Friday, September 16, 2011

Estate Planning For Women (And the Men Who Love Them)

While important to both sexes, estate planning often affects women more profoundly. Women live longer on average and tend to marry older spouses, making them three times as likely as men to be widowed at 65. So for women, estate planning is a crucial part of retirement planning. And since they usually survive their spouses, women more often have the last word about how much wealth goes to family, charity or the taxman.

A fellow attorney (and award winning journalist) Deborah Jacobs recently authored an article in Forbes titled “Estate Planning for Women (And the Men who Love Them)” she indicated the below question is one every financially savvy woman should be able to answer. 

Question #1  

What key deadlines apply when a spouse dies?

Starting in 2011, a surviving spouse can add any unused estate tax exclusion of the just deceased spouse to her own $5 million exclusion--this is called portability. So a widow can pass on as much as $10 million, untaxed, through either lifetime gifts or her will. But portability is not automatic. To get it, the executor of the estate of the first spouse to die must file an estate tax return, even if no tax is due. Surviving spouses should see to it that the form is filed even if they have nowhere near $5 million of their own, because who knows what the future holds?

Nine months is also the deadline if you plan to disclaim (turn down) any portion of what you inherited from a spouse so that it can go directly to your children or other family members or into a trust for their benefit. The new tax law makes it more likely that spouses will leave everything to each other outright. Other couples may want to give the survivor the right to disclaim at least some money and have it go into a family trust or bypass trust, as it is also called.  This allows the survivor to make an informed decision based on her own financial resources and federal and state estate laws at that time. If you want to use this postmortem tax planning strategy, you need to keep an eye on the calendar.

Questions like this one can often trigger even more questions in your mind.  Please accept my invitation to schedule a meeting where we can discuss this topic and others that might be relevant to your estate planning.  Give my office a call to set a meeting.


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Amy Winehouse got her will right

This commentary is taken from an article authored by Karen Datko in MSN Money on July 27, 2011.  It gets right to the core of a will and its potential importance for your estate. I wanted to share this with you.

The late soulstress reportedly wrote a will that excluded her ne'er-do-well ex-husband.

The late Amy Winehouse was many things to many folks -- fabulous talent, an inspiration to Lady Gaga, an addict who couldn't quite shed her demons all come to mind. Add to that list: wise estate planner.

Winehouse's revised will reportedly prevents any of her fortune, estimated at $16 million and most assuredly growing, from going to her ex-husband, Blake Fielder-Civil, widely regarded as the person who introduced her to hard drugs. Instead, her millions will be divided among her father, Mitch; mother, Janis; and older brother, Alex.

 "Let this be a lesson to both the famous and the obscure: A will is a good idea at any adult age," Ron Dicker wrote at DailyFinance.

Fielder-Civil, now serving a sentence for burglary and possession of an imitation firearm, might have inherited everything had Winehouse not put a new will in place. Tim Worstall wrote at Forbes:

However, the one thing, under English law, that divorce does not do is undo the presumption that the natural inheritor is the spouse. In the absence of a will the surviving spouse will inherit at least the bulk of any estate.
Even in the presence of a will written pre-marriage which states otherwise the surviving spouse, or ex-spouse, will again be the natural inheritor.

How would it work in the United States? It varies from state to state, but generally if you die intestate, your estate will go to spouse and kids, or parents or siblings if you are single and don't have children.

 Do you have a will? There's a good possibility you don't, even if you're well past 27. "According to an AARP survey, more than one third of Americans over 50 lack a will, living trust, or power of attorney," Kimberly Palmer wrote at U.S. News & World Report.

If you're a parent of minor children, consider yourself negligent if you don't have one. Liz Weston of MSN Money wrote: "No matter how icky you feel about planning for your own demise, you owe it to your kids to spare them the potentially ugly and drawn-out custody battle that could ensue if you don't make these decisions now."

Whether you are older than 27 or younger than 27, it may be worth meeting to discuss a will.  After all, it was a very smart move by Amy Winehouse and it could be equally beneficial to you. I’m available to schedule a meeting.