricky

Posted by Massachusetts Estate Planning & Elder Law Attorney, Dennis B. Sullivan, Esq., CPA, LLM on Wed, Nov 21, 2012

As recently reported in the Boston Globe, many investors and taxpayers are tackling a daunting task: trying to plot a post-election personal finance strategy as Washington debates the future of Bush-era tax cuts. If they make decisions now, they fear they might guess wrong. But if they wait for the politics to settle, they could get hit with big tax bills they might have avoided. This makes things very difficult.washingtondc

Taxpayers who would ordinarily be in the midst of their year-end planning find themselves in a quandary instead. The Bush tax cuts, which lowered rates and included other tax breaks, will expire December 31 of this year. President Obama and congressional leaders are negotiating whether to extend some or all of the tax cuts; if they deadlock, everyone’s taxes will go up in 2013.

The most likely increases include long-term capital gains taxes, income tax rates on the wealthiest Americans, and top rates on gift and estate taxes. Those are the areas where taxpayers – particularly couples with taxable income of more than $250,000 or individuals with more than $200,000 – are looking for planning advantages. Some may find them.

Take capital gains. The president wants the wealthiest Americans to pay a top rate of 20 percent on gains and selling stock and other investments, a rate which is up from the current 15 percent. Yet if the Bush tax cuts are not extended, middle-income taxpayers would see the rate they pay on capital gains rise to 20 percent as well. Also, some people in lower tax brackets, who are currently exempt from capital gains taxes, would face a 10 percent rate.

The likelihood of such increases means investors may want to sell appreciated stock this year. Some financial planning professionals have suggeted investors should only sell if it makes sense for nontax reasons, such as rebalancing a portfolio, diversifying holdings, or raising cash.

Ultimately with investment decisions,  you don’t want to let the tax tail wag the dog.

The fate of qualified dividends – which are currently taxed at a top rate of 15 percent – also has investors nervous. Without congressional action, the rates would rise between 28 and 31 percent for middle-income tax payers. President Obama wants to impose even higher rates on dividends earned by wealthy individuals and families, increasing the top rate to as high as 39.6 percent for couples with $250,000 of taxable income and individuals making $200,000.

That increased tax bite could make dividend-producing stocks less attractive, which in turn could depress prices. At the same time, municipal bonds may gain some luster since their interest in exempt from both federal income taxes and the new 3.8 Medicare tax. Under the federal health care overhaul, wealthy families and individuals will, for the first time, have to pay Medicare taxes on investment income that exceeds threshold amounts, starting in 2013.

Faced with the likelihood of higher tax rates, those at the top income levels find themselves in an unusual year-end planning position.

Usually you want to accelerate deductions and defer income to the subsequent tax year. I, this case, you may want to do the opposite. That might include such strategies as taking a bonus in 2012 rather than after the New Year or paying property taxes or state estimated income taxes after January 1. State and local taxes are deductible on federal returns, and such a strategy would lower taxable income next year when rates would be higher.

Trying to time deductions, however, comes with a caveat: Congress is considering capping deductions on the wealthiest taxpayers, potentially limiting the advantage of such tax planning. Looking ahead to next year, taxpayers facing rate increases may want to take full advantage of contributions  to retirement accounts, health savings accounts, and other vehicles that allow them to shelter pre-tax dollars and potentially stay in a lower tax bracket.

Financial specialists also agree that it’s a great time for the super wealthy to make gifts to children and other family members. That’s because the current estate and gift tax exemption of $5.12 million per person expires on December 31, 2012. It’s likely to be replaced with a new exemption of $3.5 million – or perhaps just $1 million – with estate tax rates possibly jumping to as high as 55 percent from the current 35 percent.

As a rule of thumb, taxpayers can assume that the outcome in Washington won’t lead to more favorable rates, but they can limit their guesses to about what political leaders might or might not do.

If you decide to take advantage of the current rules, fast action is required. There is not a lot of time left this year.

At the Estate Planning & Asset Protection Law Center, we help people and their families learn how to protect their home, spouse, life-savings, and legacy for their loved ones.  We provide clients with a unique educational and counseling approach so they understand where opportunities exist to eliminate problems now as they implement plans for a protected future.

We encourage you to attend one of our free educational workshops, call 800-964-4295 and register to learn more about what you can do to enhance the security of your spouse, home, life savings and legacy.

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Tags: Estate Planning, IRA, tax deductions, tax exemption, taxes, tax, Obama

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

Family-Owned Businesses and The Estate Tax

Posted by Dennis Sullivan & Associates on Sun, Jul 31, 2011

The estate tax, which has been a part of the U.S. revenue system since 1916, has become a complicated issue particularly for small, family-owned businesses.  The reason is because when an individual dies, what he or she leaves behind is subject to significant taxation, even if it’s primarily invested in a family business.

“The business is your savings, your legacy for your kids,” says Dan Danner of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, the nation’s leading group for small businesses, “In most cases, it’s everything you own.”

