Q&A: Using a trust protector: Preservation | Family Wealth ...

Many people come to us curious (or confused) about trusts and taxes. So, today’s article is going to sort it out and clarify things for you.

 

There are two types of trusts, and each have different tax consequences.

 

Revocable trusts, which are the far more commonly used trusts, have no tax consequences whatsoever. A revocable trust has your social security number as it’s tax identifier, and is not a separate entity from you for tax purposes. It is a separate entity from you for purposes of probate, meaning if you become incapacitated or die your Trustee can take over without a court order, keeping your family out of court. But, until your death, it’s treated as invisible from a tax perspective. At the time of your death, if your revocable trust provides for the creation of irrevocable trusts, then the tax implications will shift.

 

When you have an irrevocable trust, either created during life, at death through a revocable living trust, or through a will that creates a trust, that trust has its own EIN, or employer identification number (also called a TIN or taxpayer identification number). Generally, it pays income taxes on income earned by the trust, as if it’s a separate tax paying entity.

Trust income is taxed at the highest tax bracket applicable to individuals as soon as there is over $12,950 of income, so in some cases a trust will be drafted to provide that the tax consequences pass through to the beneficiary and are taxed at his or her rates. We will often do this when creating a Lifetime Asset Protection Trust for a beneficiary, so that the trust can provide the benefits of credit protection from lawsuits, divorce, or even bankruptcy, but not have the negative tax consequence of the highest tax rates on very little income.

 

Of course, if you have a trust, and you want us to review it for the income tax consequences to your loved ones after your death, please contact us.

 

Now, let’s talk about estate taxes. Currently, if you die with assets over $11.58M, then your estate will be subject to estate tax on all amounts over that $11.58M at the rate of 40%. That’s right, 40% of your taxable state will go to the government. You can mitigate these taxes, or even eliminate them by using various planning methods, most of which are fairly complex, but well worth it if you can save your family that 40% in taxes.

 

If you are trying to figure out whether an irrevocable trust, or a revocable trust or even a Lifetime Asset Protection Trust is best for you and your beneficiaries, you’ll need to weigh that decision by looking at your financial assets, personal situation, and family goals so you can make the right choice for yourself and the people you love. If you’d like help with that analysis, please give us a call.

 

 

 

 

 

 

On December 20, 2019, President Trump signed the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act (SECURE Act). The SECURE Act, is effective as of January 1, 2020. The Act is the most impactful legislation affecting retirement accounts in decades. The SECURE Act has several positive changes: It increases the required beginning date (RBD) for required minimum distributions (RMDs) from your individual retirement accounts from 70 ½ to 72 years of age, and it eliminates the age restriction for contributions to qualified retirement accounts. However, perhaps the most significant change will affect the beneficiaries of your retirement accounts: The SECURE Act requires most designated beneficiaries to withdraw the entire balance of an inherited retirement account within ten years of the account owner’s death.

The SECURE Act does provide a few exceptions to this new mandatory ten-year withdrawal rule: spouses, beneficiaries who are not more than ten years younger than the account owner, the account owner’s children who have not reached the “age of majority,” disabled individuals, and chronically ill individuals. However, proper analysis of your estate planning goals and planning for your intended beneficiaries’ circumstances are imperative to ensure your goals are accomplished and your beneficiaries are properly planned for.

Under the old law, beneficiaries of inherited retirement accounts could take distributions over their individual life expectancy. Under the SECURE Act, the shorter ten-year time frame for taking distributions will result in the acceleration of income tax due, possibly causing your beneficiaries to be bumped into a higher income tax bracket, thus receiving less of the funds contained in the retirement account than you may have originally anticipated.

Your estate planning goals likely include more than just tax considerations. You might be concerned with protecting a beneficiary’s inheritance from their creditors, future lawsuits, or a divorcing spouse. In order to protect your hard-earned retirement account and the ones you love, it is critical to act now.

