A Lesson Learned from the Bobbi Kristina Tragedy

We have all seen the headlines about Bobbi Kristina Brown, the daughter of the illustrious Whitney Houston, and her tragic death.  After being found unconscious in the bathtub of her Roswell, Georgia townhome, she was admitted to the hospital and placed in a medically induced coma for months before being transferred to hospice and subsequently passing away.  Her death is tragic for many reasons: her young age, the eerie similarities between her death and her mother’s, the allegations of domestic abuse, and the immediate fight among family members to gain control over her care and her assets.  With proper estate planning, at least the last tragedy would have been avoided.

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Hoffman & Associates Announces its Newest Associate

CassandraAtlanta, GA, Oct 15, 2015 – Hoffman & Associates is proud to announce its newest associate, Cassandra Ceron.  Cassandra joined the firm in May 2015 and specializes in the areas of wills, trusts, estate administration and probate, and guardianship/conservatorship of incapacitated adults. Cassandra’s past experience in family and domestic  law enables her to assist blended families in navigating their estate plan. Cassandra graduated cum laude, and with pro bono distinction, from Georgia State University College of Law and has an undergraduate business degree, cum laude, from Kennesaw State University.

Cassandra is a member of both the Estate Planning & Probate and Family Law Sections of the Atlanta Bar Association and the Young Lawyers Division and the Family Law Section of the  Georgia Bar Association. Cassandra lives in Marietta with her husband and two young children.

About Hoffman & Associates

Hoffman & Associates specializes in estate planning for wealthy families, business and tax law for closely-held businesses, and tax compliance.  Expertise in these areas comes from a dedicated staff of both attorneys and CPAs delivering personalized service and sound legal guidance.  Established in 1991, Hoffman & Associates prides itself in having a standalone tax practice and attorneys licensed in Georgia, Florida, North Carolina and Tennessee.

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.

H&A Helps Clients “Step-Up”!

Brusco PhotoClients of Hoffman & Associates truly “step-up” as part of the firm’s ongoing Codicil Project.  This initiative is helping clients save a substantial amount of money in taxes by offering them the opportunity to amend their Wills and achieve a second “step- up” in basis on assets in the estate of the surviving spouse.  “Due to the changes in tax law brought about by the “Tax Relief Act of 2012″, many of our clients are now focused on income tax planning rather than on estate tax planning” states Rhiannon Brusco, Associate at H&A.  “By securing a “step-up” in basis, clients can save their beneficiaries significant money in capital gains taxes because assets are passed at their current fair market value and not at their value when initially acquired by the decedent.”  What does this mean in lay terms? Well, it means that the second home or rental property that mom and dad bought back in 1975 for $50,000 and left to their children in their Will, is now valued at $250,000.  Rather than paying taxes on the $200,000 appreciated value, the “codicil project” assures the children can sell the home using the stepped-up basis of $250,000 and only owe capital gains tax on gain over that higher basis. For more information about Hoffman & Associates, please visit our website at www.hoffmanestatelaw.com or call us at 404-255-7400.

 

Update to the “DOMA” Ruling

The Treasury Department announced on August 29th that legally married same-sex couples will be treated as married for federal tax purposes regardless of what state they live in starting Sept. 16th, 2013.  Any same-sex couple legally married in a jurisdiction that allows it has the freedom to move to other states that don’t allow it and the federal government will recognize the marriage for tax purposes.

“Today’s ruling provides certainty and clear, coherent tax filing guidance for all legally married same-sex couples nationwide. It provides access to benefits, responsibilities and protections under federal tax law that all Americans deserve,” Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said in a statement. “This ruling also assures legally married same-sex couples that they can move freely throughout the country knowing that their federal filing status will not change.”

However, this ruling will not apply to same-sex couples in states that don’t allow same-sex marriage for social security purposes.  It will also not apply to those same-sex couples in domestic partnerships or same-sex unions.

On June 26, 2013 the Supreme Court of the United States held Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”) unconstitutional “as a deprivation of the liberty of the person protected by the Fifth Amendment” in United States v. Windsor, an estate tax case.  As a result, the federal government must henceforth recognize same-sex marriages as valid if they are conducted lawfully in a state that allows them.  This means that legally married same-sex couples will be able to file joint income tax returns and will qualify for other income and estate tax benefits previously associated with marriage between a man and a woman.

