No Kids? An Estate Plan is Still Important

hoffmankimcolorThere are certain times in life where the need for a proper estate plan is so clear, its like the wail of a newborn at 3AM.  How will that child be cared for if something happened to you?

But what if you do not have children?  The answer may not be as clear, but it is no less important.

If you do not specify in a proper Will or Trust to whom and how your want your assets disposed of at your death, the State will do so for you.  Generally, the State will find your closest heirs and divide your assets among them.  Sound ok since that’s where you would send your assets anyway?  Then you should know that intestate (without a will) probate proceedings tend to be much more costly and time consuming than proceedings with a properly drafted Will.  The urgency is even greater when you do not want your brother and his kids to inherit your assets.  To direct otherwise requires an estate plan.

An estate plan is more than just a will though.  A Healthcare Directive and a well-drafted Power of Attorney are key components to a basic estate plan.  A Healthcare Directive names someone to make medical decisions for you in the event you cannot do so, it grants such person authorization to access your medical records under HIPAA, and it may include preferences for end of life care in the event of a terminal condition.  These directives make it much easier on loved ones to properly care for you in the event you can no longer communicate your medical preferences.  Anyone over the age of 18 needs a Healthcare Directive.  A parent no longer has automatic access to the medical records of their children after age 18, but so often an 18 year old is still under the care (financially, and otherwise) of their parent.

The last leg of the stool is a properly drafted General Power of Attorney.  These may be drafted to be “springing”; so that they spring into effect only upon incapacity.  Then, in the event of incapacity, you have previously named a trusted individual to manage your financial and personal affairs.  Should incapacity occur without a Power of Attorney in place, a court may appoint a Guardian or Conservator after an administrative process.

These Powers of Attorney and Healthcare Directives are essential documents, even for those individuals who do not feel a will is necessary because they have no children.  We, of course, still disagree with that notion, and we will be glad to discuss how each of these components of a good estate plan fit your specific needs.

For more information regarding this or any other estate planning concern, please visit the Hoffman & Associates website at www.hoffmanestatelaw.com, call us at 404-255-7400 or send us an email.

 

Estate Planning with Retirement Accounts

CassandraOne estate planning nuance is “beneficiary designation assets.”  These are assets that are distributed at death to the person named on a beneficiary designation form, and do not follow the direction of the will.  These assets may be life insurance, joint or pay-on-death bank accounts, joint or pay-on-death investment accounts and retirement accounts.  During the initial meeting, it is important to discuss the client’s assets and these accounts in particular.  If family dynamic has changed, be it from a divorce, death in the family or simply the fact that once small children are now adults, these beneficiary designations may need to be updated.  These assets pass outside of probate.  Essentially when the account holder dies, upon confirmation of death, the entity which holds the account simply distributes the assets to the named beneficiary.

Retirement accounts (IRAs, 401k plans and the like) are special, however, because they typically allow beneficiaries to prolong withdrawal if properly handled.  If the plan allows, beneficiaries may elect to use their own life expectancy in calculating the minimum amount of money which must be distributed each year (this is also called “minimum required distributions”).  This is beneficial because it allows a beneficiary to prolong to amount of time the money is in the retirement account, allowing additional potentially tax free growth.

While many individuals choose to leave their retirement accounts to an individual beneficiary, i.e. their spouse or children, there may be good reason to leave such assets in trust.  Trusts offer many benefits, including asset protection, especially with the recent Supreme Court decision in Clark v. Rameker, 134 S. Ct. 2242 (2014), in which the Court found that a non-spouse beneficiary’s inherited IRA was not exempt from the beneficiary’s creditors in his bankruptcy estate.

In order to fully take advantage of both the protection a trust offers and the beneficiary’s life expectancy, the trust must be carefully drafted.  Such trusts are referred to as “see-through” trusts because the language directs the retirement plan to look through the trust at the beneficiary individually to determine life expectancy.  If the trust runs afoul of the rules, however, the consequences are harsh.  The trust and its beneficiary’s life expectancy are disregarded and the “5-year rule” applies, requiring a full distribution of the retirement plan assets within 5 year.

