I am pleased to announce that I have added a new category to the Wills & Estate Planning website simply called "Inheritor's Guide." This category contains links to resources for the beneficiaries of estates, wills and trusts, including an overview of the probate process, an overview of the trust settlement process, an overview of how a deceased person's debts are handled, an overview of taxes that may affect an inheritance, and an overview of will contests.
Follow this link to take a look at the new category: An Inheritor's Guide to Wills, Trusts, Probate, Debt and Taxes.
I am happy to report that I have created another "eCourse" (in other words, a series of lessons that are delivered by email) called A Crash Course in Estate Planning. In this eCourse you will actually become privy to all of the information that I discuss with each and every new client, regardless of whether they already have an estate plan or not.
Who should sign up for this eCourse?
If you're just starting out on putting your estate plan together, then this eCourse is definitely for you. And even if you already have an estate plan, this eCourse will help you understand all of the parts of your plan and why it may be time to take it out of the drawer and review it.
For advisors who work with clients on financial planning and/or tax planning, this eCourse will teach you the seven fundamentals of estate planning so that you can bring value to your client relationships.
How does this eCourse work?
Each estate planning lesson will come to you in an email newsletter at one per week for the next seven weeks.
What will you learn?
Once you've completed the eCourse, you will learn the answers to the seven questions that I review with new clients at our very first meeting, which will lead you to the conclusion that estate planning isn't about signing a bunch of legal documents that you don't understand. Instead, it's about making informed decisions that lead to the creation of legal documents that put your wishes, goals and final instructions in writing, resulting in the one basic thing that estate planning is really all about, which is revealed in Lesson #7.
How do you get started?
Follow this link to the eCourse sign up page and your first lesson will arrive in your inbox shortly: eCourse Sign Up - A Crash Course in Estate Planning.
I also have another eCourse that you may interested in signing up for called 10 Steps to Creating a Good Estate Plan.
TMZ reports that a California judge has declared actress Amanda Bynes competent to stand trial on DUI charges stemming from her arrest in April 2012 after she sideswiped a police car while attempting to pass it.
The 27-year-old Disney star turned movie star has been undergoing psychiatric treatment at a private facility located in Malibu named The Canyon since being involuntarily committed back in July after setting herself on fire. Ms. Bynes is expected to be released from treatment by Christmas and a court-ordered progress report is scheduled for January 7. TMZ speculates that Ms. Bynes will not actually go to trial for the DUI charges, instead a plea bargain will be reached.
- Amanda Bynes Arrested for DUI after Clipping Cop Car
- Amanda Bynes ruled competent to stand trial for DUI charges
- Does Amanda Bynes Need a Court-Supervised Conservatorship?
- Actress Amanda Bynes Placed Under Court-Supervised Conservatorship
- Actress Amanda Bynes Receiving Psych Treatment, Bid for Conservatorship Dropped
- What is Guardianship or Conservatorship?
- How to Avoid Guardianship or Conservatorship
Nearly four years after her death on December 20, 2009, actress Brittany Murphy is back in the news. After years of litigation her biological father, Angelo Bertolotti, won the right to obtain samples of his deceased daughter's hair in order to perform additional toxicology tests. The original coroner's report cited pneumonia and severe anemia as the 32-year-old actress' cause of death, which were ironically the same causes of death listed for her 40-year-old husband, Simon Monjack, who died a mere five months after his wife. The results of the new toxicology tests show high levels of heavy metals in Ms. Murphy's body at the time of her death, things which are found in many rat poisons and insecticides. The conclusion: Ms. Murphy and her husband may have been poisoned to death.
So who would want to kill the Clueless actress and her screenwriter/director husband? According to her father, the actress was targeted by rogue government officials who were suspicious of her support of Department of Homeland Security whistleblower and filmmaker/journalist Julia Davis. But not so fast - Ms. Murphy's mother, Sharon Murphy, who was the primary beneficiary of her daughter's estate instead of the actress' husband, dismisses the claims of Bertolotti and Davis, stating in an open letter to The Hollywood Reporter, "Let me be clear: I am quite confident Brittany never cooperated with Julia Davis, never signed any statement in support of her, never met with her and barely knew she existed."
Sharon Murphy goes on to speculate in her letter that "toxic mold" found in the home that her daughter purchased in 2003 (from none other than Britney Spears) and where the actress and her husband lived at the times of their respective deaths was the real cause of death. Meanwhile, the LA Coroner's office is considering whether to reopen the investigations into the deaths based on the new toxicology results.