Review/Amend Your Revocable Living Trust (RLT) or Standalone Retirement Trust (SRT)

Depending on the value of your retirement account, you may have addressed the distribution of your accounts in your RLT, or you may have created an SRT that would handle your retirement accounts at your death. Your trust may have included a “conduit” provision, and, under the old law, the trustee would only distribute required minimum distributions (RMDs) to the trust beneficiaries, allowing the continued “stretch” based upon their age and life expectancy.  A conduit trust protected the account balance, and only RMDs–much smaller amounts–were vulnerable to creditors and divorcing spouses. With the SECURE Act’s passage, a conduit trust structure will no longer work because the trustee will be required to distribute the entire account balance to a beneficiary within ten years of your death. You many now need to consider the benefits of an “accumulation trust,” an alternative trust structure through which the trustee can take any required distributions and continue to hold them in a protected trust for your beneficiaries.

Consider Additional Trusts

For most Americans, a retirement account is the largest asset they will own when they pass away. If you have not done so already, it may be beneficial to create a trust to handle your retirement accounts. While many accounts offer simple beneficiary designation forms that allow you to name an individual or charity to receive funds when you pass away, this form alone does not take into consideration your estate planning goals and the unique circumstances of your beneficiary. A trust is a great tool to address the mandatory ten-year withdrawal rule under the new Act, providing continued protection of a beneficiary’s inheritance.

Review Intended Beneficiaries

With the changes to the laws surrounding retirement accounts, now is a great time to review and confirm your retirement account information. Whichever estate planning strategy is appropriate for you, it is important that your beneficiary designation is filled out correctly. If your intention is for the retirement account to go into a trust for a beneficiary, the trust must be properly named as the primary beneficiary. If you want the primary beneficiary to be an individual, he or she must be named. Ensure you have listed contingent beneficiaries as well.

If you have recently divorced or married, you will need to ensure the appropriate changes are made because at your death, in many cases, the plan administrator will distribute the account funds to the beneficiary listed, regardless of your relationship with the beneficiary or what your ultimate wishes might have been.

What Happens Next

If you are a client, we’ll be reaching out to you over the coming weeks if your plan is affected by the SECURE Act. If you are not a client, and don’t have an ongoing relationship with a trusted advisor, we’d be happy to review your plan to determine if it is affected by the SECURE Act. And if you have yet to get an estate plan in place, there’s no better time to get that process started. Let us know if we can help and happy new year!

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and defining your legacy,

As we head towards the end of the year, we’re fast approaching the deadline to implement your family’s tax strategies for 2019. The Tax Cut and Jobs Act (TCJA) completely overhauled the tax code, and if you’ve yet to take full advantage of the benefits offered by the new tax law, now is the time to do so.

To qualify for some TCJA’ tax benefits, you’ll need to act by December 31, so don’t wait to get started. The following 4 tips could save your family big money on your 2019 tax bill.

1. Rethink itemization
Under the new tax law, itemizing your deductions might no longer make sense. That’s because the TCJA increased the standard deduction up to $12,200 for individuals and $24,400 for married couples filing jointly. So, if you’re filing a joint return, you need more than $24,400 in itemized deductions to make itemization worth it.

The law also places new limits on itemized deductions, including a $10,000 cap on property taxes, and the elimination of state and local income-tax deductions.

Given these changes, taking the standard deduction might be the best option, but other factors, such as your health expenses and charitable giving, could affect your decision, so consult with your CPA to make sure.

2. Maximize contributions to retirement accounts
By maximizing your contributions to tax-deferred retirement accounts like IRAs and 401(k)s, you can not only save for retirement, but also reduce your taxable income for 2019.
In 2019, you can contribute up to $6,000 to an IRA and up to $19,000 to a 401(k) if you’re under 50, and up to $7,000 to an IRA and $25,000 to a 401(k) for those 50 and older. If you can’t afford the maximum amount, try to contribute at least the amount matched by your employer, since that’s basically free money

You have until December 31, 2019 to contribute to a 401(k) plan and until April 15, 2020, to contribute to an IRA for the 2019 tax year.

