Should You Plan Your Estate Like Aaron Hernandez?

Have you ever considered creating a Trust for your heirs? A properly drafted and managed irrevocable trust can protect your hard-earned assets from certain creditors.

Former New England Patriot Aaron Hernandez may have left hidden wealth for his 5-year-old daughter beyond the reach of his creditors in a trust he set up before his prison suicide.

The “AJH Irrevocable Trust” came to light in documents filed in Bristol Probate and Family Court by attorney John G. Dugan, the special representative of Hernandez’s purportedly destitute estate.

Since Hernandez owed substantially more in debts than he had in assets, his estate is likely insolvent. Although a probate court has the power to provide a family allowance for minor children of a deceased person, often creditors will aggressively pursue assets contained in someone’s estate. 

Creating an irrevocable trust allows you to provide for your future heirs and separate assets from your taxable estate. 

Feel like an irrevocable trust is right for you? Set up an appointment at 817.638.9016.

What is a Medicaid Trust and How Can it Protect Your Legacy?

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Long-term medical care is expensive, and there is no indication that trend will reverse itself anytime soon. The national median cost of long term care is $44000-$91000. If you don’t have this saved away, you aren’t alone. There are governmental programs that help you pay for those types of programs, but they require planning. That means you need to be proactive in considering the implications of long-term medical care costs when crafting your estate plan. Many people find themselves falling short of the funds needed to pay for increasingly costly long-term care but still having too many assets to qualify for Medicaid funds to help cover those costs. This no-man’s land is a place no one wants to be. Thus the name. A recent article from Marketwatch.com provides some information on Medicaid trusts, estate planning tools that can help you navigate the high cost of long-term care insurance while still holding onto important assets you want to pass to your heirs. Here are some highlights.

Medicaid “Look-Back” Rules

One of the reasons that you should start planning for long-term care costs as soon as possible is the existence of Medicaid “look-back” rules. Right now, Medicaid looks at any major gift you’ve given in the last five years. Gift is used in a loose sense. Any major transfer is likely to be scrutinized. My partner, Rick Weaver, always says “treat a Medicaid application like your tax return with a 100% chance of audit.” These rules mean that even if you are able to prove your eligibility for Medicaid today, you will still be required to have been eligible for each of the past five (5) years, too. If you find yourself in a situation where you are facing heightened medical costs, especially from unanticipated long-term care needs, you will not simply be able to transfer assets somewhere else to qualify. The earlier you start planning, the more secure you can be in your ability to qualify for potentially necessary Medicaid funds when it comes to your long-term care plans.

Basics of Medicaid Trusts

Medicaid trusts must be irrevocable trusts. That means that once you establish them, you generally cannot revoke or modify them. The reason for this is fairly obvious. Medicaid doesn’t want to transferring funds with an ability to liquidate those funds down the road. These Medicaid trusts work by transferring ownership from you and your estate to the trust itself so that assets you decide to place in the trust are not counted when determining your eligibility for Medicaid funding. The individual creating the trust cannot be the trustee of the trust, which means that you are essentially handing over control of the assets you assign to a Medicaid trust to the individual you decide to name as trustee. It is important to make sure you appoint someone that you trust and that you know will manage the assets within that trust responsibly. If this concept is confusing after I explained the look back period, don’t worry. Creating a trust for medicaid is a gift for medicaid purposes. This is why effective planning often takes place earlier in life as opposed to right before you need Medicaid.

Medicaid trusts can sometimes be daunting when considering their upfront costs. You will also likely be responsible for annual accounting fees when it comes to tax preparation and other important trust maintenance costs. However, the best way to look at these trusts are as an investment in your long-term care. Paying to establish a Medicaid trust now can be significantly more cost-effective than being required to pay for long-term care without the assistance of Medicaid funds. Would you rather face a small bill today or face months of long term care at $5000+ a month? You can retain significantly more assets to distribute to your heirs than you would be able to if those assets were needed to pay for long-term care expenses. If you are concerned about the potential implications the costs of long-term care may have on you and your estate, come talk to us today. Early planning is smart planning.

Ten Things to Think About Before Creating Your Estate Plan

Haven’t given much thought to estate planning and charitable giving? You aren’t alone. Over 60% of people don’t have Last Wills and Testaments.  Here are 10 questions to jumpstart your thinking(thanks to Marketwatch for the great article):

1. Can you afford to give away money now? You shouldn’t gift large sums to your children or charity unless you’re confident you have enough for your own retirement. There’s no limit on gifts to charity, though your annual tax deduction may be capped. For gifts to family members, you might take advantage of the annual gift-tax exclusion, currently $15,000 as of January, 2018.