This is one of the many reasons it is important to have an attorney who is familiar with these rules to assist you with carefully drafting your estate plan.  We would be happy to work with you and your family to craft an estate plan which achieves your goals.

For more information regarding this or any other estate planning concern, please visit the Hoffman & Associates website at www.hoffmanestatelaw.com, call us at 404-255-7400 or send us an email.

Hoffman & Associates Announces its Newest Partner, Kim Hoipkemier

hoffmankimcolorHoffman & Associates is proud to announce that Kim Hoipkemier has become a partner of the firm effective January 1, 2015.  Kim joined H&A in 2011 bringing with her extensive experience in estate planning and representation of high end clients.  She currently specializes in the areas of wills, trusts, estate administration and probate.

“Kim has become engaged in our practice in a relatively short period of time and helps define our compelling brand to clients, vendors and other professionals”, commented Mike Hoffman, founding and managing partner.  “Kim has built a solid foundation in estate planning and her contributions make us a better firm.”

Mrs. Hoipkemier is a magna cum laude undergrad from the University of Georgia and a cum laude graduate from the University of Georgia School of  Law.  She is a member of the Fiduciary Law Section of the State Bar of Georgia and a member of the Wills Clinic through the State Bar of Georgia Young Lawyers Division.

About Hoffman & Associates

Hoffman & Associates is a boutique law firm established in 1991 specializing in estate planning and probate and tax and business law. Expertise in these areas comes from a dedicated staff of both attorneys and CPAs delivering personalized service and sound financial guidance.   Hoffman & Associates prides itself in having a standalone tax practice and attorneys licensed in Georgia, Florida, North Carolina and Tennessee.

Musings from the CEO – Summer 2014

Mike HoffmanI saw a headline the other day that declared “Why You Should Update Your Estate Plan”. Now, there is a topic that I could write a book about!

I have heard statistics that up to 80% of Americans either have no Will, or some attempt at a Last Will and Testament that is sorely inadequate. The basic core documents that everyone needs are a Will, a General Power of Attorney (that kicks-in upon disability or incapacity), and a Health Care Directive. Once these documents are in place, they need to be reviewed periodically. Obviously, tax laws and family circumstances change. Also, more and more people move because of job changes, they retire to another part of the country, or they move closer to their kids and grandchildren.

A little over two years ago, the $5,000,000 estate tax exemption became “permanent”. This does not mean that it won’t change, and in fact, it does change by going up a little bit each year. Going from $600,000 (the exemption in the ‘90’s) to $5,000,000 took most of us off the estate tax paying rolls and did change the focus of a lot of estate planners. We generally pay more attention to income tax matters than we did before. For instance, if a married couple has over $10,000,000 of exemption available, rather than trying to get everything out of their taxable estates, we would like for at least that much property to go to their heirs from their estates (after death), therefore, with a brand new income tax basis.

I read that one commentator expressed that an estate plan is not meant to be put in a time capsule and to be opened and dissected at death. An estate plan will change and evolve. There are many things that can be accomplished with a comprehensive estate plan. Not only are we saving estate taxes, income taxes, and probate costs, we are protecting assets, providing sound management of assets, and taking care of other responsibilities.

How are we leaving assets to our spouse and descendants? Can we be better stewards of our wealth by considering appropriate planning techniques, such as trusts?

It is important to periodically check the ownership and beneficiary designations of life insurance policies to make sure that these liquid assets will be handled appropriately. It is extremely important to review beneficiary designations on IRA accounts and other retirement plan assets. Not only do you want to make sure the assets go where you intend, but you want to maximize potential tax savings.

The ownership of all assets ought to be reviewed periodically. There are several types of joint ownership that have different consequences for estate planning and tax purposes. It is not just deeds for real property that should be checked, but it’s also important to understand how the titling of your investment accounts can affect the treatment of your assets at death.

