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Review Your Old Trusts

Bigstock-Living-trust-and-estate-planni-89797730Estate laws change regularly, which means that estate planning methods that were once a great idea are no longer advisable for many people. One example of that has to do with the estate tax, capital gains taxes and trusts.

Irrevocable bypass trusts used to be one of the best estate planning devices for many married couples. In these trusts, one spouse funds the trust with an amount just below the estate tax exemption. When that spouse passes away, the trust is then used for the benefit of the heirs, with the rest of the estate passing to the surviving spouse.

Consequently, this approach lowered the size of the surviving spouse's eventual estate and lessened the estate tax burden for the married couple. However, as Kiplinger's Retirement Report points out in "Old Trusts Create Tax Issues for Heirs," estate tax laws have changed significantly since the time when many of these trusts were created.

The estate tax exemption is far higher than it used to be, and spousal portability now allows a married couple to double its estate tax exemption.

The problem for irrevocable bypass trusts is that assets in them do not receive the step up basis for purposes of the capital gains tax. What this means is that for many families, efforts to get around the old estate tax laws are actually creating a greater tax burden now and they would be better off without the bypass trusts entirely.

This is just one example of why it is important to review your estate plan with an attorney every few years. You want to make sure your estate plan is always ideal given the current estate laws, not older out of date laws that may not be relevant to your unique circumstances.

All that noted, every family situation is different. For example, in blended family situations, the irrevocable bypass trust may be the appropriate solution to avoid disinheriting your own children!

Make no estate plans or changes to your current estate planning without the prudent guidance of a qualified estate planning attorney.

For more information about estate planning, please visit my estate planning website.

Reference: Kiplinger's Retirement Report (October, 2015) "Old Trusts Create Tax Issues for Heirs"

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An Expensive Dog Fight

Bigstock-My-Money--65250304Sam Simon, co-creator of The Simpsons, left his dog in the care of a friend when he passed away. That has led to a fight over how much money the friend claims to need to care for the dog.

People love their dogs, and Sam Simon was no exception. He had a rescue dog named Columbo and spent a small fortune on regular medical and therapeutic treatments for the dog. This included twice weekly acupuncture treatments at a monthly cost of $3,640.

Simon passed away earlier this year after a struggle with colon cancer. Most of his fortune was put in trust to be used to promote animal rights. Columbo, however, was given over to Tyson Kilmer, an animal trainer and Simon's friend. Now Kilmer and the trust that Simon created are in a bitter dispute over money to pay for the dog's care.

Kilmer claims that he needs $140,000 a year to maintain the same treatments that Simon gave Columbo. He claims that the trust refuses to give him the funds. The trust has a different story.

Its position is that it has offered appropriate funds to Kilmer, but that under the terms of the trust and the law it cannot give him whatever he wants. It also claims that Kilmer has asked for outrageous sums and that an alternative caretaker for the dog is willing to care for it for free.

The Daily Mail has more on this story in "Estate of late Simpsons co-creator Sam Simon locked in a bitter battle with the new owner of his beloved dog who says he has not received annual allowance to care for the canine." For now it appears that this dispute is only playing out in the press. It remains to be seen whether it will make it to court.

If you have a pet and want to make provisions for its care at your passing, then contact an experienced estate planning attorney to discuss a pet trust.

For more information about estate planning, please visit my estate planning website.

Reference: Daily Mail (October 1, 2015) "Estate of late Simpsons co-creator Sam Simon locked in a bitter battle with the new owner of his beloved dog who says he has not received annual allowance to care for the canine."

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Richard Attenborough’s Final Resting Places

Bigstock-Love-Heart-Made-Of-Ash-51901699Lord Richard Attenborough made a name for himself as an actor and director. Now that he has passed away, he is making another name for himself by where he wishes his remains to rest.

Richard Attenborough passed away in August of last year, and his estate's probate records have recently been made public. They reveal that his estate in the United Kingdom was worth approximately £1.5 million, although this does not include the value of his foreign assets and any assets held in trust.

However, his will also revealed that Attenborough requested that his body be cremated.

His wish was that one-third of his remains be placed at his Scottish estate and another third be taken to an estate in France. The final third of his remains he wants intermingled with the remains of his daughter and granddaughter at a church near Attenborough's estate in the UK.

The daughter and granddaughter perished in the tsunami in the Indian Ocean in 2004.

The Telegraph has more on this story in an article titled "Richard Attenborough's last request: place my ashes with my daughter and granddaughter." One thing that this story illustrates is that a will can be more than just a dry, legal document that divides property. In fact, a will can also be used to create an emotional legacy and let people know what is important to you.

As any father would be, it is clear that Attenborough was deeply affected by the tragic loss of his daughter and granddaughter. By using his will as the vehicle by which he dictated how his remains were to be treated, Attenborough shared that with the entire world.

Contact an experienced estate planning attorney to ensure the important details of your last wishes are legally covered.

For more information about estate planning, please visit my estate planning website.

Reference: Telegraph (October 4, 2015) "Richard Attenborough's last request: place my ashes with my daughter and granddaughter."

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