2. Do you have the right beneficiaries listed on your retirement accounts and life insurance? Your individual retirement account and employer’s retirement plan might hold the bulk of your savings, so it’s crucial these accounts pass to the correct people. Unless you want your ex-spouse inheriting from you, probably a good idea to remove his or her name from the beneficiary designation.

3. At the end of your life, who do you want to make medical decisions on your behalf and how far would you like doctors to go in attempting to prolong your life? You should make these wishes official in a health care power of attorney and physician’s directive.

4. Do you have a Last Will and Testament? According to a 2016 Gallup survey, just 44% of U.S. adults have one. Wills are crucial to avoid letting the State dictate who receives your property.

5. Are you worrying unnecessarily about federal estate taxes? Thanks to today’s $5.5 million estate tax exclusion, IRS statistics suggest just one out of every 530 deaths will likely trigger federal estate taxes. Indeed, you should review your estate plan if it was designed to avoid federal estate taxes—but was drawn up before the sharp increase in the federal estate tax exclusion since 2001, when the exclusion stood at just $675,000. If you have complicated bypass trust language, now is a great time to simplify your Estate plan. and make things easier on your surviving spouse or children.

6. Does your state impose an estate or inheritance tax? Good news . . . Texas has no state inheritance tax!

7. Should you keep your Roth IRA for your heirs? That pool of tax-free money could make a great bequest. During your lifetime, you might also help your children or other young family members fund a Roth, assuming they have earned income. With decades of compounding ahead of them, even small sums invested today could grow to become significant wealth.

8. Are the charities you support well-run? Investigate charities by heading to sites such as CharityNavigator.org and GuideStar.org. A crucial question: Of the dollars you donate, what percentage ends up in the hands of the people you’re hoping to help? Consider local charities if you have misgivings about national organizations.

9. Could you save even more on taxes by donating appreciated assets? And if you’re over age 70½, you could give away part of your annual required minimum distributions.

10. Have you talked to your adult children about your estate? You should discuss your estate plan with your family and how much they will likely inherit, how you would like the money used, where key documents are located and what your wishes are regarding life-prolonging medical procedures. Will contests and Trust litigations costs thousands and can permanently divide families. Be honest about what you are leaving to whom and why.

If you need help with your estate plan, give us a call at 817.638.9016. Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to receive even more valuable planning news and tips.

Founding Fathers had Wills and So Should You

Ever wondered what a founding father’s Last Will and Testament looked like? Probably a lot like yours. Ben Franklin provides an excellent look into several issues regarding what you leave and to whom.

Sam Moak, an attorney in South, Texas, has a great breakdown of Ben Franklin’s Will. Here are some of the highlights.

Franklin gave his son William all of his property in Nova Scotia “to hold to him, his heirs and designs forever.” William is what we consider a primary beneficiary because he received the property outright from the will. Much like you might leave your home to your children or to their children, Ben Franklin kept his property in his bloodline.

Franklin owned three homes on Market Street in Philadelphia, other property within Philadelphia and pasture land outside the city. These are probably worth a pretty penny nowadays. Ben transferred the right to use that property together with his “silver plate, pictures and household goods” to his daughter Sarah Bache and her husband Richard Bache for use “during their natural lives.” 

This gift created a life estate. You may have a home or other real property and desire for a particular person to use that property for his or her lifetime. A life estate is an excellent way to give a person life use of property. Clients often use this type of gift to ensure a piece of property remains in the family for multiple generations. Children can’t sell the property, but can live in the home forever. Think a family ranch for a Texas specific example.

If you create a life estate for a person, then you may also designate a person or perhaps a charitable organization to own the property after your life tenant passes away. Make sure to visit our site for an upcoming article about charitable giving and how it might be a great idea for you.

Ben Franklin’s intent was to transfer property to his daughter and son-in-law for life, with the remainder to his grandchildren. But what if one of the grandchildren were to pass away prior to the demise of both parents? Franklin indicated that if one of the grandchildren were “to die under age, and without issue,” that share would be “equally divided among the survivors.” This is an example of a contingent beneficiary.

A contingent beneficiary is the person who will receive the property if the first person is not living at the time of the transfer. For example, you may wish to give a gift through your Will to a brother or sister. But if he or she passes away before you do, then it is important to select another person to receive the property. We often see DIY Wills where a client names a primary beneficiary but fails to name a successor beneficiary. 

Franklin also realized some of his grandchildren might be young if and when their parents passed away. Franklin stated in his Will that some of them are “under age” and “may not have capacity” to manage the property. Therefore, he ordered the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania to select “three honest, intelligent, impartial men” to manage the property. 