If you own property in other jurisdictions, such as a house at the beach or in the mountains, this can complicate probate matters for the family. It is a relatively simple matter to use one of several techniques to remove that particular asset from your probate estate, potentially saving a great deal of time, money and aggravation for your spouse and descendants.

Most family/closely-held businesses do not have a succession plan or an exit strategy. This is particularly concerning when it is that family business that created the wealth. Will the business suffer a potential loss of value to the family when the patriarch or matriarch is no longer in the picture?

There are countless reasons why you should update your estate plan. First and foremost, make sure you have an estate plan. A failure to plan is a plan to fail.

 

For more information regarding this or any other estate planning concern, please visit the Hoffman & Associates website at www.hoffmanestatelaw.com, call us at 404-255-7400 or send us an email.

In accordance with IRS Circular 230, this article is not to be considered a “covered opinion” or other written tax advice and should not be relied upon for IRS audit, tax dispute, or any other purpose. The information contained herein is provided “as is” for general guidance on matters of interest only. Hoffman & Associates, Attorneys-at-Law, LLC is not herein engaged in rendering legal, accounting, tax, or other professional advice and services. Before making any decision or taking any action, you should consult a competent professional advisor.

Wealth Transfer Strategies

Kim 1Wealth transfer strategies are at the core of our business.  This recent article featured in Business Week  is an excellent example of various wealth transfer strategies used by billionaire families.  You don’t have to be the Waltons to benefit from such strategies, so let us help you incorporate these strategies into your estate plan today.

How Wal-Mart’s Waltons Maintain Their Billionaire Fortune

For more information regarding this or any other estate planning concern, please visit the Hoffman & Associates website at www.hoffmanestatelaw.com, call us at 404-255-7400 or send us an email.

In accordance with IRS Circular 230, this article is not to be considered a “covered opinion” or other written tax advice and should not be relied upon for IRS audit, tax dispute, or any other purpose. The information contained herein is provided “as is” for general guidance on matters of interest only. Hoffman & Associates, Attorneys-at-Law, LLC is not herein engaged in rendering legal, accounting, tax, or other professional advice and services. Before making any decision or taking any action, you should consult a competent professional advisor.

 

 

 

 

Legal Matters in Starting Your Business

Mike_Hoffman_17Join Mike Hoffman in this 74 minute audio as he hosts the 11th session of the 24 hour MBA in discussing how to get your business off the ground.  There are many different legal options in starting a business, and in this audio session, you will understand the best way to start your business and keep it successful for future generations.  24hrmba-11.mp3

 

Russ Thornton Interviews Kim Hoipkemier

Kim New

Download Audio File

Musings from the CEO (Spring 2013)

Estate Planning has evolved significantly over the last several years.  In recent months, we have seen the estate tax exemption become “permanent” at $5,250,000 per person, and it will continue to adjust with inflation.  We have also seen the lifetime gift tax exemption and generation-skipping transfer tax exemption be permanently increased to keep pace with the “new” estate tax exemption.  An obvious effect of this development is that a significant number of estates will be able to pass to the next generation without transfer taxes.  A married couple can now pass at least $10,500,000 of wealth to their children before their estates are hit with the still significant 40% tax rate.

Congress has also made “portability” permanent, which means that any unused exemption when the first spouse dies is carried over to the estate of the surviving spouse.  Prudent planning generally does not rely on portability, since it is sabotaged by the subsequent marriage of the surviving spouse and does not apply to generation-skipping transfer tax.

The focus of seasoned estate planning techniques will continue for the more wealthy.  Estate planning should become less costly and complicated for most Americans, however, Hoffman & Associates will still focus on a significant use of dynasty trusts for a plethora of reasons.  These include not only potential estate tax savings, but also income tax flexibility, asset protection from creditors, preservation of family wealth in the bloodline, protection from divorce, and simplifying probate.  Dynasty trusts, however, are under scrutiny and threat as the Obama Administration pushes its agenda.  While most states are extending the period of time that trusts can hold property, there are proposals to limit that duration for transfer tax (and other?) purposes.

