Massachusetts Estate Planning & Asset Protection Blog

A Married Couple's Asset Protection Journey

Posted by Dennis Sullivan & Associates on Thu, Aug 30, 2018

couple_at_table

 

At Dennis Sullivan & Associates we were fortunate enough to be able to help a married couple, both teachers, plan for their retirement and estate planning. After being referred to us by an independent financial adviser toward the end of their careers we advised that they may want to attend one of our Free Discovery Workshops on Estate, Trusts, and Asset Protection Planning.

After being impressed with what they learned at the Workshop they scheduled their complimentary meeting to have us review their existing wills, trusts, disability, and healthcare documents. They made it clear that they had long term care insurance that would cover only $100 per day for two years (At the time cost of care at a nursing home was roughly $400 per day). Therefore, they would have had to pay $300 per day had a situation arose in the near term. $300 x 365 = $109,500 annually for two years, a total of $219,000. After the first two years of coverage lapsed, they would be responsible for the entirety of the cost of care payments. If nursing home costs did not rise, at $400 they would be looking at a nursing home bill of $146,000 annually. For comparison, the rates today are in the neighborhood of $18,000 per month and are steadily rising.

Because of the high cost of in home care and a desire to maintain control of their assets and healthcare decisions they had us create for them an updated Revocable Living Trust as well as a new protective trust for their home and long term savings. Having a solid asset protection plan allowed them to decide to avoid paying over $15,000 every year to expand their long term care coverage from $100 to $250 a day, which was short of the $400 a day, cost at the time. They were pleased that this estate plan would protect their home, spouse, and life savings!

Over a decade later they remain clients and members of The Lifetime Protection Program as we help them strategically plan how their trusts and other life and death documents should function to preserve their capital.

As members of the Lifetime Protection Program, this retired couple enjoy many benefits. First, we helped them implement the proper healthcare documents for their children and grandchildren, over the age of 18, to ensure that in the case of an emergency; medical professionals would be able to disclose information to family members. This is a little known secret that you do not want to find out the hard way. [Please see our upcoming workshop schedule to discover more]

With healthcare documents in place, we were able to focus our attention on asset preservation and protection. As with most people that we help they were interested in ways to provide for the surviving spouse and ultimately, maximize the inheritances of their family members. Putting the deed to their home into their protective trust ensured that when their children inherited the property they would receive the step-up in basis as well as protecting the home against nursing home costs down the road. This alone will save their children from paying any long term capital gains if they sell the home at market value. Various gifting strategies, educational savings plans including a 529 account, were additional steps taken to reduce their overall estate tax levied by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. An important step taken was to update their Durable Power of Attorney forms to provide maximum security in the event that either one of them lost capacity during their lifetime, and there were assets that were NOT included in their trusts. To discover more about trusts, life and death planning, as well our unique process and services visit DSullivan.com and sign-up for a free discovery session. You and your family will be glad you did for generations to come. This planning could save you and your family countless nightmares, heartache, and a significant amount of money. Click here to attend an upcoming workshop today or call 1-800-964-4295 to register.

Tags: grandchildren, care costs, step up basis, Inheritance, surviving spouse, Wills, irrevocable trust, trust, transferring, donations, charitable

Be Prepared Before Alzheimer’s Strikes

Posted by Dennis Sullivan & Associates on Fri, Apr 03, 2015

Be Prepared Before Alzheimer’s Strikes | Massachusetts Elder Care Attorney

 

dementia-2

 

One of the problems we see in clients with early stages of dementia is trouble managing their personal finances. This can often lead to costly financial mistakes before there are signs that something is wrong.

No one knows exactly what the future holds for us, so early planning for potential late-in-life health issues is essential, as is keeping an eye open for any potential warning signs in loved ones.

If you notice that a loved one seems more disorganized than usual (bills are piling up, they have a hard time remembering names and words, or if things are in strange places throughout their home), it is a good idea to contact a doctor. Alzheimer's and most forms of dementia are progressive, this means it will get worse over the next few years.

Even before a diagnosis, it is important for people to discuss with their families how they would like to be helped. This includes deciding who will be the primary caregiver and who will be in charge of finances. According to a recent USA TODAY article, titled "Financial planning for dementia," a person with dementia often feels insecure that he or she will lose control and everyone else will tell him what to do. This is why conversations are so important to have before there is a problem in order to make sure your loved one’s wishes are carried out as well as avoiding confusion and misunderstandings later on.

We strongly recommend that everyone should have a will, power of attorney, medical directive, as well as a living trust set up before they have a problem. Without these important documents, the courts may need to become involved and appoint someone to oversee the care and finances, possibly someone with no connection to the family involved. This can be frustrating, time-consuming, and expensive.

