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Fighting Over the Family Legacy

I recently read this New York Times article on the family in-fighting over the estate of the late Merton Simpson.   Mr. Simpson was a painter and pioneering champion of African art who accumulated a collection said to be worth millions of dollars.  The story is sad, for sure.  It is also a reminder for all of us of the value of family and of having clearly spelled out wishes to help guide our chosen representatives in carrying on our legacy.  I encourage you to read the entire article – it’s not very long.

It also brings to mind something I always strongly encourage each of my clients to do – talk to others about your planning and what your wishes are for you legacy.  Many times the “others” you talk to will be family or very close friends, but it may also include close business associates, church leaders, or other people who you trust and know you well.  It’s often a great idea to record yourself sharing these thoughts.  That’s what I do with each client I work with – we have a Priceless Conversation.  Sadly, it seems that Mr. Simpson was taken advantage of by at least some of his family and friends.  Although it was a good thing that a guardian was appointed for him, it seems that the downward spiral in family and business relations was almost passed the point of resolution by that point.

Michael Lichterman is an estate planning and charitable planning attorney who helps families and business owners create a lasting legacy by planning for their Whole Family Wealth™.  This goes beyond merely planning for “stuff” – it’s about who your are and what’s important to you.  He focuses on estate, charitable, and asset protection planning for all generations (“young” and “experienced”), the “sandwich generation” (caring for parents and children), doctors/physicians, nurses, lawyers, dentists, professionals with minor children, family owned businesses, and pet planning.  He enjoys creating life long relationships with his clients centered on their family’s values, insights, stories and experiences.

How to Transfer a Credit Union Account to Your Trust

As noted in this slightly dated CNN Money article, the number of credit union accounts is growing.   The cause, according to the article, is that “a growing number of consumers grew fed up with the fees at the nation’s biggest banks and took their money elsewhere.”  I’ve noticed in many of my conversations that a large driver is better customer service (actual or perceived) or the credit union has a relationship with the person’s employer.  And, not surprisingly, I find that many (if not most) of my client families have one or more credit union accounts.  I’m a huge fan of great service, so I love to see my client families getting great service.  But, as a dedicated Grand Rapids, Mi estate planning attorney I’m troubled to find out that many of them are receiving bad advice about how to properly coordinate their credit union accounts with their living trust estate plan.

As with most things in life, the “best” way to handle something is based on each family – your goals, values, and how they want their trust to work.  And generally speaking we recommend that our client families have their trust own their bank and credit union accounts.  Up until a couple of years ago, clients were able to just change the owner of the account with new signature cards, whether it was a bank or credit union account.  About two years ago I started getting client calls saying that their credit union recommended against changing the ownership of the account.

Why?  Well, for whatever reason the credit unions started requiring you open a new account to change ownership (e.g. you could not change the owner on an existing account).   I honestly don’t know if that is an internal policy issue at each credit union or if it was an “edict” from the government regulators, so please know that I’m not bashing credit unions … I’m not.  And this may not be the case at all credit unions, but I have not had an exception to this rule for any of my client families over the past couple of years, so it seems to be a common practice.

Although I don’t necessarily agree with the policy, what I really find troubling is that almost every one of our client families was told, “you don’t want to change the owner because that requires opening a new account, changing all your auto-deposits and auto-deductions, and then closing out your old account.  You can just name your trust as beneficiary of your account – that’s the same thing.”  Please don’t misunderstand me – I understand the practical *pain in the butt* it is to change all those automatic things, believe me.  But, the fact is that naming a beneficiary is not the same thing as having your trust as the owner.

As I wrote in this previous blog post, trusts are an incredible incapacity planning tool.   But, it’s only a great incapacity planning tool for those things that it owns.  If it’s not in the name of your trust, your trustee won’t have legal authority to handle or take care of it during your incapacity.  So, in the above example, if your trust is just a beneficiary of your credit union account, your trustee will not be able to access it during your incapacity.  But if it is “owned” by your trust, your trustee can access it to continue to pay bills, take care of you, and take care of your children or others who you help support.