3. Defer your income if you’ll make less next year
If you’re expecting to make significantly more income this year than in 2020, try to defer as much income into next year as possible. However, this strategy only makes sense if you’ll be in the same or a lower tax bracket next year.

This might mean asking your boss to delay paying a year-end bonus until after Jan. 1, 2020, or if you’re self-employed, waiting to invoice some clients until the new year. And whether you’re an employee or self-employed, you can also defer income by taking capital gains in 2020 instead of in 2019.

On the other hand, if you think you’ll be in a higher tax bracket in 2020, you may want to do the opposite and accelerate income into 2019 to take advantage of a lower tax bracket.

4. Save on the child tax credit
The child tax credit now offers up to $2,000 per qualifying dependent child. To qualify, your child must be 16 or younger at the end of 2019. The first $1,400 of the credit is refundable, so the credit could reduce your tax liability to zero, and you’d still receive a refund.

The cut-off for the tax credit is $400,000 for married couples filing jointly, and $200,000 for everyone else.

Take advantage of 2019 tax savings
Implementing these—and other—year-end tax-saving strategies could save your family thousands of dollars on your 2019 tax bill.  Don’t miss out!

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and defining your legacy,

Retirement planning is one of life’s most important financial goals. Indeed, funding retirement is one of the primary reasons many people put money aside in the first place. Yet many of us put more effort into planning for our vacations than we do to prepare for a time when we may no longer earn an income.

Whether you’ve put off planning for retirement altogether or failed to create a truly comprehensive plan, you’re putting yourself at risk for a future of poverty, penny pinching, and dependence. The stakes could hardly be higher.

When preparing for your final years, it’s not enough to simply hope for the best. You should treat retirement planning as if your life depended on it—because it does. To this end, even well-thought-out plans can contain fatal flaws you might not be aware of until it’s too late.

Have you committed any of the following three deadly sins of retirement planning?

1. Not having an actual plan
Even if you’ve been diligent about saving for retirement, without a detailed, goal-oriented plan, you’ll have no clear idea whether your savings strategies are working adequately or not. And such plans aren’t just about calculating a retirement savings number, funding your 401(k), and then setting things on auto-pilot.

Once you know how much you’ll need for retirement, you must plan for exactly how you’ll accumulate that money and monitor your success. The plan should include clear-cut methods for increasing income, reducing spending, maximizing tax savings, and managing investments when and where needed.

What’s more, you should regularly review and update your asset allocation, investment performance, and savings goals to ensure you’re still on track to hit your target figure. With each new decade of your life (at least), you should adjust your savings strategies to match the specific needs of your new income level and age.

Failing to plan, as they say, is planning to fail.

2. Not maximizing the use of tax-saving retirement accounts
One way or another, the money you put aside for retirement is going to be taxed. However, by investing in tax-saving retirement accounts, you can significantly reduce the amount of taxes you’ll pay.

Depending on your employment and financial situation, there are numerous different plans available. From traditional IRAs and 401(k)s to Roth IRAs and SEP Plans, you should consider using one or more of these investment vehicles to ensure you achieve the most tax savings possible.

What’s more, many employers will match your contributions to these accounts, which is basically free money. If your employer offers matching funds, you should not only use these accounts, but contribute the maximum amount allowed—and begin doing so as early as possible.

Since figuring out which of these plans will offer the most tax savings can be tricky—and because tax laws are constantly changing—you should consult with a professional financial advisor to find the one(s) best suited for your particular situation. Paying taxes is unavoidable, but there’s no reason you should pay any more than you absolutely must.

3. Underestimating health-care costs
It’s an inescapable fact that our health naturally declines with age, so one of the riskiest things you can do is not plan for increased health-care expenses.

With many employers eliminating retiree health-care coverage, Medicare premiums rising, and the extremely volatile nature of health insurance law, planning for your future health-care expenses is critical. And it’s even more important seeing that we’re now living longer than ever before.

Plus, these considerations are assuming that you don’t fall victim to a catastrophic illness or accident. The natural aging process is expensive enough to manage, but a serious health-care emergency can wipe out even the most financially well off.