But if a family-owned business doesn’t have enough cash on hand to meet the estate tax obligation, heirs are often forced to sell the business to raise money to pay the taxes.  In some cases the business just closes its doors because it is unable to pay the estate tax.

But beyond just the rates themselves, which are always subject to change, small business owners also deal with the uncertainty of having to guess how much cash their heirs will need when the time comes. 

Last December's surprise renewal of the $5 million individual estate tax exemption was a temporary reaction.  What will happen at the end of 2012 when this exemption expires is anyone's guesss.  The rates could jump to 50% with a $1 million exemption or there might be some last-minute compromise.  The point is that no one knows, and for small, family-owned businesses this is indeed a conundrum, and it prevents may family-owned business to want to invest in the economy or to hire additional employees.

It all comes down to business owners (and individuals) wanting permanent tax reform - not this see-saw of tax theories.

For more information on this topic, visit our website to read about Strategies for Family-Owned Businesses. To learn more about how to protect your spouse, home, business and life savings, plan to attend a free educational Trust, Estate and Asset Protection Workshop. Register online or call 781-235-2815 in Wellesley or 800-964-4295 (24/7).

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Tags: estate tax, small business, tax exemption, tax reform

Obama's Estate Tax Budget Proposals

Posted by Dennis Sullivan & Associates on Tue, Mar 22, 2011

 

We all should realize that the federal estate tax is in a state of flux. The current rules, with the generous $5 million individual exemption ($10 million for a couple), expire at the end of 2012. Last month, the Treasury Department released the “General Explanations of the Administration's Fiscal Year 2012 Revenue Proposals,” also known as the “Greenbook.” The Greenbook reveals that the Obama Administration intends to make some big estate tax changes.

  • Return the Gift, Estate, and Generation-Skipping Transfer (GST) taxes to 2009 levels. The Greenbook proposes that in 2013 the exemptions return to $3.5 million for the estate tax, $1 million for the gift tax, and slightly over $1 million (reflecting inflation adjustments since 1999) for the generation skipping transfer (“GST”) tax.
  • Make portability permanent. Portability is the ability of the first spouse’s estate exemptions to be passed on to the surviving spouse, essentially doubling the estate exemptions for couples while cutting down on the stress of so many trusts.
  • Limitations on the use of valuation discounts. Although the IRS has long had defenses in place against attempts to reduce the value of the taxable portion of an estate, Chapter 14 of the tax code, the effectiveness of these defenses have been challenged in a number of ways and part of the proposal is to strengthen Chapter 14 by significantly hampering any effort to receive a valuation discount.
  • Impose a ten-year minimum term on GRATs. Grantor retained annuity trusts (“GRATs”) have become extremely popular estate planning vehicles over the past several years.  Among other reasons, they are relatively low cost to implement, are fairly low risk, and can transfer significant amounts of wealth to lower generations with virtually no estate or gift tax, often without using any of the transferor’s exemption. One requirement for a successful GRAT, however, is that the grantor must survive the term, otherwise the trust “fails.” To minimize risk, estate lawyers usually use a series of short-term (e.g., three-year) GRATs in their planning. The proposal is to require a term of no less than 10 years. This proposal would apply to GRATs created after the date of enactment, and has been made several times in the past.
  • Limiting the capacity of Dynasty Trusts. Under current law in many states, a Dynasty Trust can be established to transfer wealth across generations and exist for that purpose “in perpetuity.” The Obama proposal would provide that, on the 90th anniversary of the creation of a trust, the Generation-Skipping Tax (GST) exclusion allotted to the trust would terminate. This proposal would apply to trusts created after enactment, and to the portion of a pre-existing trust attributable to additions made after the date.

 

Many of these proposals have been made before, and most arelikely to face stiff opposition.

In addition, Massachusetts will assess a state tax on estates over $1 million. Without proper planning a married couple will have only $1 million between them.  See a lawer to be sure that you and your spouse get the $2 million exemption available to you.

Also, Massachusetts clients and taxpayers need to watch out for estate plans created based on maximum federal applicable exclusion planning, common for many estate plans prior to 2003. Now with the $5 million federal exempt amount, there could be a COMPLETELY AVOIDABLE Massachusetts estate tax triggered at the first death. The cost to your spouse and family could be as much as $400,000 in unnecessary estate taxes.

The point of all of this is that the “death tax” is not dead. The current law, with its generous exemptions, could be the calm before the storm. A wise planner would move sooner rather than later to preserve estate assets for future generations.

You can learn more about comprehensive estate planning by attending one of our Trust, Estate & Asset Protection Workshops and also by downloading our Unique Self-Guided 19-Point Trust, Estate & Asset Protection Legal Guide on our website.  Once you become a client, we have a Lifetime Protection Program to ensure that your planning stays up to date with the changes in law, fincial, health and family situations.

 

Tags: massachusetts estate planning strategies, Estate Planning, estate tax, Massachusetts estate tax, tax exemption, Estate Planning, New estate tax law, Massacusetts Estate Tax, gifts, GRATs, GST tax, gift tax, IRS

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