Wills & Estate Planning: Most Popular Articles
If you're looking for a copy of a deceased person's last will and testament, then here are the steps that you need to take to locate it.
The exemption from federal estate taxes has gradually increased over the years while the estate tax rate has gradually decreased. Here you will find a chart that shows the increases in the exemption and decreases in the tax rate from 1997 through 2014.
If you inherit property from a family member or friend, you'll need to understand the tax consequences of receiving an inheritance. This article summarizes the different types of taxes that may affect your inheritance.
When it comes to understanding trusts, knowing the difference between revocable and irrevocable trusts is crucial. If you ask for a revocable trust and get an irrevocable one, or vice versa, the legal and tax consequences will be significant.
The annual amount exempt from the federal gift tax, called the annual gift tax exclusion, was indexed for inflation beginning in 1997 and has slowly increased over the years. Here you will find a chart that shows the increase in the annual gift tax exclusion from 1997 through 2014.
Married couples can maximize the use of both of their federal exemptions from estate tax by using AB Trusts as part of their estate plan. Here's how the AB Trust system works.
Currently only a handful of states and the District of Columbia collect a state estate tax and/or a state inheritance tax. Here you'll find a chart that lists the 2014 estate tax or inheritance tax exemptions and the 2014 top tax rates.
If you are interested in reviewing the information about a probate estate and obtaining copies of probate court documents, many courts now have this information posted for free online. Here you will find the steps required to locate online probate court records and request copies of probate documents.
Currently only a handful of states and the District of Columbia collect a state estate tax. Here you'll find a chart that lists the historical and current estate tax exemptions for the states that collect estate taxes at the state level.
Do you think you want to contest the validity of a family member's will? Think again, since it's very difficult to win a will contest. Learn why here.
A Revocable Living Trust is a legal document that is created by an individual, called a Trustmaker, to hold and own the Trustmaker's assets, which are in turn invested and spent for the benefit of the Trustmaker by an individual or institution called the Trustee.
Pennsylvania is one of six states that collect an inheritance tax, as opposed to an estate tax, at the state level. Learn all about the Pennsylvania inheritance tax laws here.
Currently the District of Columbia and a handful of states collect a state estate tax, while only a six states collect a state inheritance tax. Learn the difference between an estate tax and an inheritance tax and view a chart that summarizes the inheritance tax laws of Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Nebraska, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
What's the difference between the annual exclusion from gift taxes and the lifetime gift tax exclusion? Find out here.
What happens if you die without a will? Find out here.
On January 2, 2013, a new law was enacted that governs estate taxes for 2013 and future years. Here you will find a summary of what the laws provide for the estates of decedents who die in 2014 as well as the 2014 gift tax rules and 2014 generation skipping transfer tax rules.
One common question that is asked after a person dies is if probate will be required. Here you will find a list of reasons why an estate will need to be probated.
Avoiding probate really isn't that difficult if you have the right tools and information. Learn the four ways to avoid probate and what may or may not work for you.
One of the first questions that a probate attorney is asked by the Personal Representative and beneficiaries of an estate is how long probate is going to take. The answer to this important question depends on many factors.
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Probate is the court-supervised process of settling a deceased person's final affairs. Learn about all of the steps required to probate an estate here.
If your loved one has died and you're the surviving joint owner of an account held with rights of survivorship or as tenants by the entirety, then you'll need to understand the tax and other consequences of inheriting the account.
If your loved one has died and the medical and credit card bills have started piling up, then you'll need to understand who will be responsible for paying off all of these debts and in what amounts. Learn who will have to pay and how much.
If you don't have an estate plan or have failed to completely fund your Revocable Living Trust, then your loves ones will be faced with probating some or all of your assets. The overall cost of probate will vary depending on the type and value of the property that's being probated.
When considering whether or not to include a Revocable Living Trust as part of your estate plan, you'll need to understand the pros and cons of using a trust instead of just a Last Will and Testament.