Start preparing for retirement now
The best way to maximize your retirement funding is to start planning (and saving) as soon as possible. In fact, your retirement savings can be exponentially increased simply by starting to plan at an early age.

Let us know if we can help. We’ll be glad to review what you have in place now, advise you about what you need, introduce you to advisors you can trust, and ensure you and your family are well-protected and planned for, no matter what.

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and defining your legacy,

Some people assume that because they’ve named a specific heir as the beneficiary of their IRA in their will or trust that there’s no need to list the same person again as beneficiary in their IRA paperwork. Because of this, they often leave the IRA beneficiary form blank or list “my estate” as the beneficiary.

But this is a major mistake—and one that can lead to serious complications and expense.

IRAs Aren’t Like Other Estate Assets
First off, the person you name on your IRA’s beneficiary form is the one who will inherit the account’s funds, even if a different person is named in your will or in a trust. Your IRA beneficiary designation controls who gets the funds, no matter what you may indicate elsewhere.

Given this, you must ensure your IRA’s beneficiary designation form is up to date and lists either the name of the person you want to inherit your IRA, or the name of the trustee, if you want it to go to a revocable living trust or special IRA trust you’ve prepared. For example, if you listed an ex-spouse as the beneficiary of your IRA and forget to change it to your current spouse, your ex will get the funds when you die, even if your current spouse is listed as the beneficiary in your will.

Probate Problems
Moreover, not naming a beneficiary, or naming your “estate” in the IRA’s beneficiary designation form, means your IRA account will be subject to the court process called probate. Probate costs unnecessary time and money and guarantees your family will get stuck in court.

When you name your desired heir on the IRA beneficiary form, those funds will be available almost immediately to the named beneficiary following your death, and the money will be protected from creditors. But if your beneficiary must go through probate to claim the funds, he or she might have to wait months, or even years, for probate to be finalized.

Plus, your heir may also be on the hook for attorney and executor fees, as well as potential liabilities from creditor claims, associated with probate, thereby reducing the IRA’s total value.

Reduced Growth and Tax Savings
Another big problem caused by naming your estate in the IRA beneficiary designation or forgetting to name anyone at all is that your heir will lose out on an important opportunity for tax savings and growth of the funds. This is because the IRS calculates how the IRA’s funds will be dispersed and taxed based on the owner’s life expectancy. Since your estate is not a human, it’s ineligible for a valuable tax-savings option known as the “stretch provision” that would be available had you named the appropriate beneficiary.

Typically, when an individual is named as the IRA’s beneficiary, he or she can choose to take only the required minimum distributions over the course of his or her life expectancy. “Stretching” out the payments in this way allows for much more tax-deferred growth of the IRA’s invested funds and minimizes the amount of income tax due when withdrawals are made.

However, if the IRA’s beneficiary designation lists “my estate” or is left blank, the option to stretch out payments is no longer available. In such cases, if you die before April 1st of the year you reach 70 ½ years old (the required beginning date for distributions), your estate will have to pay out all of the IRA’s funds within five years of your death. If you die after age 70 1/2, the estate will have to make distributions over your remaining life expectancy.

This means the beneficiary who eventually gets your IRA funds from your estate will have to take the funds sooner—and pay the deferred taxes upon distribution. This limits their opportunity for additional tax-deferred growth of the account and requires him or her to pay a potentially hefty income tax bill.

A Simple Fix
Fortunately, preventing these complications is super easy—just be sure to name your chosen heir as beneficiary in your IRA paperwork (along with at least one alternate beneficiary). And remember to update the named beneficiary if your life circumstances change, such as after a death or divorce.

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and defining your legacy,

  1. TaxBill-91024The new tax legislation raises the federal estate tax exemption to $11.2 million for individuals and $22.4 million for couples. The increase means that very few estates (only about 1,800, nationally) will have to worry about federal estate taxes in 2018, according to estimates from the nonpartisan congressional Joint Committee on Taxation.