Joe Nagel’s article in this Newsletter is a good reminder to us of the many reasons for estate planning, most of which are not focused on taxes.  We want to be good stewards of our assets.

At Hoffman & Associates our practice will continue to focus on estate planning techniques and working with clients to accomplish their estate planning objectives, with significant focus on succession planning for family businesses and asset protection.

We are seeing an increased focus on elder law matters.  As our client base gets older and the imminent demographics of the country are affected by the baby boomers and their parents, medical technology and a focus on general health issues constantly increase our life expectancies.

As income tax rates continue increasing, we are witnessing a rekindling of our clients’ focus on income tax planning.  This is “back to the basics” for a tax planning firm like Hoffman & Associates.  We continue to focus on important decisions about retirement plans, social security, tax deductions, and the tax sensitive nature of investments on behalf of our clients.

Kim Hoipkemier’s article this month highlights a focus area of Hoffman & Associates, namely, Estate Planning for Women.  Again, demographics, the economy, education and corporate America recognizes that women continue to live longer, earn more, and prosper, with the ever increasing responsibility to juggle and manage family and wealth.

Finally, at Hoffman & Associates we have begun a new area of service for our clients, as their situations demand new and flexible assistance to help them manage their daily financial lives.  The Hoffman Family Office (HFO) services include record keeping, bill paying, bookkeeping, budgeting, investment analysis, insurance analysis/shopping, and family philanthropy matters.  Whether it is the overwhelmed widow, the busy corporate executive, or the family that wants to responsibly out-source some of their financial tedium to their trusted advisors, we want to fill the vacuum by providing such help from the Firm they have trusted with so many other important areas of their planning and financial well-being.  Carolina Gomez of our office has been busy defining the areas where HFO can make a difference, and is ready to talk to you about any area you think HFO may be of assistance.

These are interesting times, and I choose to believe we are at the beginning of good times.  While we are clawing out of a recession, and Washington, DC has us constantly on pins and needles, the economy is generally getting better, unemployment is generally not increasing, and our clients generally are in an upswing in their attitudes and well-beings.  We want to be here for those who need assistance, whether it is planning for them or an elderly family member, assisting with the growth and success of their business, or simply to put their mind at ease that they have satisfactorily addressed planning considerations within their realm of influence.  Let us hear from you!

 

 

For more information regarding estate planning, business law or tax controversy and compliance, please visit the Hoffman & Associates website at www.hoffmanestatelaw.com or call us at 404-255-7400.

 

In accordance with IRS Circular 230, this article is not to be considered a “covered opinion” or other written tax advice and should not be relied upon for IRS audit, tax dispute, or any other purpose. The information contained herein is provided “as is” for general guidance on matters of interest only. Hoffman & Associates, Attorneys-at-Law, LLC is not herein engaged in rendering legal, accounting, tax, or other professional advice and services. Before making any decision or taking any action, you should consult a competent professional advisor.

Estate Planning for Women

Women are a powerful financial force in today’s economy as they independently earn, manage, and distribute more wealth than ever before.  That’s why at Hoffman & Associates we  feel it’s important for women to take control of their long term financial security and develop a proper estate plan.  A successful estate plan is one that helps protect and preserve your wealth, gives you control over financial matters, ensures children and elders are taken care of, and honors your strong charitable passions.

Today, women face many challenges whether married, divorced, single or widowed, including a possible lack of financial know-how, lower lifetime wages and compensation, and greater responsibility for caretaking of children and elders.  Why are women unique when it comes to estate planning?  First, because women generally outlive men by five to seven years, and the average age of a widow is merely 56 years young.  Some of these single women are faced with managing thousands and even millions in assets without ever balancing a checkbook.  For single working women, compensation is also a major obstacle as women tend to earn less over their lifetime as compared to men and many take time off during child-bearing years, which may affect social security and pension benefits.   Another challenge unique to women is their tendancy to be the main caregivers in the family, making it critical to develop a comprehensive plan for the care of minor and special needs children, as well as elderly parents.  Finally, women generally harbor more charitable inclinations than men making it a priority for them to consider philanthropy and giving as part of their estate plan.

