Cobb County Will and Trust Lawyer Answers, “Will My Inheritance Be Taxed?”

Cobb County Will and Trust Lawyer Answers, “Will My Inheritance Be Taxed?”

When the subject of inheritance is being discussed, people almost always ask this question to their Will and Trust lawyer in Cobb County Here’s what you need to know about how you might be taxed on an inheritance.

Income Taxes

The IRS expects you to report every source of income. This leads many to believe that they will have to claim an inheritance when they file their annual returns. Good news! An inheritance is not counted as part of your income for tax purposes.

Capital Gains Tax

The capital gains tax kicks in any time a gain is achieved. So, if you buy a dilapidated house to renovate with plans to immediately sell it, the amount of money over the original purchase price would be subject to the capital gains tax.

Inherited assets that appreciated during the life of the benefactor would get a step-up basis. This means that the value of the inherited asset would be subject to capital gains tax from when you inherited them. Good news! You would not be responsible for the gains that took place during the life of the person who left them to you. The key here is to understand that if you do realize a gain in the future, you will be responsible for the capital gains tax from the moment you acquired the asset.

Death Taxes

A spouse can transfer unlimited assets to their spouse tax-free.  However, there is a federal estate tax that will be applicable to anyone else. Asset transfers that exceed $5.45 million are subject to the estate tax.

One positive I can report is that here in Georgia we do not have a state-specific tax.

So, there you go. You should now have a good idea about whether the money you plan to leave your loved ones will be taxed. The good news is that there are legal methods for reducing your tax burden if you are subject to them. We invite you to call our Cobb County Will and Trust attorneys at 770-425-6060 to schedule an appointment where we can help you create an estate tax plan that best meets your needs.

Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer | An East Cobb Wills Lawyer’s Tale

Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer | An East Cobb Wills Lawyer’s Tale

It’s Christmas time and as an East Cobb Wills Lawyer, I look for fun ways to relate legal concepts in popular media. The novelty Christmas song, “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer,” written by Randy Brooks and first recorded by Elmo and Patsy in 1979, is about a grandmother who gets intoxicated on Christmas Eve from drinking too much eggnog at a family gathering. To complicate matters she has forgotten to take her medication and she ignores warnings from her family. As a result, she staggers outside into a snowstorm. On her way home, she is allegedly trampled by Santa Claus’s reindeer-pulled sleigh. At the next day’s Christmas “festivities,” instead of celebrating the holiday, “all the family’s dressed in black.” Grandpa acts as if nothing has happened, and is drinking beer, watching football and playing “cards with cousin Mel.” The song suggests that Santa, “a man who drives a sleigh and plays with elves,”is unfit to drive and that the listening public should be wary of him, as a menace to society.

Since I’m an Estate Planning lawyer, I can’t just leave it there. I wonder about Grandma’s estate. (Yes, I do that sort of thing.)

Imagine Grandma survived the attack but was still seriously injured. After the collision, she is unconscious and unresponsive. Her doctor declares her legally incompetent. What happens to Grandma and her stuff depends on what estate planning Grandma and Grandpa have put into place.

First, assume that, like two out of three of us, Grandma and Grandpa have NOT done proper estate planning. When Grandma is admitted to the hospital, since she does not have an Advance Directive for Health Care, she has no control over who will make health care decisions for her now that she can’t communicate her wishes. Under Georgia’s Medical Consent Law, the next of kin can consent if the patient is unable to do so. The spouse is the first option for a patient who is married. So it’s all up to Grandpa. Yep, he’ll get around to deciding that right after the next round of cards.

For another scenario, let’s assume Grandma makes it, but her care is getting expensive. She and Grandpa had maintained separate bank accounts all these years. Grandma’s pension is in her account and all of the household bills are in her name. Grandpa will have to go through a lengthy, public and costly court process to be appointed as Grandma’s guardian and conservator to access Grandma’s pension to pay hospital and household expenses. He will most likely have to post a bond to make sure he doesn’t mishandle Grandma’s money. This process will take several weeks and will cost several thousand dollars. Considering Grandpa’s greater interest in drinking beer and playing cards, it will probably be a hefty bond.