If your estate plan includes young children, then you will want to create a trust to manage property for the benefit of the children. The trust should work to provide a distribution of income and, if needed, principal from the trust to the child until the recipient reaches an age you designate for distribution of the assets. In Texas, children under eighteen (18) cannot inherit property outright. Instead of going through the expensive and time consuming process of petitioning the Court (not the Supreme Court in this case, but a Probate court) to create a Trust, consider having an attorney draft this trust as part of your Last Will and Testament.

If you don’t have a Will, don’t panic. Wills are simple to draft and easy for attorneys to set up. Over 60 percent of people pass away without Wills. Your property will eventually get to your heirs-at-law, but the process is more expensive and time-consuming.

Come see us for an Estate Planning meeting right away! 817.638.9016.

Four Things to Think About When Hiring an Estate Planning Attorney in Texas

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas, Y’all! AAA estimates that over 100 million Americans will travel this holiday season. 100 MILLION. Planes, trains, and automobiles, oh my! Much like planning a trip well in advance helps you avoid long lines, expensive hotels, and crowded airports (some with no power), having a good estate plan in place helps you avoid expensive court proceedings, lengthy trials, and generations long family feuds (see Heath Ledger). If you plan on traveling, plan on seeing our firm for estate planning first. Here are four things to think about before you visit an estate planner:

  1. How much does it cost? While many legal services are charged by the hour, estate planning work including a Last Will and Testament is often charged at a flat fee rate, so that you will know exactly what you can expect to pay before you sign on with a firm to prepare your documents. Hourly rates can introduce uncertainty into the process, so be sure to find out how much you should expect to pay, and whether the fee will be due up front or at the signing. A complete quote may be contingent on determining on the complexity of your will, but by the end of an initial consultation, you should know what costs to expect for this process.
  2. What all is included? Most attorneys are capable of turning your wishes into a lawful Last Will and Testament. However, a will should be interwoven into your entire plan. Does the fee include a general estate planning discussion? In addition, wills are often packaged with other essential documents everyone should have in place – not to plan for their death but for the contingencies of life: a medical power of attorney, a physician’s directive (or living will), and a statutory durable power of attorney. You can typically execute all four (4) documents for only slightly more than a will alone. Many firms offer package deals for couples. A good estate planner will give you several different options for completing your personalized estate plan.
  3. How Experienced Are the Attorneys? Many attorneys and firms will agree to prepare your will but it is only a small part of their regular practice. Attorneys whose exclusive focus is estate planning and probate will have more experience with a variety of circumstances that could better anticipate and prepare for life’s complexities and uncertainties. Successful will drafting can involve precision and nuance in the language that is used. Find a firm that will take the time to ask important questions, and will customize your will to meet your specific needs. Will one or more of your heirs need trust protection for their inheritance? Do you need to take action to prepare for Medicaid or VA Aid and attendance eligibility? Will a revocable living trust help your family avoid the expense of probate after your death?
  4. What Happens if I Die Without a Will? However you decide to proceed, be sure you take action to have a lawful will in place, and seek the help of a qualified estate planning attorney. Without a will, the distribution of your estate will be determined by state law and not by you. Likewise, the person named to be in charge of administering your estate will be appointed by a court. Most importantly, be sure your will is prepared and executed under the guidance of an attorney. Websites that offer DIY robo-wills cannot guarantee that your will is lawfully executed or that it addresses all that it should. The most common mistake we see is an improperly executed Last Will and Testament.

If you have questions, please contact our office at 817.638.9016 or email us at RWeaver@www.weaverlegal.net. For more exclusive content, please join our monthly email list here.

Take 3 Steps To Cut Taxes or Avoid Tax Surprises Before Dec. 31

If you aren’t making New Year plans, I have news for you–the time is NOW! Here’s a quick list of important tax cutting or planning actions to take before Dec. 31. Read on for more details:
Donate gifts of cash or stocks to your favorite charities now
• Update your will to find tax breaks or fix tax consequences before year-end
• Assess business changes to cut taxes now or push taxable decisions to 2018

Do I have to give a charitable gift before Dec. 31?
Yes, you do. Here’s the IRS break down:

How charitable giving tax deductions work
You can deduct contributions in the year you make them. If you charge your gift to a credit card before the end of the year it will count for 2017. This is true even if you don’t pay the credit card bill until 2018. Also, a check will count for 2017 as long as you mail it in 2017.

