What Donald Trump's Estate Legal Plan Might Look Like

Ever wondered how Donald Trump will leave his estate? In this post we will give you some insight as to what the components of Donald Trump's estate plan will look like.

While much of what is written about Donald Trump is political, this post addresses common sense estate planning legal strategies that Donald Trump (or others like him) could implement to protect the estate.

Circumstances that will impact the implementation of an estate legal program for Donald Trump include that he's wealthy, and he's been married three times with five kids from the three wives. His wife is 24 years younger than he is. His wife has tens of millions of dollars of wealth of her own. Some of his kids are adults; one is a young adult; and one is a minor. I assume his goals include keeping his estate in the family while avoiding estate tax and other government interference. He likely has a pre-nup with his current wife.

While a drop in the bucket, Donald Trump will likely take advantage of annual gifting, making gifts of $15,000 (the present annual exclusion amount) to his five children and nine grandchildren. He will likely get his wife to consent to gift-splitting which, in effect will allow him to donate $30,000 to as many people as he wants - each year. Thus, each year, he can get $420,000 out of his estate and avoiding the future 40% estate tax that would have been paid on that value when he dies.

He will also likely pay the medicaid and educational expenses for his kids and grandkids. With his young children and grandchildren in the finest private schools, this would be another strategy to keep wealth in the younger generations.

A discussion what be necessary as to "What to donate?" He could donate cash or he could donate interests in real estate. Donations of interests in his real estate entities would be difficult to value.

I'm sure Donald Trump has powers of attorney in place to allow trusted people to make decisions for him if he is incapable. He may designate different "Agents" to make business decisions versus medical related decisions.

Any discussion regarding what happens to Donald Trump's estate must include a discussion about the federal estate tax. With a $3+ billion estate, and a 40% federal estate tax, the potential estate tax bill is enormous.

Donald Trump could give the estate tax exclusion amount ($11.4 million) to his kids (either outright or in trust), but he would want the remainder of his estate to qualify for either the federal estate tax marital deduction or the federal estate tax charitable deduction.

In general, a married person can leave their estate to their spouse and avoid estate tax upon the death of the first spouse. The concept is that married couples can arrange their estate legal affairs so that the federal estate tax is due after the surviving spouse dies. And since the First Lady is 24 years younger than Donald Trump, this could defer tax for decades.

But Donald Trump is not likely to want to leave his billions outright to his wife because, if he does, she may leave it all to her one child or to her future husband (if she has one). So, Donald Trump will leave his billions to a trust for his wife and children. His wife will be entitled to the income from the "QTIP Trust" for her lifetime, and then when she dies, the trust assets will revert to Donald Trump's heirs, presumably his five children, either outright or perhaps remaining in trust for certain children.

Donald Trump may also leave assets to charity to avoid the estate tax because assets left to charity avoid estate tax. While many wealthy billionaires have pledged to leave their fortunes to charity, my guess is that Donald Trump will want to do everything he can to keep his wealth "in the family."

A discussion is also necessary whether Donald Trump would want to make these bequests through his last will and testament (which requires a court-supervised probate when he dies), or whether he would create a revocable living trust to make these bequests, side-stepping the lengthy, expensive, and public probate system.

This post is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice. Please do not act or refrain from acting based on anything you read on this site. Using this site or communicating with Rabalais Estate Planning, LLC, through this site does not form an attorney/client relationship.

Paul Rabalais

Louisiana Estate Planning Attorney

www.RabalaisEstatePlanning.com

Phone: (225) 329-2450

How to Keep Your Farm or "Family Property" in the Family for Future Generations

Many parents who have both children and grandchildren want to keep some of the property that they own so that their kids and grandkids can enjoy the property for many years to come. Perhaps the parents have seen how much their kids and grandkids enjoy the property.