In the course of the disease, a person may need help with the actions of daily living and may have trouble communicating. At this point, someone else should be designated to take care of all financial matters, and it might be time to start looking into an assisted living facility.

Healthcare costs for dementia patients can be substantial, and it is very important to provide for the financial security of a healthy spouse. If you would like to being the review process, please contact our office.

 

For additional guidance, please see The Seniors and Boomer's Guide to Health Care Reform and Avoiding Nursing Home Poverty the book provides important information for families on resources for quality care and protection for loved ones.

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: assisted living, power of attorney, trust, Wills, Alzheimers Disease, 2015

Supreme Court Case Puts Inherited IRAs at Risk!

Posted by Dennis Sullivan & Associates on Thu, Jan 15, 2015

Supreme Court Case Puts Inherited IRAs at Risk | Massachusetts Asset Protection Attorney

law_books

 

A landmark case before the U.S. Supreme Court holds that Inherited IRAs are not protected from creditors. One June 12, 2014 the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its opinion in Clark v. Rameker, which questioned whether or not an inherited IRA could be shielded from Bankruptcy. Heidi Heffron-Clark inherited an IRA from her mother in 2001 and filed bankruptcy 9 years later, the question was whether she could keep the assets held in the IRA.

The Court unanimously held that retirement funds inherited by a beneficiary from the original plan participant are not considered to be “retirement funds” within the meaning of the federal bankruptcy exemptions found at 11 U.S.C. §522(b)(3)(c).

A clear legal distinction was drawn between an inherited IRAs and those that you set up for yourself. An inherited IRA has several unique features that suggest they are not retirement assets, which were noted by the Court. Unlike IRA owners, inheritors can’t add additional funds to the account, but they can take out money at any time without penalty. Usually a participant’s own IRA is subject to early withdrawal penalties if taken out early, unlike an Inherited one. Generally, non-spousal beneficiaries of an IRA must either withdraw the entire amount within five years of the original owner’s date of death, or take out a minimum amount each year, starting by December 31 of the year after the date of death. This is true for both Roth and Traditional IRAs.

What You Can Do To Protect The Inheritance For Your Beneficiaries:       

The upshot is that Clark v. Rameker argues very strongly in favor of setting aside retirement accounts that will pass upon the death of the plan participant into a special type of trust designed to both protect inheritances from future creditors of the beneficiary, but also to ensure that the trust will qualify as a Designated Beneficiary under the Internal Revenue Code.

A Retirement Plan Trust can be created to protect all of your inheritable retirement accounts. In creating this type of trust, you are using the trust as your beneficiary instead of the individual. The beneficiary of the trust will be the original individual you wanted to benefit from your protected retirement account. This is what many would call a “work around”, which is possible even with the new supreme court case.

For more information on how to protect your IRAs, click here to download our Free Report on the IRA Protection and Maximization Trust.

 

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: Protective Trusts, trusts, Tax on IRAs, trust, IRA, Inheritance, Supreme court

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

Massachusetts Estate Planning Attorney | Year End Gifting Strategies for Your Estate

Posted by Massachusetts Estate Planning & Elder Law Attorney, Dennis B. Sullivan, Esq., CPA, LLM on Fri, Dec 14, 2012

Gifting and other estate tax reduction strategies have been at the forefront of many estate planning discussions as we approach the holidays due to the uncertainty over the estate and gift tax rules for next year. While current Federal estate and gift tax rates have been relatively favorable, much less favorable rules are set to go into effect in January. gifting, estate, planning, holidays

Currently, the federal estate and gift tax exemption is $5.12 million, meaning those with estates worth less than that, or who give away less than that, will not pay Federal estate or gift taxes (the Massachusetts exemption is $1M). The tax rate on estates and gifts above the exemption is a flat 35 percent.

However, unless Congress and the President can agree on a compromise, the Federal estate and gift tax exemption will be reduced to the $1 million credit that was in effect before the Bush tax cuts were enacted. Simultaneously, the maximum estate and gift tax rate will rise to 55 percent.

Gifting Opportunities for Your Estate

Nevertheless, many people are getting ready to make gifts to their loved ones to help reduce their estates. This is because, regardless of what Congress does, you should still be able to rely on the annual gift tax exclusion to shelter lifetime transfers to family members and loved ones. The annual gift tax exclusion hasn’t been affected by other tax law modifications over the last decade and that isn’t expected to change. By systematically giving gifts that qualify for the exclusion, you can gradually reduce the size of your taxable estate over time, thereby reducing your potential estate tax liability.

