Even though the elections are over, no one knows what Congress will do by the end of the year when it comes to taxes so retirees are advised to look at strategies to cut their tax bills now rather than wait for Congress to act. With the fiscal cliff looming, Here are some considerations from Kiplinger’s:
Max out on tax-deferred retirement savings plans. The limits for contributions to a 401(k) or other employer-based retirement plan for 2012 is $17,000; if you are over the age of 50, you can contribute up to $22,500. Contributing the maximum is also a smart move if you plan to convert a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA since it lowers your taxable income. IRA contribution limits in 2012 are $5,000; those over 50 can stash away $6,000.
Make gifts before 2012 ends. Most experts expect Congress to do nothing when it comes to estate and gift taxes, then catch up and make any changes retroactive to Jan. 1, 2013 when the exemption for both goes to $1 million from $5.12 million and the maximum estate tax rate jumps from 35 to 55 percent. Review your estate plan with your Personal Family Lawyer® to see if gifting makes sense for you this year.
Postpone RMDs as long as possible. Experts recommend you wait until mid-December to take your required minimum distributions from your IRAs. The tax break allowing those over the age of 70 ½ to donate $100,000 tax-free to charities directly from their IRAs expired at the end of 2011, but Congress has extended this break several times and may do so again. So postponing your RMD as long as possible (but not past mid-December) may pay off.
If you’d like to learn more about retirement planning, call our Marietta estate planning law firm office today to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk. We normally charge $750 for a Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session, but because this planning is so important, I’ve made space for the next five people who mention this article to have a complete planning session at no charge. Call us today at 770-425-6060 and mention this article.
Estate planning, with or without a lawyer, can be a little overwhelming. For an estate planning attorney in Atlanta, there are plenty of questions which come up again and again. Take a look at the list below, and maybe you’ll get some of yours answered:
1. Do I really need an estate plan if I don’t own much? The answer to this is: ABSOLUTELY. An estate plan isn’t just about setting up trust funds. There are very important documents that everyone should have, regardless of their income level or assets.
2. What is the most important document I should have my estate planning lawyer draft? There are several which are important, but to get started, you will likely need a medical directive that explains what your wishes are in a variety of medical situations when you are unable to make decisions for yourself. If you’re married, you spouse will likely become the default decision-maker, but by having your wishes outlined, it makes things much clearer and takes some of the burden off of your loved ones.
3. Any others I really need? If you’re not married, you should really create durable powers of attorney for your medical decisions and your financial obligations. Parents should absolutely set up legal guardianship for their minor children. And just about everyone can benefit from creating a will.
4. Aren’t “trust funds” just for the ultra-rich? Actually, they’re not. While we may be conditioned to think of trusts as some sort of savings account that doles out money to the next generation, they are actually so much more. Putting your assets into a trust allows you to put specific restrictions and conditions on how the money is used, can protect a piece of property, and can significantly lessen the amount of taxes owed by your estate and its heirs. The cost of setting up a trust will save you its value many times over.
5. Will I have to pay a “death tax?” Maybe. For 2012, this estate tax only applies to those worth more than $5 million. In 2013, that amount is expected to drop to $1 million. The 2012 tax rate for those with estates worth more than the $5 million is capped at 35%, while the projected 2013 tax rate for estates worth more than $1 million can reach as high as 55%.
Of course, there are many other questions which an Atlanta estate planning lawyer is used to answering on a regular basis. These five, however, are commonly asked and may have been on your mind. Armed with this information, you may have realized that now truly is the time to meet with an estate planning attorney and get the ball rolling for your future plans.
When it comes to wills and trust administration, it seems like we see it all here in Atlanta. From pet trusts to special needs trusts, there are a variety of unique circumstances that need to be addressed in many people’s estate planning. One such concern is that of a gun trust.
Wills in Georgia are created specifically to stipulate how one’s assets are to be distributed, and trusts do the same, while sometimes affording extra protection and benefits. Those who collect guns for various reasons often have reason to add this type of protection to their estate plan.
One of the first reasons to consider a gun trust is because many firearms are particularly valuable. Putting them into a trust can ensure that they are passed as heirlooms or investments for future generations. The collector is able to set the trust up so that these valuable items are distributed according to his or her wishes.
Another concern is that there are restrictions that apply to certain guns. Creating a gun trust can help to ensure that all applicable laws and regulations are followed regarding the administration of the trust and the firearms it contains. Some legal questions need to be answered in regards to the suitability of passing certain types of weapons on to others, especially those that are more heavily regulated.
A gun trust is fairly flexible, as it is revocable. While it can certainly be used as a tool during estate planning, many Atlanta area residents use it for a whole different reason. Because certain types of guns are so heavily regulated, they cannot be transported or used without the owner present. A gun trust allows for the owner to name trustees who are then permitted to engage in these activities legally.