So, choose what is best for your family after talking it through with your estate planning attorney, and remember the difference between owning and being a beneficiary.

Michael Lichterman is an estate planning and charitable planning attorney who helps families and business owners create a lasting legacy by planning for their Whole Family Wealth™.  This goes beyond merely planning for “stuff” – it’s about who your are and what’s important to you.  He focuses on estate, charitable, and asset protection planning for all generations (“young” and “experienced”), the “sandwich generation” (caring for parents and children), doctors/physicians, nurses, lawyers, dentists, professionals with minor children, family owned businesses, and pet planning.  He enjoys creating life long relationships with his clients centered on their family’s values, insights, stories and experiences.

Estate Planning Can Help With Financial Organization

A few weeks ago I came across this New York Times online article about a woman who had to make organization out of chaos when her husband was hit and seriously injured riding his bicycle.   The article talks about how her necessary quest to organize their disarrayed financial life led to a website that now helps others do the same.  Her situation is not all that uncommon – its thrust upon many families through Michigan and the rest of the country each year.  We don’t know what’s going to happen to us or when it will happen to us, so the old adage of always being prepared is good advice.

But did you know that a comprehensive, well-drafted estate plan can actually help you through the financial and life organization process?  You bet!  Sure, there are forms, online services, and even attorneys who merely prepare forms, but what I’m referring to in a comprehensive plan is something that goes beyond just the legal bare necessities.  For instance, for all of our clients who feel a trust-based estate plan will be best for their family, we help them get a clear picture of what assets they have, how they are owned and whether or not they are coordinated with the plan we’re draft for them.  And if they aren’t, we provide them with a “funding toolkit” that guides them through the process and we followup with them on a regular basis after their plan is signed.  Because as you may have read in this previous blog post, just “having a trust” is not enough . . . the trust must be “funded.”

So, how about you and your family?  Do you know beyond a doubt what you have, whose name it’s in, and who would receive it if something happened to you?  If not, why not let getting a new (or updated) estate plane help you have the clarity you need to have added peace of mind?  Call us at 616-827-7596 and schedule your personal Peace of Mind Planning Session to get started today!

Michael Lichterman is an estate planning and charitable planning attorney who helps families and business owners create a lasting legacy by planning for their Whole Family Wealth™.  This goes beyond merely planning for “stuff” – it’s about who your are and what’s important to you.  He focuses on estate, charitable, and asset protection planning for all generations (“young” and “experienced”), the “sandwich generation” (caring for parents and children), doctors/physicians, nurses, lawyers, dentists, professionals with minor children, family owned businesses, and pet planning.  He enjoys creating life long relationships with his clients centered on their family’s values, insights, stories and experiences.

Should I Put My Car In My Trust?

This is the most common questions I’m asked as a Grand Rapids, Mi will and trust lawyer.  And the short answer is: usually not, but it depends.  You see, Michigan actually has a rather simple post-death automobile transfer procedure.  It isn’t the best for all situations, but it works well in many situations.  There are requirements for using the procedure.  You can find out more about the procedure and its requirements by reading this previous blog post.

Another reason for not putting your automobile into your living trust is because of a common public misperception of people who have trust . . . many people think families with trusts are “rich.”  As I’ve previously written here and here, that is certainly not the case.  Trusts have many benefits to families from all walks of life, including the heart and soul of our fine country – the middle class.  If your car or truck is registered in the name of your trust and you cause an accident, the injured party may think you are “rich” and take actions they may otherwise not think of taking, hoping to dig into your deep pockets.

All that said, there are occasions when I do recommend that my client families transfer ownership of their automobiles to their trust.  The first is when the value of their automobiles exceeds the dollar value in the post-death procedure mentioned in the first paragraph of this post.  And the second is when one or more of their automobiles is a collector car.  And, in fact, usually if they fall into the second category they almost always fall into the first category.