The current annual gift tax exclusion is $13,000, and it will increase to $14,000 in 2013. You can give gifts of cash or property to an unlimited number of recipients up to this amount each year without any gift tax consequences. The annual exclusion is doubled for joint gifts made by a married couple, although you must file a gift tax return for these joint gifts.

Other gifting opportunities include paying for a loved one’s medical or educational expenses: No gift taxes are imposed on amounts used to pay these costs for another person as long as the bills are paid directly to the provider or institution.

Creating a Planned Gifting Program

In addition to the annual gift exclusions, you can also reduce your taxable estate by bestowing sizeable gifts on as many family members as you desire over a given period of time to reduce your estate tax exposure.

For example, a couple who own $2 million in assets and three adult children could give $28,000 to each child each year for the next five years. By the end of the five-year period, they will have reduced their joint estate by $1.4 million, leaving as estate worth $600,000 (plus earnings in the interim). This would eliminate their exposure to both state and Federal estate taxes. Gifts could be made into an irrevocable trust in order to get assets out of your estate but not subject them to your heirs’ creditors and manage their spending.

However, you must be careful when considering gifting highly appreciated assets such as real estate or stock, as they may expose your beneficiary to capital gains taxes. Gifting through a trust can avoid this outcome as well.

To explore how gifting may benefit your estate, contact The Estate Planning and Asset Protection Law Center of Dennis Sullivan & Associates

Research shows that 86% of trusts don’t work.  That’s why we developed our Unique Self-Guided 19-Point Trust, Estate, & Asset Protection Legal Guide, so you can learn where problems may exist in your planning as well as opportunities for improvement and how to implement a plan to protect your spouse, home, family, and life savings.  Click Here to Download the Guide.

We encourage you to attend one of our free educational workshops to learn more about our process and what you can do to enhance the security of your spouse, home, life savings and legacy. To register for a seat at an upcoming workshop call (800) 964-4295 (24/7) or register online at www.SeniorWorkshop.com

 

Tags: gifts, gift tax, estate, taxes, gifting, Massachusetts, tax, Attorney, trust, holiday, federal, exclusions

Massachusetts Elder Law Attorney | What Happens To Your Pet After You Are Gone?

Posted by Massachusetts Estate Planning & Elder Law Attorney, Dennis B. Sullivan, Esq., CPA, LLM on Mon, Oct 22, 2012

What happens to your pet after you are gone? This is a frequently asked question amongst our clients. Just last week, one client asked us what would happen to their dog, Sophie, when they pass away. We discussed setting up a pet trust and choosing a pet guardian to ensure that Sophie would be provided for. Please take the time to read the following article by Deborah Jacobs about the several ways you can provide for your beloved pet, even after you are gone.

If You Love Your Dog (Or Cat or Gerbil), Read This

by Deborah Jacobs

Link:Forbes.com

pet trust, guardian, elder law, Massachusetts

Whether your pet is a rescue you adopted for nothing or a purebred with a street value of many thousands, you can’t put a price tag on what it’s worth to you. So you ought to take steps to provide for this family member after you are gone–just as you would for any other. There are a couple of ways to do this, which can be used alone or in combination with each other.

Set up a trust. The tobacco heiress Doris Duke, who died in 1993, included a paragraph in her will with detailed instructions about who should become the owner of whatever dog lived at her Beverly Hills home when she died (her first choice was the caretaker of the house). Duke also created a $100,000 trust to cover her pet’s food, medical bills and other expenses.

More famously, Leona Helmsley set up a $12 million trust to benefit her dog, Trouble. After Helmsley died in 2007, two of her grandchildren, whom she had disinherited, challenged the arrangement. They persuaded the court to reduce the trust to $2 million and walked away with $3 million apiece. The other $4 million went to a charitable trust that Helmsley and her husband Harry had set up. (Trouble died last year.)

Such trusts (funded with much smaller sums) have become increasingly popular, and can be done in all states, says Gerry W. Beyer, a professor at Texas Tech University School of Law in Lubbock, TX and co-author of the book, “Fat Cats And Lucky Dogs: How To Leave (Some Of) Your Estate To Your Pet.”

Creating and administering pet trusts involves many of the same issues that arise with other types of trusts, including how to fund the trust, whether it should take effect while you are still alive (for example, if you are no longer able to care for your pet) and whom to choose as trustee. You will also want to identify the caregiver (include alternates in case the person you have in mind cannot do it), ideally someone other than the trustee. Include care instructions, and indicate what should happen to the funds after your pet dies.