Gun trusts have become fairly common, with gun dealers even providing them to customers. In reality, though, it is one area where having a qualified wills and trusts lawyer involved is especially helpful. Because of the regulations surrounding firearms and the fact that most of the trusts created with the provided forms are not specific to guns, many owners don’t even realize that they’re breaking laws, erroneously believing they have covered themselves adequately.
If you deal with guns on a regular basis, it is a good idea to consider creating a gun trust with your Atlanta estate planning attorney. The outcome is better protection for you and your firearms both now and after you are deceased.
To learn more about creating a gun trust here in Atlanta, simply call our office at 770.425.6060 and ask to schedule a Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session. These sessions are normally $750, but you can come in free with the mention of this article. However, these sessions are limited each month, so call today!
Trusts lawyers in Atlanta are seeing a growing number of online websites offering Do-It-Yourself legal documents and estate-planning software.
Surprisingly, most attorneys will tell you that there are some everyday forms where this approach makes good sense. In fact, many law firms offer a selection of standard legal forms available for their clients’ use at no charge. However, when it comes to wills and trusts, a poorly executed document can cause more harm than doing nothing at all.
It’s important to realize that estate planning is a complex area of law, based on statutes that vary state by state and often change from one year to the next. Wills in this state have procedures and requirements that must be followed, and a wills lawyer in Atlanta knows what those stipulations are.
For example, all states require your will to be signed in the presence of at least two witnesses and they must sign in your presence and in the presence of each other. Something as seemingly trivial as improper witnessing procedure can result in the whole document being deemed null and void.
Wills and trusts aren’t merely about the distribution of the deceased’s funds either. Children are the most valuable “asset” of an estate, yet a recent survey found that nearly 3 out of 4 couples with minor children had made no provisions for legal guardianship of their children should an event claim both parents’ lives at the same time. This may be an unusual circumstance, but it is by no means a rare one. An experienced wills and trusts lawyer will prepare the proper documentation needed to insure the wishes of the parents are carried out that your DIY estate plan may miss.
Another danger inherent in DIY wills is that they give a person a false sense of security. An individual may think that his/her affairs are all in order when, in actuality, something of importance may have been left out or an area of the form filled out improperly. Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all document that covers every situation. Online document mills are prohibited by law from dispensing legal advice, therefore they can not advise you of the forms you really need to protect your family and assets, nor will they represent you in court should it become necessary.
Sadly, DIY wills and trusts that are intended to save a few bucks can easily result in estate losses of tens of thousands of dollars. If you have a DIY will or trust, the most important thing you should do is have it reviewed by an experienced Atlanta wills and trusts attorney. Here at GeorgiaFamilyLaw.com : Worrall Law LLC, we will review your current estate planning documents free of charge so you can have the peace of mind knowing your family will be protected if the unthinkable happens.
Just call 770.425.6060 and ask to schedule a Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session ($750 value). However, these sessions are limited each month so call today
There is no doubt we are a nation of pet lovers. Unfortunately, the Georgia law as it is currently written views pets as property, so providing for your pet in your will won’t work. So how do you protect your favorite fur-person? With a pet trust.
To create a pet trust, you should first discuss your wishes for your pet(s) with a Cobb County estate planning attorney and pet trust lawyer so your pet trust will be executed properly and will be legally enforceable after you are gone.
When planning for your Georgia pet trust, you should:
- Choose someone to act as trustee. Be sure you discuss your intentions beforehand with your potential pet trustee to ensure they are both willing and able to carry out your wishes.
- Choose a successor trustee. If your first choice for trustee is unable to act as trustee, a second person should be named as successor trustee.
- Choose caregivers. Some people elect to name a financially responsible individual as trustee and another person as caregiver for their pet(s). Be sure to specify a primary and secondary caregiver.
- Provide ID information. To help prevent fraud, you should include identification information in your pet trust, including photos of your pet(s) and microchip ID numbers.
- Give care instructions. Provide care details for your pet(s), including how often they should be taken to the vet for check-ups, nutritional requirements and any other healthcare information.
- Establish how much money is needed to care for your pet(s). You need to be realistic, because large amounts left for pets could be subject to a challenge from other heirs. Be sure to figure in the cost of trust administration as well.
- Select a beneficiary. When the last pet you have provided for in your pet trust dies, you should name the person or entity that will receive the leftover funds in the trust.
- Supply final instructions. Leave instructions for having your pet(s) buried or cremated.
If you’d like to learn more about how to provide for loved ones after you’ve gone or have other estate planning questions, call our office today to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk. We normally charge $750 for a Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session, but because this planning is so important, I’ve made space for the next five people who mention this article to have a complete planning session at no charge. Call today and mention this article.