As with all situations involving families and the law, every situation is unique.  So, make sure to give us a call if you have questions, need to review your estate plan, or your family needs a caring plan in place!

Michael Lichterman is an estate planning and charitable planning attorney who helps families and business owners create a lasting legacy by planning for their Whole Family Wealth™.  This goes beyond merely planning for “stuff” – it’s about who your are and what’s important to you.  He focuses on estate, charitable, and asset protection planning for all generations (“young” and “experienced”), the “sandwich generation” (caring for parents and children), doctors/physicians, nurses, lawyers, dentists, professionals with minor children, family owned businesses, and pet planning.  He enjoys creating life long relationships with his clients centered on their family’s values, insights, stories and experiences.

Ways to Pass Assets to Your Children

Just last week I ran across this great article about the different ways you can leave assets to your children.   I’m not going to repeat the article here – it’s worth your time to read it, so please do so.  What I will say is this – as a Grand Rapids, Mi estate planning attorney I’ve been somewhat surprised by how many families believe their only choice is to pass their assets at their death to their children.  As the article points out, there are many ways to leave assets to your children and, there is no single right answer for every family.  Remember, estate planning should not be just about what you have, it should also be about who you are.  How you leave your estate to your children is a unique opportunity to share your Whole Family Wealth – who you are and what’s important to you.  This is truly creating a legacy!

There are just two items I want to repeat from the article because they bear repeating (and are items many families don’t think about):

  • “Fair” distributions to your children (or grandchildren) and “equal” distributions are not always the same thing
  • There are many benefits to leaving your assets in trust for your kids’ lifetimes – benefits for them and for you

Have questions?  Give us a call at 616-827-7596 and discover how you can leave a true legacy for your family!

Michael Lichterman is an estate planning and charitable planning attorney who helps families and business owners create a lasting legacy by planning for their Whole Family Wealth™.  This goes beyond merely planning for “stuff” – it’s about who your are and what’s important to you.  He focuses on estate, charitable, and asset protection planning for all generations (“young” and “experienced”), the “sandwich generation” (caring for parents and children), doctors/physicians, nurses, lawyers, dentists, professionals with minor children, family owned businesses, and pet planning.  He enjoys creating life long relationships with his clients centered on their family’s values, insights, stories and experiences.

Why Do I Need a Michigan Gun Trust

As a Michigan gun trust lawyer, I’ve noticed a dramatic increase in the number of calls we’re receiving asking about setting up a gun trust.  It’s really not a surprise given the current state of the “gun control debate” after the horrible tragedy in Newtown, CT.  It seems that the most common question I’m asked is, “why do I even need a gun trust?”  Well, the short answer is that you don’t need a gun trust to own a firearm, whether regulated by the National Firearms Act (NFA) or not.  But, with very few exceptions, a Michigan gun trust is the best way for many Michigan residents to own their guns, especial NFA items (for example, suppressors / silencers).

Why is that?  The reasons vary based on your specific circumstances.  This previous blog post shares many of the reasons a Michigan gun trust is a great way to own, protect, and ultimately transfer a NFA regulated firearm or item in Michigan.  What many Michigan firearms owners don’t realize is that a Michigan gun trust can be a MUCH better way of owning their non-NFA firearms . . . especially if you are a Michigan resident with a firearm “collection.”  Generally speaking, we consider a “collection” to include total value of firearms of $10,000 or more.

Why would you do that when Michigan law already provides a way to transfer non-NFA regulated firearms if something happens to you?  The key lies in the fact that a well-drafted Michigan gun trust is drafted with the purpose of acquiring, holding, and eventually distributing firearms, ammunition, and accessories.  What does that mean for you?  Well, let’s think about the current “gun control debate” going on nationally and in many states.  As you probably know there is “gun control” legislation going through Congress right now.  The goal of much of the proposed legislation is to ban a wide variety of semi-automatic firearms as well as implement “universal” background checks.  And some of the legislators have made no secret of their wish to confiscate all firearms and accessories, and if they can’t do that, to at least prohibit the transfer of any “grandfathered” weapons and require any such weapons to be surrendered to the state at the current owner’s death.  My hope is that none of these laws are passed, but even so, it gives you insight into what they are really thinking about controlling your right to “keep and bear arms.”