Now, let’s look several months down the road from the horrific attack. Sadly, Grandma does not make it, and finally, “all the family’s dressed in black.” So NOW what happens to Grandma’s property?

Sadly, Grandma did not have a Last Will and Testament. Are you surprised? Georgia’s laws of intestate succession provide the default or “do nothing” plan. It is a one-size fits all Will (sort of like Grandpa’s overalls) that says Grandma’s estate will be split between Grandpa and her unnamed children. Let’s assume Grandma and Grandpa had two children, Elmo and Patsy. Grandpa receives the same size share as each child (but not less than one third) and Elmo and Patsy will also receive one third each. Don’t worry about old Cousin Mel getting anything: before she would become an heir, Grandma’s spouse, children, and all grandchildren, parents and siblings would have had to have predeceased her before Mel, a cousin, receives anything. Okay, so maybe Mel will get the playing cards.

Just like the guardianship and conservatorship, this matter will be handled in the probate court, and is likewise a public, time-consuming, and costly process. Not the smartest of options, but not an unlikely result, considering this silly family.

Let’s look at a more controlled and alternative outcome to the tragic situation now. This time, because she was thinking ahead, Grandma had signed an Advance Directive for Health Care naming Sister Sally as her health care agent. Since Grandma is now unable to communicate her wishes, Sally can make her health care decisions for her. She can admit Grandma to the hospital and request, consent to treatment or withdraw treatment. (And, unlike Grandpa, Sister Sally won’t hesitate!)

this time Grandma also has a durable power of attorney and a revocable living trust, so when she became incapacitated, Sister Sally is able to immediately act on her behalf to handle her finances as her agent or “attorney in fact.” This works out better for Grandpa, too. Instead of having to file for guardianship and conservatorship over Grandma, he could keep his scheduled card games with the guys. Sally becomes the successor Trustee and gained access to Grandma’s money with minimal time and expense and it was all handled privately.

Grandma’s living trust was fully funded (meaning the title of all of her accounts and property were transferred to it), so when she ultimately passed on, her family did not have to go through the several months of delays and costs of a public probate process (several thousand dollars more), but instead was able to have immediate access to the money and property. Sally took a modest fee allotted by Grandma for her efforts as trustee and transferred funds to Grandpa as he needed them.

So the next Christmas, the goose was on the table, as was the pudding made of fig. As the blue and silver candle that matched the hair in Grandma’s wig flickered, everyone remembered Grandma fondly, as they all waited for the jury award in Grandma’s lawsuit against Santa.

And they all lived happily ever after.

(Adapted from a prior post co-written by Steve Worrall and Shelia Manely, originally posted here)

East Cobb Trusts Lawyer: Everything You Need to Know About Irrevocable Trusts

East Cobb Trusts Lawyer: Everything You Need to Know About Irrevocable Trusts

Irrevocable Trusts are an integral part of most asset protection planning strategies. They are used to protect property and assets from nursing homes and other predators, and, depending on your individual situation, can end up saving you thousands of dollars. East Cobb trusts lawyers have put together some of the basics to give you everything you need to know about Irrevocable Trusts.

Irrevocable

Just as the name suggests, an Irrevocable Trust cannot be terminated once it is created, which is what sets it apart from a Revocable Trust. The reason it cannot be revoked is because of the many benefits afforded by the trust for protecting assets and shielding against taxes. Revocable Trusts are good for avoiding probate and allowing successor trustees to manage affairs if the grantor becomes incapacitated, while Irrevocable Trusts are mainly used for asset protection purposes.

A Living Trust

There are actually two types of Irrevocable Trusts – Living and Testamentary. A Living Trust comes into effect and is irrevocable as soon as it is initially funded, meaning the ownership of assets changes while the grantor is still alive and stays that way after the grantor passes away. A Testamentary trust becomes irrevocable when the grantor dies, meaning the terms of the trust cannot be changed after that point. Most Revocable Trusts become Irrevocable at the time of the grantor’s passing, while other Testamentary trusts are created through the Last Will and Testament.