However, when parents pass away and their property is left to children, property rules apply that may conflict with what the parents are trying to accomplish. Customizing the right legal program can ensure that one rogue descendant, or perhaps even the spouse of one child or grandchild, will not be able to mess up or destroy the family property that you'd want them all to enjoy.

First, let's look at some of the Louisiana laws that apply when multiple owners own real estate in Louisiana. Louisiana has a rule that states that no owner can be compelled to own property with another. When children inherit their parents' land, the children are considered "owners in indivision."

Anyone who owns an undivided interest in real estate in Louisiana, regardless of how big or small their ownership interest, can sell their ownership interest, or can force a "partition" of the property. The two kinds of partition are "partition in kind" and "partition by licitation."

When a piece of property is susceptible to being divided into lots, an owner can force a partition in kind whereby each owner would wind up with their own tract. Or, particularly if property is not susceptible to division into lots, an owner in indivision can force a sale of the property and the proceeds would be distributed to the co-owners in proportion to their ownership interest in the property.

Due to these rights that co-owners have, family property often gets sold eliminating future descedants from being able to enjoy the property.

Some owners of property think that by forming a limited liability company (LLC), the owners can keep the property in the family for generations. While owners of property should consider forming an LLC, and transferring their property to it, this is more of a "protection from lawsuits" vehicle than a "keep it in the family for generations" vehicle. Placing the property in an LLC and leaving membership interests in the LLC to your descendants won't prevent an owner/member from (1) selling or disposing of their LLC interest; (2) a member's creditor seizing their interest; or (3) giving or bequeathing their LLC membership interest to a non-family member.

These conversations about keeping property in the family for generations often turn toward creating a family trust. Parents would name a trustee or co-trustees (perhaps the "responsible" descendant") who will manage the trust assets for the benefit of all of the children and grandchildren. Backup trustees would need to be provided for since this trust may be in existence for many decades. Thanks to trust law, the descendants (trust beneficiaries) would not be permitted to sell, alienate, or mortgage, their interest in the trust, and the creditors of a beneficiary could not seize their interest in the trust.

Other issues to consider before pulling the trigger on something like this include the gift and estate tax, future Medicaid qualification, leaving funds to the trust to provide for ongoing management and expenses, and perhaps having the parents transfer the property (or their LLC which owns the property) to a revocable trust now (which trust would become irrevocable when the parents die) in order to avoid having the property go through a court-supervised probate proceeding when they pass away.

Every set of family circumstances is unique. You likely only have one "shot" to get it right. And the decisions that you make (or don't make) will affect your descendants for many, many years to come.

This post is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice. Please do not act or refrain from acting based on anything you read on this site. Using this site or communicating with Rabalais Estate Planning, LLC, through this site does not form an attorney/client relationship.

Paul Rabalais

Louisiana Estate Planning Attorney

www.RabalaisEstatePlanning.com

Phone: (225) 329-2450

Pros and Cons of Leaving Everything to Your Spouse

When married couples engage in estate planning, one of the questions they often are required to answer is, "If I die before my spouse, do I want to leave complete ownership and control of my estate to my spouse?" Or, "Do I want to leave my estate to my spouse in a way that my children (or other heirs) are protected?"

Leaving all of your assets to your spouse is pretty easy to understand - when you die, your spouse owns everything. Maybe you are thinking that it is ok to leave everything to your spouse because you are confident that when your spouse dies, your spouse will leave it all to your kids. Or maybe you like the thought of leaving your estate to your spouse because your descendants circumstances may change after you die and you want your spouse to be able to leave the estate to your descendants the right way.

However, if you leave your estate to your spouse, your spouse "could" leave your estate to people other than your children, like your spouse's next spouse!

Some people want to leave their estate to their spouse in a way that their children or heirs are protected. The two common ways to do this are (1) in trust; and (2) via the Louisiana usufruct.