Although firearms laws and trust law is still developing, it can be a good idea to transfer non-regulated weapons into a trust prior to the enactment of any such legislation (whether the legislation comes now or sometime in the future). This may avoid a scenario in which your family is forced to surrender your prized collection after you are gone.  Proper estate planning will help create and share your legacy with your family and loved ones.  It’s no different with your firearms – a properly drafted gun trust can help you leave a legacy with your firearms and plan for their use for generations to come.

Call at (616) 827-7596 to start creating your gun trust today!

Michael Lichterman is an estate planning and gun trust attorney who helps families and firearm owners create a lasting legacy by planning for their Whole Family Wealth™.  This goes beyond merely planning for finances – it’s about who your are and what’s important to you.  He focuses on estate and asset protection planning for  firearm owners (both NFA regulated and non-NFA regulated), doctors/physicians, nurses, lawyers, dentists, professionals with minor children, family owned businesses and pet planning.  He takes the “counselor” part of attorney and counselor at law very seriously, and enjoys creating life long relationships with his clients – many of which have become great friends.

Keep You Beneficiary Designations Updated

I had a phone conversation this past week that was a stark reminder of the important role beneficiary designations play in your estate plan and it reminded me of this previous blog post on the topic.  Unfortunately, the person I spoke with this week had a sad story about how beneficiary designations can cause serious family problems.

The short version is this: his father had been married twice, so he had “blood” children and step-children.  Not an uncommon family situation.  Dad named his step-son as the sole beneficiary on one of his retirement accounts (although modest in size, it was still tens of thousands of dollars).  The idea was that the step-son would not benefit from the rest of dad’s estate because he received the retirement account.  Well, fast forward to a few months ago when dad passed away.  Due to end of life care, etc., dad had used up most of the rest of his estate.  But guess what he didn’t do?  You’re right – he didn’t change the beneficiary designation on his retirement account.  So, step-son ended up with all of the retirement account assets, which was the bulk of dad’s overall estate.

So, did he do the “right” thing and share it?  Nope.  And that’s the critical thing to remember about beneficiary designated assets (typically retirement accounts and life insurance) – it will be paid to the beneficiary and, once paid, it is solely the beneficiary’s.  The beneficiary is not required to share it or do anything specific with it.

As you can imagine, this has caused some serious hurt among family members, to the point that several of them are not talking to each other any more.  Do you think that is what dad wanted?  I very highly doubt it.  But, if you don’t keep your plan updated, these types of stories are far more likely for you, just like they were for this family.  That’s why we include ongoing 3-year reviews (without charge) for all of our estate planning clients.  Life changes, and sometimes quickly.  What you have will change, the laws will change, and likely what you want to have happen will change.  If your plan doesn’t change along with it, it is more likely to fail.  

Michael Lichterman is an estate planning and charitable planning attorney who helps families and business owners create a lasting legacy by planning for their Whole Family Wealth™.  This goes beyond merely planning for “stuff” – it’s about who your are and what’s important to you.  He focuses on estate, charitable, and asset protection planning for all generations (“young” and “experienced”), the “sandwich generation” (caring for parents and children), doctors/physicians, nurses, lawyers, dentists, professionals with minor children, family owned businesses, and pet planning.  He enjoys creating life long relationships with his clients centered on their family’s values, insights, stories and experiences.

How to Transfer a Michigan Automobile After Someone Dies

I hear the following question asked quite a bit after a loved one passes away: “he (or she) had a car, not really worth all that much.  Is there a way we can just transfer that without a court proceeding?”  The short answer is . . . maybe.  As with many legal questions, it depends on the specific facts and circumstances of your situation.  For example, if the automobile was in a trust (not something we recommend), then you must transfer it according to the terms of the trust.  And, if there is property that would require opening a probate estate to transfer it, then the automobile will be a part of that probate estate.

