Estate Planning Blog

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

What Should I Do With My Vacation Home?

Ah, the vacation home:  a place of relaxation, where your family can enjoy time together and build memories.  Inevitably, some of your children will love the vacation home and others will have no interest in using it.  How do you balance these interests in planning for your vacation home?

Does your family wish to keep the vacation home?  Before you invest in expensive, complex plans, you should determine whether your family members are interested in keeping the vacation home in the family.  If the next generation has no interest in the property, your trustee or personal representative can simply sell the property and divide the net sale proceeds among your beneficiaries.  If at least one beneficiary is interested in keeping the property, you may need to consider additional issues (below) to help you structure ownership and use of the property.
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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

IRS Announces Estate and Gift Tax Exemptions for 2017

The IRS has finally released information on federal estate and gift tax exemptions for 2017.  

Individuals will have a federal estate tax exemption of $5.49 million (less lifetime taxable gifts) beginning in 2017.  The federal estate tax exemption applies both to lifetime taxable gifts (those exceeding the annual exclusion amount discussed below) and gifts at death -- either outright or in trust.  So, an individual who makes lifetime taxable gifts of $1.
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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

What is a Small Estate Affidavit?

When an individual dies with a very modest estate, there is a simplified procedure that permits that deceased person's personal representative, family or heirs to collect his or her assets without the complexity, time and expense of a formal probate proceeding.  In Missouri, the procedure is known as a Small Estate Affidavit, and this procedure is available when a decedent's assets, net of liens, debts and encumbrances, is $40,000 or less.  R.S.Mo.
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Monday, October 10, 2016

How do I file a claim in a probate estate?

If you are a creditor of a decedent who has died, you will need to know how to file a claim against the decedent’s estate in order to protect yourself and preserve the amount due to you.  Below you will find general guidance about the process for filing a claim in a probate matter pending in Missouri.

Generally, claims must be filed within the earlier of six (6) months of the time that notice of the granting of letters testamentary or letters of administration was published or one (1) year after the decedent’s date of death.  R.S.
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Sunday, September 25, 2016

529 Accounts

Frequently clients inquire about the best ways to either make gifts to grandchildren during their lifetime or leave a small gift to their grandchildren at their death.  One way to accomplish that gift is to leave money to a 529 Account, named for the Internal Revenue Code Section allowing for the tax favored status of such account. 

A 529 Account is a savings account that is invested, income tax free, for the purpose of funding the named beneficiary’s education.  The deduction does not provide any income tax benefits for purposes of your federal income taxes, but Missouri donors may qualify for a deduction for purposes of their state income taxes.

If you fund the 529 Account during your lifetime, annual gifts of less than $14,000 per donee ($28,000 per donee for a married couple) qualify for the annual exclusion for the gift tax.
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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

How Often Should I Review My Estate Plan?

I am asked this important question several times each week.  There is no right answer to the question.  Consider the following guidelines to determine when and how often your estate plan should be reviewed.


At a minimum, I recommend you review the basic terms of your estate planning documents every 2 years.  You should sit down with your estate planning attorney at least every 3-5 years, although I encourage my clients to sit down at least once a year to discover any new assets and review any changes to the law.
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Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Do I have to tell my family about my estate plan?

No.  The short answer is that you do not have to tell your family (or your friends, your priest, your best friend or anyone else) what provisions you made in your estate planning documents.  Your estate planning documents are private, and you can decide to keep them private for as long as you wish.

But let me play devil’s advocate.  There are several important reasons you may want to disclose some (or all) of the provisions of your estate planning documents.
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Monday, August 29, 2016

Important Questions to Ask Your Estate Planning Attorney

Hiring an estate planning attorney is often the first opportunity an individual has had to hire an attorney to assist them.  The process can seem overwhelming if one does not know what questions to ask.  Asking the right questions can help you determine if you are hiring the right estate planning attorney for you.  Here are my top five suggestions for questions you should ask:

1.  What proportion of your practice is related to estate planning and estate planning related services?

You may have heard the figure of speech “jack of all trades, master of none” to describe someone who knows a little bit about a lot of different things.

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Monday, August 22, 2016

Charitable Giving with Retirement Assets

Frequently clients are interested in making a gift to one or more charities they supported during their lifetime, such as their college, church or synagogue, or a charitable organization where they volunteered their time.  Properly funding the gift is an important parts of a well-developed estate plan.

For clients with retirement benefits, charitable planning also involves discussions about the income tax benefits to using retirement benefits to fund the charitable gift(s).  Using qualified retirement plans and/or individual retirement accounts (IRAs) to fund charitable gifts provide income tax benefits to the donor, while maximizing the other assets available for non-charitable beneficiaries.

If a donor leaves a retirement account to a non-charitable beneficiary, the beneficiary will be responsible for federal income taxes on the distribution (up to the maximum income tax rate).
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Monday, August 15, 2016

Are your Children Heading Off to College?

If you are like most parents with college-bound children, the last thing on your mind is estate planning.  You may be sad to see your baby leave for college, or you may be dismantling their room so you can have your own space.  You may also be lamenting the fact that you have to stalk them on Facebook just to know if they are ok.

But what would you do if your child became incapacitated while he or she was at school?  Now that he or she is 18, you do not have access to their financial accounts unless you are a co-owner.  You may not be able to get access to their medical records (thanks to HIPAA).

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Monday, August 8, 2016

Selecting a Caregiver for your Pet

Last week, I covered some considerations in selecting a guardian for minor children.  For some people, their “children” are of the furry variety, and those “fur babies” will need care when their beloved owners are deceased.  Selecting a caregiver for a beloved pet can present its own challenges.


  1. What is the life span of your pet?  Guardians for minor children typically have an expectancy that the child will be an adult, able to care for himself or herself, at age 18.  Pets require care for their entire lifetime.
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