Different Types of Irrevocable Trusts

As noted earlier, Irrevocable Trusts are designed to save money, either by reducing taxes or protecting assets. There are many different types of Irrevocable Trusts available depending on what situation you’re in and what goals you’d like to accomplish. Here are a few of the irrevocable trusts and their benefits:

  • A Bypass Trust is used to significantly reduce estate taxes once the second spouse has passed away. The trust holds all the assets from the first spouse, meaning the surviving spouse does not actually own the assets. This reduces the amount of the estate for estate tax purposes.
  • A QTIP Trust is used to delay or postpone the payment of estate taxes once the second spouse passes away.
  • A Medicaid or Special Needs Trust holds ownership of a person’s assets in order to make them eligible for state and/or federal benefits, either when it is time to enter a nursing home or if the benefits are in danger of being lost due to an inheritance.

If you have questions about setting up an Irrevocable Living Trust, or if you’d like to have your current Irrevocable Living Trust reviewed by an experienced trust attorney, please give our East Cobb estate planning and asset protection planning law firm a call at 770-425-6060, or email us at steve@georgiaestateplan.com to set up a consultation.

 

Marietta Wills and Trusts Lawyer: 5 Steps to Making a Living Trust

Marietta Wills and Trusts Lawyer: 5 Steps to Making a Living Trust

By Steve Worrall, Marietta Wills and Trusts Lawyer

A living trust is a perfect document for protecting privacy, avoiding probate, and determining who can take care of your affairs while you’re incapacitated and after you’ve passed on. It’s often an essential element for estate plans in Marietta as it gives an extra layer of protection to estates and gives the trust maker, also known as the Grantor, added peace of mind that their interests will be protected and their wishes will be carried out. So before you visit a Marietta wills and trusts attorney to set up your living trust, there are some issues you should start thinking about in order to give yourself the best opportunity to achieve your estate planning goals.

  1. Pick the Goals You Want to Achieve with the Trust
    Each person has different needs when it comes to estate planning, and there are many goals that a living trust can help you achieve. For instance, if you want to keep your financial and personal affairs private and avoid a long, drawn out probate proceeding, a living trust will ensure your wishes are met.
  1. Determine What Assets You Want Protected By the Trust
    Once you’ve planned your goals, you will want to decide which assets you’d like to place in a trust. Many people will put their house in the trust since it is their most valuable asset and will likely put them over the threshold when determining whether their estate will go through a large or small probate process. In addition, you may want to consider which financial accounts should go into the trust (typically those held solely in your name) and which should stay out.
  1. Decide Who Will Act as Successor Trustee
    A successor trustee will not only be responsible for the administration of the trust estate once you pass on, but may also be called on to handle your affairs if you become incapacitated, or possibly if you do not want the responsibility of handling your own affairs at a certain point. The successor trustee may also be in charge of managing any property or assets left to minors in your trust, so it is important that you choose someone with a keen financial acumen who you can trust to carry out your wishes. 
  1. Choose Your Beneficiaries
    It’s your decision as to whom you want to leave a financial legacy for in your living trust, and it’s something that you must think about very carefully. If you make a choice to omit a family member from your estate plan who would otherwise expect to receive an inheritance from you, it may be a good idea to leave behind an explanation of your wishes concerning the matter.
  1. Hire an Experienced Marietta Wills and Trusts Lawyer to Draft Your Trust
    There are a lot of do-it-yourself programs and cheap alternatives available for creating a living trust, but unfortunately, these documents are often inadequate and will not hold up under probate court scrutiny. That’s why it’s important to research experienced wills and trusts attorneys in Marietta to draft your trust so you have peace of mind knowing that it’s done correctly and your wishes will be carried out.

If you have any questions about setting up a living trust, or if you’d like to have your existing living trust reviewed in order to make sure it is set up properly for your situation, please give our Marietta wills and trusts firm a call at 770.425.6060 to set up a FREE Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session (valued at $600 or more).