Wait! There’s more! Gifts of money include those made in cash or by check, electronic funds transfer, credit card and payroll deduction. You must have a bank record or a written statement from the charity to deduct any gift of money on your tax return. This is true regardless of the amount of the gift.

Gifts of stock require more detailed planning. Let us know if you want to give away stock as you need to understand the most beneficial way to handle this transaction—for your own tax consequences and to best benefit the charity.

Why update your will before Dec. 31?
Reveal tax breaks or deal with tax problems before year-end deadline

New baby or grandbabies? You now have another potential tax deduction. But, remember– anyone under the age of 18 cannot inherit property in Texas. We recommend you place any inheritance for minors in a testamentary trust in your will. This helps you avoid guardianship issues and allows you to specify the age of inheritance (age 25, age 30, or older).

Happily married again? Congratulations! Divorce? It happens. Your tax status can change with with either of these life events. As far as your will–make sure the new spouse is the beneficiary on all your documents. Or, name someone else as beneficiary if you’re now free of a spouse. Too often we see estate plans where an ex-spouse is still a primary beneficiary. Staying friends is one thing . . .but inheritance?

Move to Texas recently or move away? Different states mean different tax and probate rules. State income tax factors into your tax return. You may need to file separate returns for different states. Your will should reflect your new place of residence to avoid costly probate. For example, California probate is difficult and expensive. Texas probate is straightforward and cost-effective by comparison. While Texas allows valid wills from other states to be presented in a probate case, we always recommend new Texas wills for clarity and to cover any issues which may have arisen in the last few years.

Inherit property or purchase a home in another state? This change almost always affects your tax situation and likely has probate consequences for your will. No one ever said, “I want to probate a will in two states.” If you have valid Texas estate planning, these documents cover any and all property you own in Texas. If you own property outside of Texas, especially real estate, we recommend placing this property in a simple revocable trust. This avoids multi-state probates and allows you to transfer the property seamlessly without further court involvement.

Buy or sell a big item? Maybe you finally bought that boat you’ve always wanted. Don’t forget to invite us on your next trip! Just kidding–kinda. If this is for personal use, it probably won’t qualify as a tax deduction. But, maybe the boat can be used in part to entertain clients? Let’s talk. This asset definitely should be added to your will along with designating what happens to it if you’re not around.

Is your will’s executor still a good choice? This decision may affect your taxes and far more–your entire family’s inheritance or anyone else designated to benefit from your will.

Let me give a good example. Let’s say you are an elderly gentleman and you have a nice new friend named Anna Nicole Pith. This friend is quite a bit younger than you and is kind enough to offer to serve as your executor. Now let’s say this friend starts borrowing money from you and maybe even steals a car or boat from you. We recommend finding a new executor. If you don’t trust the people named in your documents, find new people. Don’t have ideas? Ask us to brainstorm for you.

Why Do Business Changes Matter?
Assess Before Dec. 31 & Avoid Unexpected Tax Outcomes

Ask yourself the questions below to do a quick assessment of your business changes over the past 12 months. If “YES!” is the answer to any of them, you may need to talk with us or your CPA about tax consequences. And, you may need to update your will:
• Buy or sell a business?
• Get a new partner or dissolve a partnership?
• Buy or sell business assets including property, buildings, equipment, cars, etc.?
• Declare bankruptcy?
• Make tons of money with your new business idea?
• Added new staff—possibly some relatives?

Make sure your estate plan matches the current state of your business. We want your wills, trusts, power of attorneys, and more to match your business plan in a seamless transition plan.

Need help? Call our office at 817-638-9016 to schedule an appointment.

Wishing you peaceful and relaxing holidays,

Travis Weaver, Attorney
tweaver@WeaverLegal.net

Rick Weaver to Speak at Fort Worth Business and Estates Council

Do you have plans for November 16, around noon? No? Well you do now! Rick Weaver (of the Weaver Firm) and Earl Davidson are speaking on Discovering Government Benefits for the Elderly at the Fort Worth Business and Estates Council at the City Club in Fort Worth. Mr. Weaver and Mr. Davidson will touch on issues such as Medicaid for long term care and nursing homes, Veterans Aid and Attendance benefits for those who served our Country, and long term care insurance for those who might need it. The average cost of a nursing home is over $7,000.00 per month in 2017! Come hear these two speakers tell you everything you need to know about long term care planning. If you aren’t a member of the Tarrant County Bar Association and would like more information about long term care planning, schedule an appointment with the Weaver Firm today.