Here is a  checklist women can use in developing a successful estate plan:

  • Become educated in the importance of tax planning, know the current tax laws, become familiar with exclusions and how to take advantage of them, investigate advanced estate planning tools and techniques, including trusts, gifting, and college savings plans.
  •  Create an itemized list of all property and debts, including, but not limited to, insurance policies, securities, bank accounts, real estate, jewelry and artwork, business interests, pension plans, IRAs, and other retirement benefits.
  •  Consult with appropriate advisors (estate planning attorney, CPA, financial advisor) and execute a Will to direct the disposition of your estate, designate who should be in charge, simplify probate, and name guardians for minor children.
  •  Consider a Trust for the protection of children and assets and to reduce the tax liability (income, gift and estate).
  •  Get general powers of attorney and advanced directives for healthcare in place.
  •  Create a viable plan to manage and preserve your estate, keeping in mind the changing exemption limits for passing assets.  Currently the permanent estate and gift tax exemption is $5,250,000.
  •  Consider having adequate life insurance in place to pay taxes if necessary and to help preserve your family’s lifestyle by paying for children’s education, mortgage expenses, taxes or other needs after your death.
  •  Record where a safe deposit box is located and maintain all important documents in an organized manner.  Maintain a written list of all current advisors and keep it with your  list of property and debts.
  •  Provide instructions regarding your funeral wishes and any prepaid funeral plans to whomever may be involved in making such arrangements.
  •  Consider charitable transfers to accomplish your estate planning goals. A charitable remainder trust, charitable lead trust, charitable gift annuity or outright gifts to any number of charities.
  •  If you are a business owner, plan for your business’ succession, so you are deciding who will manage your entity during illness, disability, or after death.

 

Although some women feel uncomfortable taking on financial responsibility for their  future and that of their heirs, we strongly urge every woman, whether married, single, divorced or widowed to take a careful look at their financial situation and plan accordingly. Married women should ensure their estate plan coincides with that of their husbands to adequately take advantage of tax considerations.  And since married women are more likely to outlive their husbands, they must be prepared to ultimately be responsible for the protection and distribution of all assets.  For many working women, their main concerns include retirement planning and long term financial security, guardianship for minor children, caretaking for elderly parents, lowering tax liability, and ensuring assets remain in the family bloodline. We encourage all women to consult with professional advisors to ensure adequate financial and estate plans are in place while also incorporating lifetime goals and wishes.  Hoffman & Associates has created specialized estate planning services  for women designed to address these specific needs.  For more information on our targeted services, please visit www.hoffmanestatelaw.com.

In accordance with IRS Circular 230, this article is not to be considered a “covered opinion” or other written tax advice and should not be relied upon for IRS audit, tax dispute, or any other purpose.  The information contained herein is provided “as is” for general guidance on matters of interest only.  Hoffman & Associates, Attorneys-at-Law, LLC is not herein engaged in rendering legal, accounting, tax, or other professional advice and services.  Before making any decision or taking any action, you should consult a competent professional advisor.

Procrastination: What Are The Consequences?

Currently, there are approximately 70% of Americans without a Will.  Without this basic estate planning document, your loved ones may pay the highest possible taxes upon your death, lose some of the assets you have earned during your lifetime, and will have to handle a much more complex administration of your estate.

By way of example, consider these famous deaths: Elvis Presley died suddenly at the age of 42 with an estate worth an estimated $10 million.  Of that amount, his daughter only received $3 million, as the other 70% was spent on estate taxes, administration costs and legal fees.  With a proper estate plan, Elvis’ daughter certainly would have received more than a mere third of her father’s wealth.