Marietta Wills and Trusts Lawyer: What is a Pour-Over Will?

Marietta Wills and Trusts Lawyer: What is a Pour-Over Will?

Most people are familiar with a basic Last Will and Testament, but very few people in Marietta know what a Pour-Over Will is.

Essentially, a Pour-Over Will is used in conjunction with a Trust, usually a Revocable Living Trust, and it directs that any assets you own outside of the trust at the time of your death should be placed into your trust and distributed according to trust guidelines.

Here’s an example of how this works.  Say that at the time of your death you owned a piece of property that you forgot to title in the name of the trust you created with your Marietta will and trust lawyer.  Because of this oversight, the asset would fall “outside” of your trust and would not receive the protections that you had hoped for when you created your estate plan in the first place.  However, if you had a “Pour-Over Will,” even though you made an error, the asset would still get directed back into your trust anyway.

In this regard, the pour-over will acts as a safety net to make sure that all of your solely-owned assets will be distributed according to the terms of the trust after you pass away.

Marietta wills and trusts lawyers tell their clients that unlike a Last Will and Testament, one of the greatest advantages of using a Pour-Over Will is that it does not have to state how the estate assets will be distributed. Instead, it merely has to state that the assets should go into the trust. This is an important aspect of estate planning for anyone who is concerned about privacy and does not want their personal affairs made public through the probate court.

However, just like a Last Will and Testament, the Pour-Over Will is subject to probate proceedings in general. The length and complexity of the proceedings depends on the amount of assets that were held outside of the Revocable Living Trust. The trust will have to continue to exist for however long the estate is in probate, so Trustees should understand that their fiduciary responsibilities may extend for longer than they thought if any property is held outside the trust and must go through probate.

If you have any questions about the difference between a Last Will and Testament and a Pour-Over Will, or if you’d like to review your existing estate plan to make sure your assets will be distributed according to your wishes after you pass away, please contact our Marietta Wills and Trusts law firm at 770-425-6060 to set up a Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session. These sessions are valued at $600, but you can get yours at no charge by mentioning you read our blog.

The Role of Georgia Wills and Trusts Lawyers When You Move to a New State

Georgia Wills and Trusts Lawyers

Trusts lawyers in Atlanta have the important job of helping their clients create a legacy that is compliant with a number of different laws.  For the most part, these laws will vary from state to state.  Some differences are minor, while others can impact the trust significantly.  Someone who already has established a trust in one state may very well want to at least review it with a trusts lawyer when relocating to another.

For example, if you have created a trust in Georgia but then move to Florida for retirement, it’s a good idea to meet with a trusts lawyer in your new city.  Likewise, someone moving from somewhere else in the U.S. to metro Atlanta should contact a Georgia trust lawyer to review the documents and potentially amend them to meet the law here.

Most often, when a trust is administered, it is done so under the laws of the state where the person resides.  This can get a little tricky if you have residences in two states—say, if you’re a “snowbird.”  In those situations, it’s best to work with trusts lawyers in both states.  The changes needed may be as small as a little wording, but they could also be more complicated.

There are some estate planning documents that should always be addressed with a trusts lawyer when moving to a new state.  Powers of attorney are vital for determining who can represent you should you become incapacitated, and those are administered under state law.  Powers of attorney drawn up by a trusts lawyer in Atlanta may be disregarded by the courts in another area.

A final consideration in the discussion of where to establish a trust is the tax implications.  By working with a good trusts lawyer, you can uncover which state may hold the best benefits for you, your estate, and your heirs.  It is possible to have trusts set up in more than one state, though the complexities of doing so are absolutely something that should be done with the guidance of a knowledgeable professional with plenty of experience in trusts administration.

To schedule an appointment for a complimentary Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session to help you review or create your estate plan, at one of our five metro Atlanta offices, we invite you to call 770-425-6060 to get started


 

 If you’d like to give your loved ones and yourself the gift of peace of mind, please call Steve at 770-425-6060 or 770-421-0808 or email him at steve@georgiaestateplan.com.

 

 

 

Pin It on Pinterest