Sign up below

https://members.tarrantbar.org/calendar/signup/NTQwOQ==

 

$100,000.00 Hotel Room? Only in Aggieland

Texas A&M recently auctioned off the rights to premier rooms located in their on-campus hotel. If this sentence is confusing, you aren’t alone. As tax deductions for things like football and basketball suites become increasingly scarce, the Aggies decided to get ahead of the curve with hotel room licensing.

Basically, Texas A&M will allow you to pay $100,000.00 (if you win an auction) for the right to reserve hotel rooms in the new Texas A&M hotel currently being constructed on campus. Your name will appear on the door of the hotel room and you get first dibs on these premium rooms directly adjacent to the football stadium. This $100,000.00 fee is complete tax deductible, although the website does recommend you speak to a tax professional before shelling out the 100k. A couple of things to watch:

  • prices depend on the game being played (much like other hotels in the area)
  • donors must reserve the room 45 days in advance of any football game
  • hotel has a pool, 24 hour room service, sports bar, and conference center
  • the hotel is using a private/public development partner, so watch out for IRS red flags if making the deduction
  • the hotel is being paid for by private funds and NOT student funds
  • this donation does NOT count towards 12th Man priority points for sporting events

This is an interesting idea and should provide Aggies the ability to stay in luxury while they watch their team lost at home.

If you have an interest in Aggie Football and happen to have $100,000.00 burning a hole in your pocket, do I have an idea for you!

If you need help designing an Estate Plan that may or may not leave money to an Aggie hotel, please give us a call today.

Gig Em

The Weaver Firm 817.638.2022

 

Highlights of the New Republican Tax Plan

If you’re like me, you probably spent your Thursday night pouring over the new Republican tax plan . . . right? At 429 pages, you’d be crazy not to take the chance to read some good ol’ fashioned tax law. I for one really enjoyed the pictures they included around page 275.

Ok Ok . . . you got me. I watched my Spurs get beat up by the Warriors on TV until switching over to the delightful new crime drama, “S.W.A.T.” on CBS. I sometimes like to think of myself like the Shemar Moore of Estate Planning Attorneys, but I digress.

Here are the things you need to know about the GOP tax plan thanks to a wonderful summary from Caitlin Owens on AXIOS:

  • the 39.6% tax rate for couples with over 1 million in income remains the same
  • the tax plan caps the mortgage interest deduction for newly purchased homes at $500,000 (down from $1 million)
  • the plan also allows only $10,000 of property tax to be deducted
  • the plan increases the standard deduction from $6,350 to $12,000 for individuals and $12,700 to $24,000 for married couples.

Worried about individual tax brackets? Here they are:

  • Individual tax rate brackets:
    • 25 percent rate starting at $90,000 for married couples, $45,000 for individuals (everyone below that pays a 12 percent rate).
    • 35 percent rate starting at $260,000 for married couples, $200,000 for individuals.
    • 39.6 percent rate starting at $1 million for married couples, $500,000 for individuals.

Of not for those expecting or soon to be expecting:

  • The plan expands the Child Tax Credit from $1,000 to $1,600 and provides a credit of $300 for each parent and non-child dependent.
  • Makes no changes to deductions for charitable contributions.

Have student debt? Might want to read up on this next part:

  • The plan eliminates student loan and medical expense deductions and the adoption tax credit.

Haven’t contributed to your 401(k)? Shame! It’s ok, almost two-thirds (2/3) of Americans haven’t either. Start NOW!

  • The plan doesn’t change contribution rules for 401(k)s.

Now to the juicy part for Estate Planners:

  • The new plan doubles the estate tax exemption immediately (11 million per person) and repeals the tax in six years. Goodbye credit shelter trusts.

Feeling bold? Read the whole text of the Bill here.

As a caveat, none of this is set in stone, so expect major changes to these provisions in the next few months.

If you have questions about the plan and how the proposed changes might affect you and your family, give us a call at the Weaver Firm. 817.638.9016

 

Estate Planning for Entrepreneurs

Forbes published a great article showing 9 out of 10 entrepreneurs have out of date Estate Plans. What exactly is an “out of date estate plan”? Basically a plan (i.e. Wills, Power of Attorney, Living Will) that hasn’t been looked at in more than five years.

Here are five reasons to update your Estate Planning documents regularly:

  • changes in the law: tax laws change yearly
  • changes in your family: births, deaths, divorces
  • changes in where you live: did you move to Texas recently?
  • changes in your Estate: did you win the lottery or purchase a home in another state?
  • changes in your life: were you diagnosed with an illness?

Check out the article and understand that it is never too late for Estate Planning…until it is too late

h/t to Professor Beyer and his blog at http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/trusts_estates_prof/ for the article

817.638.2022 or TWeaver@www.weaverlegal.net