But, Michigan does have a quick transfer procedure available if certain requirements are met.  The requirements are:

  • The total values of the vehicles (all together) must be under $60,000, and
  • There must be no other property for which a probate proceeding (formal or informal) is necessary.

If your situation meets those requirements, you can use this Secretary of State Form TR-29 to transfer the vehicle(s) to the deceased person’s heirs.  The person signing the form certifies that there is no probate proceeding pending for the decedent’s estate and that no probate proceeding will be started in the future. If available, the vehicle title must be attached to this form. The form requires that the following vehicle information be provided: year, make, body style, vehicle number, and title number. If the vehicle is being transferred to someone other than the surviving spouse, the surviving spouse must certify that the title is free of all liens.

You can find some additional helpful information at this State of Michigan website.

Michael Lichterman is an estate planning and charitable planning attorney who helps families and business owners create a lasting legacy by planning for their Whole Family Wealth™.  This goes beyond merely planning for “stuff” – it’s about who your are and what’s important to you.  He focuses on estate, charitable, and asset protection planning for all generations (“young” and “experienced”), the “sandwich generation” (caring for parents and children), doctors/physicians, nurses, lawyers, dentists, professionals with minor children, family owned businesses, and pet planning.  He enjoys creating life long relationships with his clients centered on their family’s values, insights, stories and experiences.

Estate and Gift Tax Provisions of New Tax Law

Well, as most Americans know by now, the Congress passed new tax legislation on January 2, 2013, to keep us from going over the “fiscal cliff.”  Oh, wait . . . I guess they didn’t keep us from going over the “cliff.”  We actually did, but then they “fixed” it.  Politics aside, the short version is that we have new tax legislation.  And, I think it’s very important for families and individuals to know about how the new tax legislation affects the estate tax, gift tax, and charitable planning areas.  I won’t go over the income tax side of things in this post, because those are the provisions that are most talked about in the media outlets.

So, here are some of the key points of the tax legislation as it relates to estate tax, gift tax, and charitable planning:

  • As I mention in this previous post, they reinstated the ability for certain individuals to make a direct transfer to a charity from their IRA.  And, they even gave a limited time window (until January 31, 2013) to make the direct transfer and have it count for the 2012 tax year.  That pretty nice!  Read my previous post to find out the qualifying details.
  • The Federal gift and estate tax exemption (and generation skipping transfer tax exemption) will remain at $5,000,000, indexed for inflation.  The inflation adjustment puts the exemption amount at roughly $5,250,000 for 2013.  There are two key things to point out on this: (1) this means that most families and individuals will not have to pay any estate tax when they pass away (a good thing!), and (2) the opportunity to transfer a large amount of assets (e.g. small business interests and other rapidly appreciating assets) remains (this is a very good thing).
  • The tax rates on estates over the exemption amount is raised from 35% to 40%.
  • The “portability” provisions remain.  Basically, this allows the unused exemption of the first spouse to die to transfer to the surviving spouse without having to set up trust planning specifically for this purpose.  BUT, and this is a BIG but, most of the articles you will read or news shows you will watch will act like this is an automatic thing.  As in, Bob passed away and only used up $2,000,000 of his exemption amount, so Mary will “automatically” have her $5,000,000 plus Bob’s left over $3,000,000.  NO – that is not how it works.  You have to “affirmatively elect” portability after the death of the first spouse, and you must do so on a timely filed estate tax return (e.g. you must act fast!).  Please spread the word on this! With so much misinformation out there, I foresee a LOT of families losing their portability opportunities.  And, even with portability, there are myriad reasons to have a comprehensive and caring estate plan.
  • Unrelated to the new law, but interesting to note, the amount an individual can gift on an annual basis free of estate tax is increased to $14,000 for 2013.

So, overall, I think the new tax law is a good thing.  And, according to the law itself, it is “permanent.”  Obviously, in Washington DC, “permanent” just means that it will stay this way until they decide to change it, but it’s still better than the constantly changing world we’ve been living in for over a decade.