- Brittany Murphy poisoned? Samples retested find high levels of heavy metals, report says
- Brittany Murphy's mom says dad's conspiracy theories over actress' death all 'lies'
- What Will Happen to Actress Brittany Murphy's Estate?
- Update on Actress Brittany Murphy's Estate - Husband Simon Monjack Asked to Be Disinherited
- Famous Wills and Celebrity Estates
Singer/songwriter Taylor Swift is at the center of a mystery that she would probably rather ignore. Back on October 29 the remains of Canadian Michael Callan's crashed single engine Cessna sat on Nashville's runway 2C for about seven hours before the debris was even noticed. But that's only one small part of this bizarre story - Callan's flight plan had him flying 60 miles from Windsor, Ontario, to Pelee Island, Ontario, which is a small island in the western half of Lake Erie, but somehow he managed to fly across the Canadian-U.S. border undetected and head hundreds of miles off course to Nashville, where he circled the airport for about two and half hours in dense fog before attempting his fatal landing.
And yes, it gets even weirder - Callan, who was a convicted felon on armed robbery and child porn charges, was flying a plane registered to Windsor Flying Club, and according to the club's records Taylor Swift was listed as Callan's "next of kin" in case of an emergency. That came as a surprise to both Ms. Swift, who says she doesn't know Mr. Callan, and the pilot's actual next of kin, his two sisters.
Meanwhile, as the NTSB continues to investigate the crash over one month later, one thing about this bizarre story will never be resolved - why Callan named Ms. Swift as his next of kin. Just because he named her doesn't make it so.
If you're looking to get a jump start on preparing IRS Form 709, United States Gift (and Generation-Skipping Transfer) Tax Return, for gifts that you made during 2013, then follow the links below to view the 2013 version of the form and its instructions:
Not sure if you've made any taxable gifts during 2013? Follow these links to find out:
In case you missed it, the IRS has finally released the instructions for the 2013 version of Form 706, United States Estate (and Generation-Skipping Transfer) Tax Return. Follow the links below to the 2013 version of Form 706 and its instructions:
For versions of Form 706 and its instructions for years prior to 2013, refer to the IRS' webpage: Prior Year Products.
To request an automatic six-month extension of time to file IRS Form 706, you must timely file IRS Form 4768, Application for Extension of Time To File a Return and/or Pay U.S. Estate (and Generation-Skipping Transfer) Taxes.
- What is IRS Form 706?
- Overview of 2013 Estate Tax, Gift Tax & Generation Skipping Transfer Tax Laws
- When is a Federal Estate Tax Return Required to Be Filed for Deaths in 2013?
- Overview of 2013 Estate Tax Filing Requirements
- How to Calculate Your Estate Tax Liability in 2013
- What is Portability of the Estate Tax Exemption?
- How to Elect Portability of the Federal Estate Tax Exemption
- How to Reduce or Even Eliminate Your Estate Tax Bill
State Taxes, Multigenerational Planning, Pocket Guide to Estates & Trusts Top Most Read Wills & Estate Planning Blogs in October 2013
The top ten best and bottom ten worst states for income taxes, the key to multigenerational estate planning, and the second edition of my firm's Pocket Guide to Estates & Trusts topped the most read Wills and Estate Planning Blogs in October 2013:
Top 5 Most Read Blogs Posted in October 2013
- Top 10 Best and Worst States For Taxes
- What is the Real Key to Successful Multigenerational Estate Planning?
- Hot Off the Press - The Pocket Guide to Estates & Trusts!
- Still Looking for 2013 Form 706? You're Not Alone...
- Attend Our Upcoming Conference Call: The Windsor Decision's Impact on Same Sex and Unmarried Couples Estate Planning
Meanwhile, the most read blogs in October 2013 that were posted at any time were a little different from those that were the most read in September 2013:
Top 5 Most Read Blogs in October 2013 Posted at Any Time
- 2013 Estate and Trust Income Tax Brackets
- 2011 Gift Tax Exclusion - Annual Exclusion vs. Lifetime Exemption
- Should Your Executor and Successor Trustee Be the Same Person?
- 2012 Annual Exclusion From Gift Taxes Remains Unchanged
- When is a Federal Estate Tax Return Required to be Filed?
