Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Updated Personal Property Inventory Helps Ease the Pain for Executors

“Your executor or trustee will have a much easier time distributing your estate if you have an updated comprehensive personal property inventory in place,” Greg Holton writes in “The Hidden Risks of Undocumented Personal Property”.  Not only does having an updated comprehensive inventory in place help in the event of an insurance claim or for tax loss reporting, but upon death, an inventory solves many potential problems for heirs, Holton explains: 
  • the executor often lacks the time and knowledge to complete an inventory and knowledgeably value the assets
  • it may be difficult to match specific distribution instructions in the will or trust with the assets to be distributed with the assets
  • without an inventory, “pilfering” by relatives can happen before distribution
  • there may be internal disputes among heirs over heirlooms and family possessions
All these points are important. The fact is, whether you have a simple will in place or a revocable living trust, an inventory of your personal property assets will need to be completed so that your final state and federal forms can be filed.  Without those, the estate will not be released for distribution, Holton explains. Most executors and trustees find that the inventory of personal property is their most time-consuming task. And, if, as happens so often, the executor happens to live in another state, that makes completing the inventory an even more difficult task.

At Geyer Law, where we counsel and represent executors, personal representatives, trustees and beneficiaries on the proper settlement of estates and the administration of trusts, our goal is to minimize stress at an already difficult time.

Services we regularly provide for clients in this practice area include:
  • commencing probate proceedings
  • advising clients on the valuation and taxation of property interests
  • assisting with payment of claims
  • advising on title issues
  • completing beneficiary claim forms
  • preparing inheritance tax returns
  • closing the estate

    No doubt about it – everyone involved will have a much easier time if you have an updated comprehensive personal property inventory in place!

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

In Estate Planning, Only a Person Can Do a Stretch

“While the basic intent of having a retirement account is to save for and finance retirement years, many individuals have other financial resources and prefer to leave the tax-deferred assets to their beneficiaries,” Investopedia explains. But can they do that? That depends on the way the IRA beneficiary designations are set up.

The concept is called “stretch IRA”, and the idea is for the IRA to be passed on from generation to generation without the beneficiary needing to pay tax on the entire amount all at once. Properly set up, a stretch provision can allow a beneficiary to designate a second-generation beneficiary, and even a third and fourth. If there is no contingent beneficiary named on the IRA document, though, there can be no stretch after the original beneficiary has died. That’s because an estate has no “life expectancy”.

At Geyer Law, we remind estate planning clients that a “stretch” is not a specific type of IRA. It’s a strategy for stretching out the tax advantages of an IRA, giving the money in the account more time to grow tax-deferred. With a traditional IRA account, the owner must begin taking required minimum distributions (RMDs) by April 1 of the year after turning 70½.  When the IRA owner dies, non-spousal heirs have to take their own RMDs based on their own life expectancies. Of course, the younger the beneficiary, the lower the RMD, which allows more funds to remain in the IRA and grow.

An important service we provide to our clients is to keep them up-to-date on changes in the law that can affect their estate plans. We were happy that under the latest tax law change, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the stretch IRA was allowed to continue. But, as is pointed out in, “This shrewd strategy requires careful steps, and a stretch IRA really begins its existence when heirs named on the IRA beneficiary form divide an inherited IRA among themselves.

Despite the enormous advantages to be gained through “stretching” an IRA as part of smart estate planning, as long as the IRA owners themselves are alive, MainStart Trust reminds clients, having a “stretch” provision does not excuse them from taking Required Minimum Distributions based on their own life expectancy. While at Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates, we do not prepare taxes, tax law and estate planning overlap. Just as tax attorneys and CPAs must regularly take into account their clients’ estate planning goals, we as estate planning and elder law attorneys must think about the tax ramifications of the planning we do with our clients.

Bottom line message about IRAS: It’s important to name contingent beneficiaries, because in estate planning, only a person can do a stretch!

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Gifts of Estate Planning Must Be Given With Care

“The best gift a parent can give their child for 2019 is to help them organize and manage their affairs,” Megan Gorman writes in Forbes. That, in fact, is precisely what 67% of Boomer parents would like to do for their adult children. “Boomers who have managed their finances in an organized manner want to be sure that their intent and hard work doesn’t go to waste,” Gorman says.

One area about which Boomers often complain to their advisors, the author notes (an observation borne out by our attorneys at Geyer Law) is that the children aren’t doing the things their parents ask them to in terms of planning. But family dynamics can pose a challenge, and parents who want to pay for an adult child’s estate plan need to broach the subject with care and with good timing, Gorman cautions. What’s more, even though parents may have paid for the estate planning, those parents need to understand that attorneys will not be able to share the contents of their children’s documents with them.

Regardless of who the payer is, and regardless for whom the planning is being done, at Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates we provide in-depth counseling with an eye to clients’ current needs, as well as to potential changes in their circumstances.
Gen Xers and Millenials, Gorman reminds parents, are often overwhelmed by debt and struggling to get their day-to-day financial lives in order, so that the offer of a gift of estate planning attorney fees might trigger resentment rather than the desired result. Adult children need to feel they are given a voice in advance of a family meeting or discussion, she advises.

As Indiana estate planning attorneys, our objective is to take the mystery out of the estate planning process. “Framing” the process of creating their own estate plan as a way for children to help give their parents peace of mind can sometimes smooth the path towards the desired result.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Cremation Isn't a One-Step Estate Planning Decision

There has been a rapid shift in preference from traditional burial in a casket to cremation, David Ring, president of Indiana Funeral Care, points out in Senior Life. But then what? Do you want your cremains:
  • buried in a cemetery close to relatives?
  • scattered at a place special to you and to family members?
What about a service? Ring asks.  Family members and friends will want to recognize and celebrate your life. Options include:
  • a traditional funeral with a casket, with cremation to follow
  • memorial service with your favorite songs, recognition of your favorite hobbies
“Discuss your preferences with your family so your remains don’t end up abandoned at a funeral home,” Ring advises. People who make pre-arrangements make wiser decisions and spend less money, earning the gratitude of survivors.

At Geyer Law, where we guide clients in developing their estate plans, we know just how important advance planning to those clients’ survivors. Our work in estate administration involves the legal process of transferring assets from the name of the diseased person to those inheriting the assets.  In settling the estate and administering trusts we find ourselves working with:
  • executors
  • personal representatives
  • trustees
  • beneficiaries
The goal, of course, is to resolve all matters as promptly as possible and to minimize stress at an already difficult time. The more a client’s wishes have been made clear while living, the better.

Often, our attorneys find, individuals do not know where to begin when someone dies. We provide full-service estate administration services to guide families through the process from start to finish. There’s a lot to do, including:
  • commencing probate proceedings
  • dealing with the valuation and taxation of property interests
  • assisting with the evaluation and orderly payment of claims
  • preparing inheritance tax returns
  • closing the estate
If some of the “simpler” decisions about burial or cremation have been made clear before death, that can obviously go a long way towards easing the burden of estate settlement on those left behind.