Honestly, I’m really happy to see that most families and individuals won’t have to worry about estate taxes.  Why?  Because, although many families and individuals will think it doesn’t mean they need to do estate planning, those who do planning will focus on what’s truly important about planning – creating a legacy based on who they are and what’s important to them (e.g., passing on their Whole Family Wealth).

And as a reminder, here just some examples of the “peace of mind” items that can be accomplished with a caring, comprehensive estate plan:

Why wouldn’t you take this opportunity to create your legacy and make sure your family is taken care of?  Call us at 616-827-7596 to schedule your Peace of Mind Planning Session today!

Michael Lichterman is an estate planning and charitable planning attorney who helps families and business owners create a lasting legacy by planning for their Whole Family Wealth™.  This goes beyond merely planning for “stuff” – it’s about who your are and what’s important to you.  He focuses on estate, charitable, and asset protection planning for all generations (“young” and “experienced”), the “sandwich generation” (caring for parents and children), doctors/physicians, nurses, lawyers, dentists, professionals with minor children, family owned businesses, and pet planning.  He enjoys creating life long relationships with his clients centered on their family’s values, insights, stories and experiences.

 

Urgent Opportunity for IRA Distributions to Charity

It seems like we may have finally heard the end of this “fiscal cliff” talk . . . at least for a little while.  As many people know, Legislation was recently enacted to keep the “Bush tax cuts” from completely expiring – with some tweaks to rates and, no surprise, plenty of special interest funding.  I’m working on a blog post that will summarize the estate, gift, and charitable planning aspects of the legislation, but there is one opportunity it provides that is critically time sensitive.

That is the ability to make a tax-free transfer from your Individual Retirement Account (IRA) directly to a charity and have it count for 2012.  In the right situation, this is an incredibly opportunity – the kicker is that you must make the transfer no later than January 31, 2013.  Here are the highlights of the rules:

  • Taxpayers can make a direct transfer IRA distribution to charity without having to include the distribution in gross income (previously you would have had to include it in gross income and then take the charitable deduction on your tax return – not nearly as good a “deal”)
  • There is a $100,000 transfer limit per individual
  • The IRA owner must be at least 70.5 years old on the day of the transfer
  • Transfer from the IRA to the charity must be a direct transfer in order to qualify for the income exclusion

There are several additional technical requirements, so you really need to talk with your Michigan estate planning attorney or Michigan CPA about the opportunity and whether or not you can take avantage of it.  If you have questions, please call us at 616-827-7596.

Michael Lichterman is an estate planning and charitable planning attorney who helps families and business owners create a lasting legacy by planning for their Whole Family Wealth™.  This goes beyond merely planning for “stuff” – it’s about who your are and what’s important to you.  He focuses on estate, charitable, and asset protection planning for all generations (“young” and “experienced”), the “sandwich generation” (caring for parents and children), doctors/physicians, nurses, lawyers, dentists, professionals with minor children, family owned businesses, and pet planning.  He enjoys creating life long relationships with his clients centered on their family’s values, insights, stories and experiences.

Even Everyday Families Need an Estate Plan

I recently came across this article on the importance of estate planning for average Americans and it brought to memory my previous blog post on a similar topic.  The article gives examples of several situations faced by “average joe’s and jane’s” who aren’t “rich” by any financial measure of the word.  There are a couple of points I want to call out because I believe they bear special emphasis:

  • If Congress doesn’t act before the end of the year (or shortly thereafter), many middle class families could be hit by the estate tax at a rate up to 55%!  Yes, you read that right – find out more in the article.
  • Blended families (e.g. second marriages) are becoming more common.  News flash – the chance of default Michigan law accomplishing your goals for your legacy are VERY slim in a blended family . . . consider the chances at almost zero.  Having a comprehensive, caring plan in place will help make sure a) your wishes for your family are met, and b) conflict between “sides” of the family are minimized.  As a matter of fact, you could very well disinherit your children.  Yes, it’s true.  Don’t believe me?  Read this previous blog post and you’ll see what I mean.