Choose a pet guardian. A simpler approach is to designate in your will the person to care for your pet, and leave that individual enough money to carry out the responsibility. This raises two potential pitfalls: the amount could be subject to estate tax and there’s no legal mechanism for making sure things go as you planned. Nor is there any guarantee that the person will want your pet or be able to care for it when time comes.

In response to this problem, a growing number of for-profit and not-for-profit pet guardian programs have sprung up around the country. Beyer, who keeps a list of about 75 organizations providing animal care after an owner’s death but has not vetted the programs, says that some are shelters or re-homing organizations that are specific to certain types of animals – such as birds, farm animals or dogs. Among the best are those run by university veterinary schools or connected with local humane societies, he says.

Pet guardian programs are terrific for people who don’t have a specific person in mind or need to name an alternate on their pet trust if the caregivers they have listed are unable or unwilling to serve. Or, you can combine the two concepts, and put the animal care organization in charge of your pet’s care, while naming the trustee to oversee it and control the money.

Guardian programs are also great if you have a pet like a bird or a tortoise that has long life expectancy–longer than any human beings whom you trust, Beyer says. These programs might also be well suited to finding a home for exotic pets like pigs and llamas.

Two years ago, for example, the 100-year-old Seattle Humane Society set up a pet Guardian program known informally as “Puppies In Probate.” (Under Washington law, animals are treated as property, so this reference to the process by which a will is submitted for the court’s approval before assets are distributed is particularly apt. ) The idea came up after donors who were planning to benefit the Humane Society through their estate plans inquired about the possibility of a program that would help find a new home for their pets. In addition to dogs and cats, the program covers “pocket pets,” such as bunnies, gerbils, and mice), says David Loewe, the CEO.

Several months ago, Teri Persen, 72, enrolled Button–her 12-year-old Coton de Tulear. Persen, who lives alone and whose family lives out of the area, says she didn’t want to burden her friends. “I see too many people stuck with animals – not knowing what to do, feeling guilty if they tried to find another home or turned it into a shelter,” she says. “I didn’t want to put anyone in that position.”

So far more than 20 other people have signed up for the Seattle program, and paid the $1,000 enrollment fee, though none have met their demise. But the program is an extension of a service the Humane Society already provides, finding homes for strays and abandoned pets. Depending on their medical condition and potential behavior issues, animals may either go directly from the shelter into a new home, or first pass through foster care for 30-60 days with an experienced animal lover who is especially sensitive to their needs, Loewe says.

In choosing a facility, here are issues to consider:

What’s the rep? Visit the facility, just as you would if you were putting a relative in a nursing home. Ask the local humane society about the organization’s reputation.Check for complaints on the Internet and through the local Better Business Bureau.

What will it cost? Some programs require you to create a mini endowment, either during your life or through your estate plan. Programs that are set up to take animals from around the country tend to charge more.

What are the screening criteria? Your pet may have a special place in your heart, but if he is a furniture scratcher, or sometimes has an accident in the house, that could work against him in finding a new home.

Is it a fit for your pet? When you pass away, you’ve turned over responsibility for your pet. You want to make sure that the organization’s mission fits with what your animal needs.

What’s the track record? Your goal here is to find out what percentage of animals are placed into a new home and what happens to those that aren’t. (Chances are they will be euthanized.) Loewe recommends you ask not only, “What is your save rate?”(the number of animals that go from intake to adoption) but also “What is your save rate philosophy?” The answers will give you some idea of why an animal might not be adoptable at that shelter — for example, because of a medical or behavioral issue.

One final piece of advice: In addition to expressing your wishes in estate planning documents, communicate them to friends, family and financial advisors. Otherwise, by the time they locate the relevant documents, it may already be too late to save Fluffy or Rover.

At the Estate Planning & Asset Protection Law Center of Dennis Sullivan & Associates, we help people and their families concerned with losing their homes and life savings to increasing medical and nursing home costs, taxes and the costs and time delays of probate. We also protect clients from losing control of their own health and financial decisions

We developed our Unique Self-Guided 19-Point Trust, Estate, & Asset Protection Legal Guide so you can learn where problems may exist in your planning as well as opportunities for improvement and how to implement a plan to protect your spouse, home, family, and life savings. 

Click Here to Download our Trust, Estate, & Asset Protection  Legal Guide

We encourage you to attend one of our free educational workshops to learn more about our process and what you can do to enhance the security of your spouse, home, life savings and legacy. To register for a seat at an upcoming workshop call (800) 964-4295 (24/7) or register online at www.SeniorWorkshop.com

 

Tags: will, Estate Planning, probate, asset protection, estate, Massachusetts, Attorney, trust, pet, pets, guardian

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