Find out what the lifetime exemption from gift taxes is and how it has changed from 1997 to the present.
If your loved one has died and you're the beneficiary of a retirement account such as an IRA or 401(k), then you'll need to understand the tax consequences of inheriting the retirement account. The results will be very different if you're a surviving spouse or not.
A will contest can only be filed by someone who has legal standing. Find out what that means here.
The federal gift tax is one of the most misunderstood and often ignored taxes assessed by the federal government. Two states also assess gift taxes. Learn what the gift tax is and who is responsible for paying it.
The federal gift tax applies to all gifts that you make during the course of your lifetime. Here is a guide to how the gift tax is calculated and when you might be required to pay it.
If you are thinking about becoming a Florida resident, then follow the steps listed in this article to make your change of residence official.
While the federal estate tax was initially repealed as of January 1, 2010, on December 17, 2010 it was resurrected and applied retroactively back to January 1. The federal estate tax is collected on the transfer of a person's assets to his or her loved ones after death, but not all estates actually have to pay the tax. Find out why.
How do you determine if you need a Revocable Living Trust instead of just a Last Will and Testament? Find out here.
When it comes to estate planning terms, two that you'll need to be familiar with are per stirpes and per capita. These are Latin terms that are commonly used in Last Will and Testaments and Revocable Living Trusts to describe how your property is to be left to your beneficiaries.
There are six steps required to settle an estate through probate. Learn what they are here.
Definition of Exemption from Gift Taxes
In the context of estate planning, an explanation of the three forms of joint ownership, and what happens under each when an owner dies.
A Last Will and Testament is a legal document that is the first building block to your estate plan. After determining that you need an estate plan, your estate planning attorney will recommend either a will-based plan or a trust-based plan. Your Last Will and Testament will take on significantly different roles depending upon the type of plan that is recommended.
A federal estate tax return (IRS Form 706) is only required to be filed under very specific circumstances. Regardless, some estates may need to prepare IRS Form 706 strictly for state estate tax purposes or electing portability, while others should consider filing IRS Form 706 even if it is not required to be filed. Here you will find information about when an estate tax return is required or recommended to be filed.
After someone dies, when is their will read out loud to the heirs? Find this out and much more.
If you've been appointed to serve as the Personal Representative or Executor of an estate, then in most cases you'll be entitled to get paid for the services you provide on behalf of the estate. How much you'll receive and when you'll receive it depends on many factors.
California, like all other states, did collect a state estate tax prior to January 1, 2005. Learn why things changed on this date and if it is possible for the California estate tax to come back.
Per Stirpes. Wills & Estate Planning.
Payable on death accounts, also known as POD accounts for short, are a popular way to avoid probate. Learn all you need to know about POD accounts here.
Payable on death accounts, known as POD accounts for short, are a popular way to avoid probate in the U.S. Learn about all of the tax and other consequences of inheriting a POD account here.
Although the beneficiaries of an estate or trust may be anxious to receive their inheritance checks, there are multiple steps that a Personal Representative or Successor Trustee must take before making distributions to the beneficiaries.
In 2014 a majority of U.S. states will not collect an estate tax or an inheritance tax at the state level. Find out if your state is one of them.
Should you write your own will? Definitely not. Here's why.
Transfer on death accounts, known as TOD accounts for short, are a popular way to avoid probate. Learn all you need to know about TOD accounts here.
A Trustee is the fiduciary put in charge of overseeing the day to day management of property owned by a trust. A Trustee can be an individual, an institution, such as a bank or trust company, or a combination of both.
Non probate assets are a special type of property that won't need to go through probate after you die. Learn about the different types of non probate property here.
By its design an Irrevocable Trust is just that, irrevocable, and so as a basic rule an Irrevocable Trust can't be amended, modified, changed, or revoked. But with that said, here are some things to consider if you think that you're stuck with the terms of an Irrevocable Trust.