So, you may be wondering, is estate planning even still necessary?

To put it simply: Yes!

Comprehensive estate planning does a lot more than guard against owing federal estate taxes. Other than taxes, you and your family likely face a range of estate planning challenges, such as:

  • Distribution of your assets. Create your legacy with the help of tools like a trust and/or a last will and testament.
    • If you die without a will, state intestacy laws determine where your stuff goes. You lose control, and the people closest to you may feel hurt or may suffer financially.
    • If your estate plans do not include asset protection strategies, your lifetime of hard work and savings could be squandered needlessly.
  • Cognitive impairment. Dementia, Alzheimer’s disease or other disorders could make handling your own affairs impossible or at least ill-advised. Executing a durable power of attorney (POA), for instance, allows you to choose a person, referred to as an agent or attorney-in-fact, to step in and manage your financial affairs on your behalf. Without this arrow in your quiver, your fate will be left to the public whims of the court, which could appoint someone else—for instance, a public conservator.
  • Medical emergencies. What if you become unable to communicate your preferences regarding your medical care? Naming someone as your health care attorney-in-fact under a Medical Power of Attorney allows him or her to act as your voice for medical decisions. In addition, a living will or advance directive allows you to specify the types of life-sustaining treatment you do or do not want to receive.
  • Specific family situations. Life is unpredictable. You need to consider (and proactively deal with) challenges like the following:
    • If you have minor children, you can name a guardian for them and provide for their care through your estate plan. Without a named guardian, the decision of who raises your children will be left to the whims of a judge. Your children may even end up in foster care while the courts sort your affairs out.
    • If you care for a dependent with a debilitating condition, provide for her and protect her government benefits using tools like the Special Needs Trust (SNT).
    • If you’re married with children from a previous relationship, you need clear, properly prepared documents to ensure that your current spouse and children inherit according to your wishes.
  • Probate. Probate is the court-supervised process of the distribution of a deceased person’s assets. A veritable avalanche of paperwork awaits your loved ones in probate. But it doesn’t have to happen to your family! Through proper planning, you can keep all of your assets—such as bank and retirement accounts, business interests, and the family residence—outside of probate.

Estate Planning Involves Much More Than Minimizing Estate Taxes.
Even prior to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, relatively few Americans needed to worry about the estate tax. However, virtually everyone faces one or more of the issues outlined above. Shockingly, a 2016 Gallup poll found that 56% of Americans do not even have a simple will. A 2017 poll conducted by Caring.com found similarly alarming news—a majority of U.S. adults (especially Gen-Xers and Millennials) do not have their estate plans in order.

We can help you add yourself to the list of prepared Americans! Get in touch with our team to set up a complimentary consultation today (just mention this article) and spark the momentum toward your ultimate peace of mind.

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and defining your legacy,

Marc Garlett 91024

taxes 91024It’s the start of a new year, which means tax season—and this year’s April 17th IRS filing deadline—is just around the corner. Soon you’ll be receiving tax forms such as your W-2 or 1099s, and you’ll start thinking about the life events that could affect your taxes in various ways.

This flurry of tax prep activity is the perfect opportunity to get your estate plan in order, too, and kill two birds with the proverbial stone.

Why? Because as you run down your list of “tax prep” questions, you will find that your answers could also impact your estate plan.

Some things to think about:

  • Did you get married or divorced? Did any of your children or grandchildren?
  • Did you welcome a child or grandchild into your family by birth or adoption?
  • Have any of your children or grandchildren reached the age of majority?
  • Have you dealt with illness or hospitalization? Have you incurred medical expenses?
  • Did you buy or sell a new property or any other major assets, like a vacation home?
  • Did you move to another state?
  • Did you buy, sell, open, or close a business?
  • Have you made any charitable donations?
  • Do you have any new life insurance or pension plans?

After you’ve answered these questions, get to work on gathering the corresponding documentation. That might include deeds, policies, and contracts as well as bills and receipts. Having all of this information handy can help you prepare your tax forms and whip your estate plan into shape.