However, the DOMA ruling does not mean that states have to recognize same-sex marriage.  Georgia has a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.  Therefore, same-sex couples in Georgia remain under the same rules that existed prior to the DOMA ruling.  That is, same-sex couples may not file joint Georgia income tax returns.  Further, a same-sex partner will not be treated as next of kin for purposes of medical decision making or sharing of medical information under HIPAA.  Likewise, it will remain difficult for a same-sex partner to get appointed as guardian or conservator of their partner without proper estate planning documents.

Regardless of a same-sex couple’s marital status in Georgia, well drafted estate planning documents, including wills, health care directives and financial powers of attorney, can incorporate many of the otherwise available benefits for same-sex couples.

 

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.

Understanding the DOMA Ruling

On June 26, 2013 the Supreme Court of the United States held Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”) unconstitutional “as a deprivation of the liberty of the person protected by the Fifth Amendment” in United States v. Windsor, an estate tax case.  As a result, the federal government must henceforth recognize same-sex marriages as valid if they are conducted lawfully in a state that allows them.    This means that legally married same-sex couples will be able to file joint income tax returns and will qualify for other income and estate tax benefits previously associated with marriage between a man and a woman.

However, the DOMA ruling does not mean that states have to recognize same-sex marriage.  Georgia has a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.  Therefore, same-sex couples in Georgia remain under the same rules that existed prior to the DOMA ruling.  That is, same-sex couples may not file joint Georgia income tax returns.  Further, a same-sex partner will not be treated as next of kin for purposes of medical decision making or sharing of medical information under HIPAA.  Likewise, it will remain difficult for a same-sex partner to get appointed as guardian or conservator of their partner without proper estate planning documents.

But what if Georgia same-sex couples legally get married in another state or move to Georgia from another state where they were legally married?  Well, no one is really sure what that means for them on a federal level.

“I think (the ruling) gives a false confidence that everything is taken care of and it’s not,” University of Florida Estate Planning Professor Lee-Ford Tritt told the Tampa Bay Times. “It’s going to be very confusing for people.”

For federal income taxes, it seems like the IRS will need to change its policy on filing jointly since it currently considers a state of residence.  This appears to be something that can be administratively fixed.  The status of many other federal benefits is still uncertain in a situation like this.

Regardless of a same-sex couple’s marital status in Georgia, well drafted estate planning documents, including wills, health care directives and financial powers of attorney, can incorporate many of the otherwise available benefits for same-sex couples.

 

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.

 

Why Purchase a Film Tax Credit?

Perhaps you’ve seen movie cameras, crews, and even movie stars around town.  Maybe you’ve wondered why so many studios would choose Georgia to film.  It all comes down to one of life’s certainties: taxes.

Georgia began offering a tax credit for film studios in 2005 to bring jobs and expenditures into the state.  Companies producing feature films, television series, music videos and commercials, as well as interactive games and animation can receive up to a 30% credit against Georgia income depending on their film activities in the state.  Now how does that affect you?  The Georgia legislature made the credits transferable.  Anyone can purchase them.

There is a State Tax Credit Exchange that has been set up specifically for film companies who wish to sell their credits to willing buyers.  Many of the film companies do not have much Georgia income tax liability, so they sell the credits at a discount to those who can use them.  The discounts vary depending on supply and demand, but generally sell at a rate between 8% and 15%.

For example, if your Georgia income tax liability is $10,000 you may be able to purchase a film tax credit for $8,500-$9,200, which would offset your entire liability while costing you less.  There is low risk in this transaction as the Georgia legislature specifically authorized it.  Even if your state income tax liability is not that high, you can carry the credit forward for up to five years.

If you are interested in using Georgia Entertainment Tax Credits, give Hoffman & Associates, Attorneys-at-Law, L.L.C. a call for more information.

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.

Last Will and Testament

A Will is a basic estate planning document that provides for the distribution and disposition of property and personal assets of an individual after death.  A Will becomes effective upon death; therefore, it may be changed at any time prior to death.  It should also be periodically reviewed to be sure it applies to the maker’s current personal and family situation.  A Will may contain general or specific provisions regarding the care and distribution of property, the distribution of disclaimed property, recommendations for guardians of minor children, the appointment of executors to administer the Will and express desires and guidance regarding the administration of the estate.  Finally, the Will may establish trusts for the benefit of loved ones or charities and trustees to manage these trusts.