An Irrevocable Trust is one that by its design can't be amended, modified, changed or revoked. In other words, once an Irrevocable Trust has been created, the written terms of the trust agreement are generally written in stone and can't be tweaked for any reason in the future.
Many people are not aware that all of the proceeds from their life insurance policies will be included their estate for estate tax purposes. Learn how to remove life insurance proceeds from your estate by using an Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust, or ILIT.
The exemption from federal generation skipping transfer taxes has increased over the years while the tax rate has decreased. Here you will find a chart that shows the increases in the exemption and decreases in the tax rate from 1997 through 2014.
If you live in New Jersey, then you're lucky enough to live in one of the two states that collects both a separate state inheritance tax and state estate tax (Maryland is the other). Here you will find a summary of current New Jersey inheritance tax laws.
A trust is a legal document that is used in estate planning. Learn all about trusts here.
When a person dies, one of the biggest concerns of the surviving family members becomes what bills they'll be responsible for paying and in what amounts. Learn who has to pay and why.
If you are a U.S. citizen or resident alien and you receive any gifts or bequests from nonresident aliens, then you may have to report the gifts or bequest to the IRS. Learn about the filing requirements for IRS Form 3520 here.
If you've been appointed to serve as the Successor Trustee of Revocable Living Trust after the Trustmaker has died, then in most cases you'll be entitled to get paid for the services you provide on behalf of the trust. How much you'll get paid and when you'll receive it depends on many factors.
In general, there are 8 steps that should be followed in order to open a probate estate with the appropriate state court, but some of the steps can be skipped if the decedent didn't leave a Last Will and Testament or left a pile of papers to sort through. Learn what these 8 steps are and how someone gets appointed to serve as a Personal Representative/Executor.
Many people believe that adding their children's names to the deed for their home is a good way to avoid probate of the home after death. But not so fast - adding your children to your deed can lead to many unintended consequences.
There are only three ways to own property. Here you will find a summary of each type of ownership and what will happen to the property after you die.
Definition of Inheritance Tax. Wills & Estate Planning.
Is an estate tax the same thing as an inheritance tax? Not at all. Learn about the differences between these two types of death taxes and which states collect them.
There are many factors to consider when it comes to determining the reasonableness of an attorney's fees. Aside from the attorney's experience in handling legal matters similar to yours, local and even state wide business practices also influence what an attorney will charge for a particular matter. Here's a list of factors to consider when determining if the fees quoted to you by a qualified estate planning attorney are reasonable.
After someone dies, the surviving family members will need to locate the deceased person's important papers. Here you will find a list of documents required to settle a deceased person's final affairs.
If your loved one has recently died and you're the beneficiary of a life insurance policy, learn whether or not you'll have to use the life insurance proceeds to pay your loved one's final bills.
Should Your Executor and Successor Trustee Be the Same Person?
Whether your estate will be liable for estate taxes depends on the value of your gross estate, the amount of debt owed by you at the time of your death, the total expenses that will be incurred while settling your estate, and any deductions that your estate can take. Here's how to figure out an estimate of your estate tax liability.
When it comes to deciding whether or not you should set up a Revocable Living Trust as part of your estate plan, you'll need to understand the three main benefits that a Revocable Living Trust offers over a Last Will and Testament.
Joint Tenants With Right of Survivorship
Estates and trusts that earn income during the course of any given year must file IRS Form 1041. Learn what the income tax brackets are for estates and trusts in 2013.
In 2014 less than half of the U.S. states still collect an estate tax or an inheritance tax (or both) at the state level. Find out if your state is one of them.
Not all transfers of property from one person to a nonspouse beneficiary where no cash or other monetary value is exchanged are taxable for federal gift tax purposes. Currently there are three types of such transfers that are not actually considered gifts at all for federal gift tax purposes. Learn about them here.
There are two types of taxes that can be assessed against your property after you die - estate taxes and inheritance taxes, both of which are commonly referred to as death taxes.