Over the past 5 to 7 years I've witnessed a dramatic shift in the estate planning process. Before this the two biggest estate planning concerns were avoiding probate and minimizing estate taxes. But with the advent of easy-to-set-up, probate-avoiding payable on death and transfer on death accounts and deeds and the federal estate tax exemption sitting at $5.25 million and going up every year, avoiding probate and minimizing estate taxes just don't keep people awake at night anymore. Instead, new things have popped up for people to be worried about - well maybe some of these things aren't so new, but now they're a growing concern for more and more people. These new concerns include the following:
- Not being able to pay for your long-term care.
- Being able to pay for your long-term care which won't leave anything left over for your children or grandchildren.
- Your estate or your child being responsible for the "death taxes" no one seems to talk about - Medicaid estate recovery and it's friend, filial responsibility.
- Protecting your heirs from bad decisions, bad influences, and overreaching or divorcing spouses.
- Figuring out the best person or entity (in legalese, "fiduciary") to put in charge of all of the "jobs" your estate plan will require.
- Protecting your assets from creditors, predators and lawsuits.
- Preventing costly estate and trust litigation, also known as will contests and trust contests.
- Keeping your final wishes and the details of your assets and your estate plan private.
Avoiding probate and minimizing estate taxes are pieces of cake when compared with addressing these eight concerns. This means that estate planning attorneys need to be one part psychologist, one part financial analyst, and one part legal expert in order to help solve today's estate planning concerns.
The new estate planning revolution will not be televised, or even written in books, newspapers, or magazines. Why not? Because it's a complex battle that can only be fought on an individual, case-by-case basis. So long to "one-size-fits-all" or even "one-size-fits-most" estate planning (Legalzoom, are you listening?). It's simply not possible anymore.
- What Are the Options for Paying for Long Term Care?
- What is Medicaid Estate Recovery?
- What is Filial Responsibility and Why Should You Be Concerned About It?
- How to Choose Your Fiduciaries for Your Estate Plan
- How to Protect Your Family from Creditors, Lawsuits, and Divorcing Spouses
- How to Protect Your Assets from Creditors, Predators, and Lawsuits
- 5 Tips for Avoiding a Will Contest
- How to Keep Your Estate Plan Private
Back in July 2011, the University of Texas at Austin sued Ryan O'Neal, claiming that the actor, who was the on-again, off-again boyfriend of actress Farrah Fawcett, took a portrait of Ms. Fawcett done by Andy Warhol estimated to be worth as much as $30 million from the actress's LA condo after her death. Why the lawsuit? Because under the terms of her revocable living trust, Ms. Fawcett left all of her artwork to the University of Texas at Austin (where she had studied art in the 1960s), and while it was known that Andy Warhol had done two portraits of Ms. Fawcett, the university only received one. The whereabouts of the second portrait became public knowledge in June 2011 after the airing of the first episode of Mr. O'Neal's reality TV show, Ryan & Tatum: The O'Neals, which showed an Andy Warhol portrait of Ms. Fawcett hanging above the actor's bed.
Mr. O'Neal claims that he was friends with Mr. Warhol and the artist had personally given him the portrait in question. So why do witnesses claim that the portrait was located in Ms. Fawcett's LA condo at the time of her death in June 2009? Mr. O'Neal has some answers for that - he left it with Ms. Fawcett because a girlfriend objected to him having it in his home (I wonder if it was hanging above his bed when she objected?), and he also liked to store it at Ms. Fawcett's condo to protect it from the ocean air outside of his Malibu home. Yesterday in an interview on Today, Mr. O'Neal said that he took the portrait, which rightfully belongs to him, from Ms. Fawcett's condo after her death with the permission of the successor Trustee of the actress's revocable living trust.
The trial to determine the rightful owner of the portrait began yesterday in Los Angeles Superior Court and is expected to last about two weeks. Among the witnesses that may testify - Redmond O'Neal, who is the son of Ms. Fawcett and Mr. O'Neal and a lifetime beneficiary of Ms. Fawcett's trust, and fellow Charlie's Angel Jacklyn Smith.
- Did Ryan O'Neal Steal From Farrah Fawcett's Estate?
- Univ. of Texas Sues Ryan O'Neal Over Art Work Missing From Farrah Fawcett's Estate
- Dispute over Farrah Fawcett artwork by Andy Warhol goes to trial
- Farrah Fawcett portrait battle pits UT against actor Ryan O'Neal
- What Does Farrah Fawcett's Revocable Living Trust Say?