The design of our preferred Will for single-marriage clients creates two trusts at the death of the first spouse:  a Marital Trust and a Credit Shelter Trust.   At the death of the first spouse, the Credit Shelter Trust is funded with enough assets to capture the first-to-die spouse’s federal estate tax exclusion amount, and the remaining assets, if any, fund the Marital Trust.

The Marital Trust is funded with any amounts over the exclusion amount because the (100%) Marital Deduction allows an unlimited amount of assets to be transferred to a spouse upon death tax-free.  This structure provides for the benefit of both estate tax exclusions:  initially the federally-provided exclusion, whatever that may be in the year of death, and the marital exclusion for all assets above that amount.  Thus, no estate taxes are due at the death of the first spouse.

While it seems complicated, please keep in mind that the surviving spouse may have control over all of the assets of each Trust, as the Trustee of the Trusts, and would also be the primary beneficiary of the Trusts.

In the event one or both spouses are not U.S. Citizens, additional language must be added to the Will to ensure the couple receives the full benefits of the U.S. estate tax laws.

When children inherit property, we prefer a descendants’ trust created by the Will at the death of the second spouse.  This allows the assets to pass, in trust, to children and future descendants.  This format protects the assets from future estate taxes, creditor issues, divorce or other claims against the descendants.  The descendant, just like the surviving spouse above, upon reaching a certain age, may be the trustee of their trust and will be the primary beneficiary of his/her trust.

 

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.

Irrevocable Trusts

Irrevocable trusts are important and useful tools for estate planning.  An irrevocable trust is a financial arrangement in which the grantor relinquishes ownership and control of some property, assets or other funds and transfers them to the trust. An irrevocable trust cannot be revoked, modified, or terminated by the grantor once created; and, once transferred into the trust, the grantor surrenders rights to those funds or assets.  These transfers to the trusts are considered gifts.

Irrevocable trusts offer many tax advantages. An irrevocable trust permits the grantor to donate assets and other property to be held by the trust for the benefit of named beneficiaries.  The transfers can be made during the grantor’s life in order to take advantage of gift tax benefits, and such transfers can be structured so that they are income tax advantageous as well.  The beneficiaries are entitled to the trust property when and if needed, and the grantor can govern how and when any distributions are made when creating the trust agreement. The trust is a separate entity which may produce income based on the assets it holds.  Depending on the type of trust, it may be considered a separate taxpayer and may owe taxes on any accumulated income or holdings. An irrevocable trust generally receives a deduction from income that is regularly disbursed to the beneficiaries, and the beneficiaries will then be responsible for the income taxes related to that income.

Two of the most common irrevocable trusts are 1) those designed to hold life insurance policies outside of an individual’s estate (often referred to as an Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust, or ILIT) and 2) those designed to remove property from an individual’s estate for later distribution to a charity (often referred to as a CRT, CRAT or CRUT).

1)              Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust (ILIT):  Here a donor transfers existing life insurance policies, subject to a 3-year transfer rule, or authorizes the trustee to purchase life insurance and hold it in the name of the trust (or trustee).  By having the trust own the insurance policy, the policy amount will not be included in the grantor’s taxable estate upon his or her death.  If designed properly, this type of irrevocable trust may also be used to hold other assets.  Donations made to the trust can be withdrawn by the beneficiaries, subject to the annual exclusion, and the donations, if rejected, can be used to pay the insurance premiums.  Upon the death of the insured, the proceeds of the policy can be distributed to the beneficiaries or used to purchase assets from the estate of the insured and thereby providing cash to be used by the estate.

2)              A Charitable Remainder Trust (either a Unitrust or an Annuity Trust) is used to hold cash and/or property where the donor receives an annuity payment from the trust either for a specific term or for life.  Upon the death of the donor, the remainder interest in the property passes to the charity specified by the donor.

There are numerous types of irrevocable trusts to fit a client’s specific needs.  Give us a call to discuss whether an Irrevocable Trust is right for your situation.

 

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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