When someone dies, you've probably seen in the movies or on TV or read in a book about
A probate lawyer is a state licensed attorney who assists Personal Representatives and estate beneficiaries with all of the steps required to settle the final affairs of a deceased person.
In early 2010 the federal estate tax was officially repealed, but at the end of 2010 it was reinstated retroactively. Here you will find a summary of the current federal estate tax laws.
Most people have little experience dealing with what happens after their loved one dies and they get appointed as Personal Representative/Executor to settle the estate. This guide provides a general overview of the six steps required to probate an estate.
If you live in New York, then you live in one of the remaining states that collects a state estate tax or a state inheritance tax. The estates of New York residents, as well as the estates of nonresidents who own real estate and/or tangible personal property located in New York, are subject to a state estate tax in addition to the federal estate tax under the guidelines listed here.
If you are interested in reviewing the information about a probate estate and obtaining copies of probate court documents, many courts now have this information posted for free online. Here you will find the steps required to review the online probate dockets for estates that are being, or have been, probated in all 14 counties in Massachusetts.
A Codicil is a legal document that changes specific provisions of a Last Will and Testament but leaves the other provisions unchanged. As long as you are mentally competent, you can change, modify, update, or completely revoke your Last Will and Testament at any time. But the question becomes, when should you make a Codicil and when should you write an entire new Last Will?
Definition of Exemption From Estate Taxes
A fully funded revocable living trust avoids probate of your estate after you die. Learn how the trust works to avoid probate here.
On January 2, 2013, a new law was enacted that governs estate taxes for 2013 and future years. Here you will find a summary of what the laws provide for the estates of decedents who die in 2013 as well as the 2013 gift tax rules and 2013 generation skipping transfer tax rules.
Annual exclusion gifts aren't really gifts at all. Learn what they are here.
In setting up your Revocable Living Trust, you'll be asked to name a Successor Trustee to administer your trust after you die. Learn what a Successor Trustee is required to do when settling your trust after you die.
In addition to a state inheritance tax, New Jersey also imposes a separate state estate tax, which has been decoupled from the federal estate tax laws.
While joint accounts and payable on death accounts are an easy way to avoid probate, they can nonetheless lead to gifting issues and other unintended consequences.
What will happen to your property if you don't make a will and estate plan before you die? What does it mean to die “intestate?” How does a Revocable Living Trust fit into an estate plan? Learn this and more.
Actor, Director, Race Car Driver and Philanthropist Paul Newman died on September 26, 2008. His Last Will and Testament and First Codicil were signed only a few months before his death. A summary of what the will and codicil say can be found here.
If you live in Illinois, then you live in one of a handful of states that still collect a state estate tax or a state inheritance tax. The estates of Illinois residents, as well as the estates of nonresidents who own real estate and/or tangible personal property located in Illinois, are subject to a state death tax in addition to the federal estate tax under the guidelines listed here.
Once a person has been determined to be mentally incapacitated and the court establishes a guardianship or conservatorship, various fees and costs will be incurred on behalf of the ward. In fact, guardianship or conservatorship is a costly business.
Having practiced law in Maryland for nine years before moving to Florida in 2004, I have found the laws
How a transfer on death (or TOD) deed or affidavit, also called a beneficiary deed or affidavit or an enhanced life estate deed, can be used to avoid probate is fairly straightforward. Learn how this type of deed or affidavit works here.
Diana, Princess of Wales, died on August 31, 1997, at the young age of 36. Her last will and testament was signed several years before her death and the first and only codicil to the will was signed about a year and a half before her death. But in the end the will and codicil did not dictate what happened to Princess Diana's estate. Here you will find out why and who inherited her estate.
As long as you're mentally competent, you can change, modify, update, or completely revoke your Last Will and Testament at any time. But how do you make changes to your Last Will that will be legally valid? Find out.
Does transferring your assets into a Revocable Living Trust protect them against creditors, lawsuits, and divorce? The answer to this question is a resounding no - a Revocable Living Trust offers absolutely no asset protection for your property. Find out why.