Here’s how your tax-related changes can affect your estate planning.

If you already have an estate plan, your number one goal is to make sure everything still represents your wishes, taking into account the past year’s events. Maybe because of a change in circumstances, you need new or updated powers of attorney. Perhaps it’s time for an LLC or an update to your living trust, or maybe you need to update your asset spreadsheet. Or, if there have been births or deaths in your family, or, you’ve had a change of heart about who should inherit from you, you also need to update your plan.

If you don’t yet have an estate plan, having this information at your fingertips sets you up for a productive conversation with your estate planning attorney. After reviewing your legacy goals, your lawyer can draw up key documents, such as:

  • A will. Among other things, this document can ensure that your wishes—and not the laws of the state—determine how to distribute your estate.
  • A revocable living trust. In addition to a will, you can establish a living trust, which allows your estate to bypass the potentially long and costly probate process upon your death, gives you extra privacy, and helps to avoid the potentially costly guardianship or conservatorship court process (sometimes called “living probate”) if you become incapacitated.
  • A living will. This document expresses your desires regarding life-sustaining medical treatment, if you become incapable of communicating your wishes.
  • A durable power of attorney. This appoints someone to step in and take over your financial affairs if you are unable to do so, reducing the possibility of hard feelings among loved ones or the need for court intervention.

It’s a new year, and new possibilities are in the air. As long as you’re getting started on your taxes, take a few extra moments to incorporate your estate planning into the act as well. By getting organized in this way, you’ll be well on your way to making 2018 an amazing year.

As Anne Burrell once observed, “Organizing ahead of time makes the work more enjoyable. Chefs cut up the onions and have the ingredients lined up ahead of time and have them ready to go. When everything is organized you can clean as you go and it makes everything so much easier and fun.”

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and defining your legacy,

Marc Garlett 91024

TaxBill-91024The legal concept of “portability” is still relatively new in estate planning, having become available only after 2011. Since then, it’s been both a blessing (for its tax saving benefit) and a curse (because of rules that seem to be constantly shifting). Fortunately, the IRS has recently clarified some important details about portability.

So how can a portability election benefit you and your family? It could help save hundreds of thousands of dollars of estate and gift taxes for your family if you lost your husband or wife within the last few years. Although the exact mechanics of the tax remain complicated, portability makes it much easier for estate planners and tax professionals to save taxes for you and your family. But be aware, portability is not automatic (even under the new regulations), so you must take action to claim it.

Why should I care?
Portability allows a surviving spouse to inherit and use the estate tax exemption from a deceased spouse. If you’re planning isn’t as good as it could have otherwise been, portability can save hundreds of thousands of dollars of estate and gift taxes. And for those who are proactively planning, it also makes crafting your trust or will much more flexible so we can tailor the plan more towards you and your family’s needs, and less to the needs of the IRS.

What’s new with portability?
Under a new IRS revenue procedure, you now have additional time to take advantage of portability. In the past, you had only 15 months after the death of a loved one to file for portability. Now, you now have two years after the passing of a spouse to file for portability, making this option much easier to use than before.

The IRS is also allowing a unique opportunity to file a late portability estate tax return, as long as you meet certain requirements and have it submitted by January 2, 2018.

On the other hand, if you have a substantial estate (over $5.49 million) or are not a US citizen or resident alien then the traditional 15-month rule will continue to apply to you. Also, like any legal or tax issue, it’s always a good idea to obtain qualified assistance as early as possible so you can have the widest possible set of options and the best likely outcome.

What do I need to do now?
If you lost your spouse after 2011 and haven’t yet spoken with an estate planning attorney about your options, now is the time. As the stock market and housing markets have recovered in the last few years, it might be worth a second look to see if a portability election is right for you and your family, even if you previously decided against one. But whatever you decide to do, do it sooner rather than later. January 2, 2018, will be here before you know it.