So, the moral of the story is this: if you don’t have a caring, comprehensive plan in place for you family – GET ONE!  And if you do, make sure to keep it updated as your life changes (for example, we include ongoing 3 year plan reviews at no charge for all members of our client family).  As Nike said . . . just do it!

Michael Lichterman is an estate planning and charitable planning attorney who helps families and business owners create a lasting legacy by planning for their Whole Family Wealth™.  This goes beyond merely planning for “stuff” – it’s about who your are and what’s important to you.  He focuses on estate, charitable, and asset protection planning for all generations (“young” and “experienced”), the “sandwich generation” (caring for parents and children), doctors/physicians, nurses, lawyers, dentists, professionals with minor children, family owned businesses, and pet planning.  He enjoys creating life long relationships with his clients centered on their family’s values, insights, stories and experiences.

The “Fiscal Cliff” and Estate Planning

Unless you live under a rock or purposely don’t read, watch, or listen to the news, you’ve heard the term “fiscal cliff.”  The term that was coined to refer to the hundreds of tax cuts that will expire at the end of 2012.  I like to explain it as the tax version of the story of Cinderella – and January 1, 2012 at 12:00am, the carriage turns back into a pumpkin.

Yet, most of the articles you’ll read and news you will hear is focused on income tax items.  What about that seemingly forgotten tax – the estate tax?  Well, Forbes.com has a great article about what the current law says (warning – it’s not pretty!) and their prognostication on what will happen with the estate tax in the near future.  Click here to read the article.

Of course, I can’t just reference an article about such a hugely important topic to families and business owners without sharing my two cents.  Overall, I agree with much of what Ms. Jacobs says in the article.  But, there are a few items I think she glosses over quickly that need to be given more emphasis.  They are:

  • She continually emphasis “rich,” and “wealthy” to refer to those who would be affected and seems to do so in a patronizing tone.  I have a few issues with that.  First, “rich” and “wealthy” are relative terms and they should also take into consideration more than just what money or assets you have (see what I mean by clicking here to read about Whole Family Wealth).  Second, your “estate” for estate tax purposes is likely much bigger than you know (do you have life insurance?  It’s included!).  Click here to read about what’s included in your estate tax estate.  Finally, many business owners will be included in who she considers “rich” or “wealthy” as a result of their business profits “flowing through” to them on their income tax return – whether or not they actually get the profits (if you have questions on what I mean by that, contact me).
  • She mentions her belief that “portability” will continue – the ability for a surviving spouse to use their deceased spouse’s unused estate tax exemption.  BUT, she (and most of the folks I see writing about portability) fails to mention that to claim that unused exemption amount you must make an election on a timely filed estate tax return.  If you don’t, you lose it.  Yet, many folks won’t think to do so and will lose the unused exemption forever. Having a comprehensive estate plan in place can guarantee you get the maximum exemption – that’s just one reason why planning is SO important.
And if this comes as a surprise to you, you should read my blog more 🙂  I wrote about it 2 years ago – you can read the post by clicking here.
The most important thing you can do is invest your time and some of your money in meeting with a dedicated estate planning attorney to create a caring, comprehensive estate plan for your family.  One that has flexibility built into it so that it covers changes that Congress so much likes to make in this area of law.  Call us today at 616-827-7596 to get started!
Michael Lichterman is an estate planning and charitable planning attorney who helps families and business owners create a lasting legacy by planning for their Whole Family Wealth™.  This goes beyond merely planning for “stuff” – it’s about who your are and what’s important to you.  He focuses on estate, charitable, and asset protection planning for all generations (“young” and “experienced”), the “sandwich generation” (caring for parents and children), doctors/physicians, nurses, lawyers, dentists, professionals with minor children, family owned businesses, and pet planning.  He enjoys creating life long relationships with his clients centered on their family’s values, insights, stories and experiences.