Heir at Law. Wills & Estate Planning.
When you're putting your estate plan together, you'll need to understand the difference between testamentary trusts and living trusts.
Do you really need a Revocable Living Trust as part of your estate plan? Ask yourself the five questions listed in this article to determine the answer.
A Trust Amendment is a legal document that changes specific provisions of a Revocable Living Trust but leaves the other provisions unchanged, while an Amendment and Restatement of Trust completely replaces and supercedes all of the provisions of the original Revocable Living Trust.
Each time an estate planning attorney sits down with a new client, the attorney asks what should be a simple question, but in reality it is usually one of the most difficult questions that the client must answer. Learn what this question is and why it is the one real key to good estate planning.
If your loved one has died and a probate estate will be required, then you'll need to understand how your loved one's final bills and other debts will be handled before and during the probate process. Learn who will be responsible for paying the bills and when.
If you live in Oregon, then you live in one of the remaining states that collects a state estate tax or a state inheritance tax. The estates of Oregon residents, as well as the estates of nonresidents who own real estate and/or tangible personal property located in Oregon, are subject to a state death tax in addition to the federal estate tax under the guidelines listed here.
A will contest is a type of lawsuit that is brought to challenge the validity of a Last Will and Testament and can be filed at one of two points during the probate process.
One of the most misunderstood taxes is by far the federal gift tax. Learn what the federal gift tax is and if you will need to file a federal gift tax return, or IRS Form 709, United States Gift (and Generation-Skipping Transfer) Tax Return, with regard to gifts that are made in 2014.
Can a spouse be disinherited? The answer depends on many factors which are discussed here.
When a deceased person's estate owns certain types of assets, called probate assets, then the estate will be subject to a probate court proceeding in order to get the probate assets out of the deceased person's name and into the names of the rightful heirs. Here you will find a description of the three different types of probate assets.
Throughout my years practicing as an estate planning attorney, I've run across some common misconceptions that people have about Revocable Living Trusts. In some situations they believe that a Revocable Living Trust will do something that it really doesn't, and in other situations they believe that a Revocable Living Trust won't do something that it actually does. Learn what these common myths are and if you've fallen for any of them.
In order for a Revocable Living Trust to function properly, the Trustmaker must fund their assets into the name of the trust. But what does it mean to fund a trust? Find out here.
There are three basic ways that you can own property: in your individual name, in joint names with others, and through contract rights. Learn about what happens to property in your individual name after you die.
The first step in figuring out if your estate will be liable for estate taxes is to determine what is included in your gross estate. Here's how.
Are gifts to your spouse taxable? The answer to this question depends on the answer to two other questions: (1) Is your spouse a U.S. citizen? and (2) Is the gift to your spouse a gift of a present interest or future interest?
Learn what a Personal Representative is and what they are required to do when settling your estate through the probate process.
Florida did collect a state estate tax prior to January 1, 2005. Learn why things changed and if it is possible for the Florida estate tax to come back.
If you inherit a traditional IRA and you aren't the account owner's spouse, then you'll most likely have several different options to choose from with regard to your inheritance. Learn what options you may be able to choose from and what will work best in your situation.
While the federal estate tax was originally repealed in 2010, it came back retroactively and remains in effect today. Many states also assess estate taxes and/or inheritance taxes. For people whose estates will be taxable at the state and/or federal level, they have several options for reducing their estate tax bill.
The federal gift tax applies to all gifts that you make during the course of your lifetime. Whether a gift will be taxable for gift tax purposes depends on three things. Find out what they are and if you have made any taxable gifts.
Florida has a streamlined process for probate of an estate if the estate meets certain conditions. Here you will learn what conditions must be met for a Florida probate estate to qualify for Summary Administration.
Currently a handful of states and the District of Columbia collect an estate tax at the state level, six states collect an inheritance tax at the state level, and two states collect both an estate tax and an inheritance tax. Find out if your state collects an inheritance tax.