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and securing your legacy,

Marc Garlett 91024

Income TaxesDid you get a holiday bonus from your employer? Or maybe you have a tax refund coming. If so, do you have any of it left, have you already got it spent in your mind, or are you thoughtfully considering how you can best utilize this surprise resource? Annual bonus payments and tax refunds are nice windfalls, which can be used to create more stability in your life. While it is fun to treat such income as “mad money” to be spent on frivolous endeavors, it may be more effective to use it to create more for your long run.

The Best Uses

Paying down a home mortgage is one of the best uses of extra cash. The less principal on which interest is calculated, the more money you will keep for yourself in the long run. Another benefit to making a principal payment is that if it brings the remaining principal to less than 80% of the appraised value of your home, then private mortgage insurance can be dropped, saving you even more money.

Contributing to a retirement account is another excellent use of extra money, if your employer matches your contribution.

If not, consider the possibility of investing your bonus or tax refund into starting your own side business. Here’s a great article about the Side Hustle and how it could help you.

Other Good Uses

Home improvement needs are common for most home owners. Keeping up the condition and value of your home are important long term goals. Letting things go too long typically increases the ultimate cost of repairs. Dealing with them early can pay dividends.

Another good use of bonus funds is to invest in an estate plan if you don’t have one already. Over 50% of Americans between ages 55 and 64 don’t have a will. And 69% of parents have never named legal guardians for their kids. Of the 31% who have, most have made one of 6 common mistakes that means their kids are at risk. Are you part of this group?

Dying without a will, let alone a comprehensive estate plan (and a Kids Protection Plan® if you have minor children), creates complications for your heirs and can leave your family in Court and/or conflict. While you may not relish the idea of investing your bonus or tax refund in an estate plan, the cost to you now would be much less than the cost to your loved one’s later.

If you are thinking about using your tax refund or holiday bonus to protect your family, contact us and ask for the tax refund/holiday bonus special that includes a Family Estate Planning Session + analysis of the best use of the funds for your current situation, as our gift to you, if you are one of the next 5 to call and request it.

Dedicated to your family’s wealth, health, and happiness,
Marc Garlett 91024

real estate 91024As our parents and other loved ones age, they may need a little more attention from us. Parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, or and even neighbors who are aging may want to be seen as strong and independent. Often, however, their abilities to take care of household and financial affairs begin to erode as they get older.

What’s at Risk?

One such example which can have catastrophic consequences is the failure to pay property taxes. A lot of retired people are struggle to make ends meet and may not be able to pay their taxes as they come due. This puts their home at risk because unfortunately, governments have processes in place to collect back taxes by placing liens against the property.

Worst Case Scenario

Different locales have different approaches to filing liens against property, but one of the worst is Washington, D.C. There, the city made a policy change in 2001 that has had devastating effects on homeowners. Prior to that time, the city would sell a lien at auction to individuals who could then charge interest on the amount due until it was paid. If it was not paid, the city could move to foreclose on the property.

The change in 2001 allowed the purchasers of the liens to go directly to court to foreclose on the property they purchased. This attracted predatory lenders from other states that became very aggressive in pursuing the foreclosures. In many cases, people who owned their homes free and clear lost them over unpaid taxes of less than $500. Once investors buy the liens, they can begin charging interest and legal costs, which makes it more expensive for the homeowner to pay off the lien.

While it is true that homeowners have ample time and notice to pay the taxes, even after the liens are sold, Washington’s story is replete with cases of owners with dementia or other serious illnesses. Because of these types of conditions, many owners were not aware of or did not understand what was happening. And without family or friends looking out for them, the predators can have a field day.

What Can be Done?

Thankfully, Washington is in the minority of governments that allow this predatory approach to tax collection. But it points out the need for those of us with elderly family members and friends to pay attention. Respect their pride, but make sure they get the help they need so they are not taken advantage of.

One of the main objectives of our law practice is to keep families out of court and out of conflict. Our lawyers can help you protect those you love by starting with a Family Estate Planning Session. Call our office today, mention this article, and we’ll waive the fee for your session.

Dedicated to your family’s wealth, health, and happiness,
Marc Garlett 91024