Famous for their chewing gum, the Wrigley family is another great example of a missed opportunity.  Both of William Wrigley’s parents died in 1977.  Their death gave Mr. Wrigley controlling interest in the Wrigley company, but it also left a significant estate tax burden due to the IRS.  The Wrigley’s had to sell their 80% stake in the Chicago Cubs for $20.5 million in 1981 to satisfy this debt.

Finally, Steve McNair, the famous NFL MVP, died in 2009 with an estate estimated to be worth $19 million but without even a simple will.  In attempts to settle his estate, his wife tried to sell his interest in a Nashville restaurant, his ranching and farming business as well as his Nashville home.  Not only did his murder shroud any hope of a amicable resolution of his estate, but the lack of any planning whatsoever left his wife and his children in a heated legal battle over the estate assets.

Although the most basic tenet of estate planning is a Will, the estate plan may and should encompass other aspects of your financial situation for when you pass.  Estate planning is thoughtful foresight that protects your family, provides for their future, and makes your wishes known.  If you pass without a Will in place, your assets will be distributed in accordance with State law in a process known as intestate succession.

Under the intestate succession laws in Georgia, a personal representative of the deceased is appointed by the Probate Court in order to marshal the assets, pay the debts and then distribute anything left over to the heirs.  Heirs are the closest relatives of the deceased, including the spouse, if living, and the children, including adopted and those born out of wedlock.  Stepchildren are not heirs.  Heirs of other degrees are determined if necessary.  A determination of the heirs is made by the Court, while your estate pays court fees, lawyer fees and other costs associated with probate handled by the Court and state law, rather than pursuant to your directions set forth in a Will. The Court and personal representative (which may or may not be a family member) may charge hefty fees (sometimes 5-15% of the value of the estate) to administer your estate.  Above all, this process takes time.  The probate of an estate handled by the court may take months longer than if you had clear, specific instructions regarding the distribution of your estate in a Will.

Having a Will does not avoid the probate process; rather, a Will is followed by the Court to determine who receives what property, who is appointed guardian of any minor children and who will be responsible for carrying out the wishes contained in the Will.

In order to ease the administrative burden on your family at your death and to save time and money on court costs and fees, you should plan accordingly now by contacting professionals who can help, such as an estate planning attorney, a financial planner, a CPA, and an insurance agent.  All can work together to help you prepare a plan that fits your family’s needs.  An exhaustive plan put in place by each of these professionals can also ensure you are taking advantage of any and all tax savings’ tools available to you.

Consider the following goals when thinking about your estate plan:

  • Determining who receives what share of your assets.
  • Deciding who will manage your estate and be responsible for distribution of the assets.
  • Selecting a guardian for your children.
  • If you own or control a business, providing for a smooth transition of management into the hands of persons who will effectively manage the business.
  • Arranging your affairs so that the chance for disputes among your heirs is minimized.
  • Making sure that your heirs can live with the estate plan. A plan that cannot respond to changes in the economy, or to unanticipated events, can burden the family.
  • For individuals with charitable wishes, making sure that your vision will be fulfilled.

With these overall goals in mind, it is important to move forward in developing an estate plan that fits your family’s needs.  At Hoffman & Associates, we define a basic estate plan as having the following essential components:

For individuals and families who are of higher net-worth, additional planning techniques may be introduced in order to reduce the estate taxes due upon death and take advantage of other tax savings strategies during your life.  Some of these techniques include:

 

For more information regarding estate planning, business law or tax controversy and  compliance, please visit the Hoffman & Associates website at www.hoffmanestatelaw.com or call us at 404-255-7400.

 

In accordance with IRS Circular 230, this article is not to be considered a “covered opinion” or other written tax advice and should not be relied upon for IRS audit, tax dispute, or any other purpose.  The information contained herein is provided “as is” for general guidance on matters of interest only.  Hoffman & Associates, Attorneys-at-Law, LLC is not herein engaged in rendering legal, accounting, tax, or other professional advice and services.  Before making any decision or taking any action, you should consult a competent professional advisor.

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