A list of what types of assets can't be retitled into the name of your trust and some types that shouldn't be retitled due to applicable state law.
The federal estate tax has been around in some shape or form since 1916. Here you will find a chart that shows historical estate tax exemptions and rates from 1916 through 1997.
If you live in Minnesota, then you live in one of a handful of states that still collect a local estate tax or inheritance tax. The estates of Minnesota residents, as well as the estates of certain nonresidents are subject to a local Minnesota death tax in addition to the federal estate tax.
Definition of Annual Exclusion Gift
How long it will take to settle a Revocable Living Trust after the Trustmaker dies depends on many factors.
2014 Estate and Trust Income Tax Brackets
A fiduciary is a person or institution given the power to act on behalf of another in situations that require great trust, honesty and loyalty. When it comes to estate planning, you'll be selecting a variety of fiduciaries to act on your behalf. Here's a list of the fiduciaries you'll need to choose for your estate plan.
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Currently only a handful of states and the District of Columbia still collect an estate tax at the state level. Find out if your state is one of them.
Most people have little experience dealing with what happens after their loved one dies and they have been named as the successor Trustee who will be in charge of settling their loved one's Revocable Living Trust. This guide provides a general overview of the six steps required to settle a Revocable Living Trust after the Trustmaker dies.
Form 709. Wills & Estate Planning.
A Personal Representative, also referred to as an Executor/Executrix or Administrator in some jurisdictions, is the fiduciary put in charge of settling a deceased person's estate.
When it comes to funding your Revocable Living Trust, this step is just as important as setting up your trust.
When it comes to creating a Last Will and Testament that is legally valid in the U.S., it is very important to observe all of the formalities required by the laws of your state in order to make the Last Will binding on your heirs at law.
Texas, like all other states, did collect a state estate tax prior to January 1, 2005. Learn why things changed and if it is possible for the Texas estate tax to come back.
One of the very first steps in assessing your need for an estate plan is to determine your net worth. Here is a basic guide to calculating your net worth so that you can see where the value of your estate falls for both federal and state estate tax purposes. Once you've added everything up and subtracted everything out, don't be surprised if you're net worth is more than you had anticipated.
A probate judge is a state court official who is in charge of overseeing the probate process in his or her local jurisdiction. Learn about what a probate judge does on a day to day basis here.
The passage of the American Taxpayer Relief Act has added some certainty to the future of death taxes and gift taxes, or so we think. With the federal deficit soaring, the need for increasing federal revenue will only continue. So what really is the future of federal estate taxes?
Many people believe that if they have a revocable living trust, then the process of settling their final affairs will be simple and won't require the assistance of an attorney. In my experience this is true for only a limited number of trusts. Here you will find a list of things to consider when determining if an attorney will be required to assist you with settling your loved one's revocable living trust.
Community property is a type of joint ownership of property between married couples that is recognized in the following states: Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin.
If someone dies due to the negligent, reckless, or deliberate behavior of someone else, then the surviving family members should be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Learn what a wrongful death lawsuit is, who can file one, and what types of damages can be collected.
Currently a majority of U.S. states do not collect an estate tax or an inheritance tax at the state level. Find out if your state is one of them.
Form 706, Estate Tax Return. Wills & Estate Planning.
If you've created a Revocable Living Trust to plan for mental disability and avoid probate and you think that your estate plan is done once you've signed the trust agreement, it isn't. Why not? Because after your Revocable Living Trust has been signed you'll need to
For many estates probate can take from several months to several years to complete. Find out why.
On December 17, 2010, the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 was signed into law. This new law modifies the federal estate tax rules by offering portability of the federal estate tax exemption between spouses. Learn what portability is here.
In 2014, the estates of Washington residents, as well as the estates of nonresidents who own real estate and/or tangible personal property located in Washington, are subject to a state death tax in addition to the federal estate tax under the guidelines listed here.
Definition of Exemption From Generation Skipping Transfer Taxes