Volume 8, Issue 1
The Wealth Counselor (for Clients)
Three Top Reasons to Update Your Estate Plan in 2014
Make this your top New Year’s resolution — update your estate plan this year. If you didn’t update your estate plan last year when the federal tax laws changed, 2014 is the year to make some important changes in it. Alterations to tax laws can definitely impact your estate, plus addressing two other key issues can help you be confident you have everything in place for yourself and your heirs. Here are the three main reasons to review and update your estate plan as soon as you can this year.
Federal Estate Taxes Are Now Stable
For a married couple, their estate can be worth more than ten million dollars before they have to worry about federal estate taxes. In the past, when the exemption was or was scheduled to be much lower, a large number of estate plans were set up using Bypass Trust provisions. In states with their own estate taxes, such as Maryland, this strategy still is effective.
With the Bypass Trust strategy, when a spouse dies, all of the deceased spouse’s assets do not go directly to the surviving spouse. Rather they are put in an estate tax avoidance/asset protection trust to minimize the estate tax exposure of the first spouse’s estate and also of the surviving spouse’s estate. That trust would be a separate taxpayer and file its own income tax return each year. There are also ongoing management and administrative costs. Offset against those disadvantages are the asset protection advantages that an irrevocable trust can provide and the possible opportunity to preserve the deceased spouse’s assets for heirs if the survivor has to go into a nursing home.
In addition to tax planning, there are other non-tax issues affecting your estate planning strategies.
Provide Divorce and Lawsuit Protection
1) Immaturity or mismanagement of assets could cause an inheritance to dissipate long before you intended.
Once an inheritance is lost, there is no way to recover it. You want the part of your hard-earned assets that you leave to pass on to your heirs to provide them a measure of financial security. That is best done through a “testamentary” trust – one that goes into effect and receives assets upon your death. A testamentary trust can provide divorce and lawsuit protection to your heirs as well as to protect a young or unwise heir from himself.
Skyrocketing Costs of Long-Term Care
Most Americans worry about how long they may need care and how they will pay for it. Few have the income to cover those costs and so have to consume their assets to pay for care that is not covered by insurance. Medicare provides only limited, temporary nursing home care coverage, and that is only following a hospitalization of at least 3 days. Medicaid requires a person have minimal resources and the inability to pay for the nursing home before providing help. Protecting yourself and your spouse from ruinous long-term care costs requires a different sort of trust plan. Now is the time to review your estate and include some long-term care planning.
One possibility is moving assets into a Medicaid Asset Protection Trust. Assets that have been in a Medicaid Asset Protection Trust for five years are not included in the Medicaid calculation, so the sooner the trust is established, the more effectively it works.
If you do not have long-term care insurance, you should explore getting some. Your health will be a determining factor in whether it is available for you and its cost. There are also a variety of new insurance products that combine a life insurance death benefit with a long-term care benefit. Having a strategy for long-term care in your estate plan will give you, and your heirs, peace of mind.
Your estate plan may also need revision to protect assets for the survivor after the other spouse dies. The federal Medicaid laws have strict requirements for how that can be accomplished.
Early 2014 is the time to think about these three crucial issues and how they may relate to your own estate strategy. Make that New Year’s resolution today and call us for an appointment to review and revisit your current plan and goals. We will discuss with you the best possible solutions to meeting your estate plan objectives.
Sellers Johnson Law • 1 Research Court, Suite 450 • Rockville, Maryland 20850 • (240) 988-5530