Leaving your estate to your spouse may be the best overall tax outcome, but it used to be the worst. In the old days, it did not make sense to leave your estate to your spouse because when you lumped your estate on top of your spouse's estate, it caused the spouse's estate to be subject to a 50% or more federal estate tax upon the death of the surviving spouse. But now, with an $11.4 million estate tax inclusion, and with portability (making it easier for married couples to exempt $22.8 million from the estate tax), rarely are couples penalized for leaving everything to each other.

The tax benefit that often results from leaving your estate to your spouse is that your heirs will benefit from a "double step up" in basis, for capital gains tax purposes. In community property states (like Louisiana) all community property gets a new stepped-up basis when the first spouse dies. And when you leave all of your assets to your spouse, all of the assets will get another step-up in basis when your spouse later dies. This can save considerable capital gains tax when assets are later sold, particularly if there is appreciation that occurs from the date of death of the first spouse to the date of death of the surviving spouse.

In addition, if you live in Louisiana, you are prohibited from leaving your entire estate to your spouse if you have forced heirs. Forced heirs are children of your that, at the time of your death, are 23 years of age or younger, or, are of any age but incapacitated.

Leaving assets to the surviving spouse is common for traditional families - one marriage and all children are from the one marriage. And if you really want to make it as simple as possible on your spouse when you pass away, consider establishing a revocable living trust and titling the appropriate assets in your trust. Assets in your living trust don't go through the court-supervised probate/Succession procedure, so having your assets in your living trust will prevent your spouse from having to hire lawyers and go through the courts just to get ownership of your assets after you die.

Other factors that are typically discussed when married couples engage in estate planning legal services include: who makes your decisions when you are incapable; protecting assets from long term care costs; and how will assets be managed and disbursed after both spouses pass away. These are all important components of any estate planning legal program.

Note also that if you have no legal plans in place, Louisiana laws won't do your spouse any favors. These laws will favor your descendants much more than your spouse.

This post is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice. Please do not act or refrain from acting based on anything you read on this site. Using this site or communicating with Rabalais Estate Planning, LLC, through this site does not form an attorney/client relationship.

Paul Rabalais

Louisiana Estate Planning Attorney

www.RabalaisEstatePlanning.com

Phone: (225) 329-2450

Medicaid Income Rules When You Have a Community Spouse and an Institutionalized Spouse

Any way you look at it, long term care services are expensive. And when you have a married couple with one spouse residing in the nursing home while the other spouse is healthy enough to reside in their residence, it gets tough because on top of the several thousand dollar nursing home bill, the couple is also spending thousands monthly to maintain the residence. In these circumstances, couples spend hundreds of thousands of dollars over several years.

Many couples, particularly those who do not plan ahead, are forced to consume their assets (also called "Countable Resources"). This post is not about spending or protecting the assets, but this post is about how the monthly income of the couple gets handled.

Here's an example. Let's say that each spouse is receiving $2,000 of monthly income (social security and pensions are common forms of monthly income, but there are others).

Louisiana Long Term Care Medicaid rules provide that ownership of income is determined without regard to community property laws. For Medicaid purposes, a spouse has full ownership of income paid in his name.

In determining how much of the income the couple can keep. Medicaid rules provide that the income of the community spouse is never to be considered in determining eligibility for an institutionalized spouse. Keep in mind that the spouse residing in the nursing home institution is called the "institutionalized spouse," while the spouse still living in the community is called the "community spouse." The community spouse always gets to keep all of the community spouse's income.

In order to determine the institutionalized spouse's patient liability, we must start with that spouse's gross monthly income ($2,000 in our example) and subtract their personal needs allowance ($38). Then, we subtract the Community Spouse's Maintenance Needs Allowance.

The Community Spouse's Maintenance Needs Allowance is calculated by subtracting the community spouse's income ($2,000) from the Community Spouse's Maintenance Needs Standard ($3,160.50 for the first half of 2019 - it gets adjusted twice each year). Thus the Community Spouse's Maintenance Needs Allowance totals $1,160.50.

So, $2,000 minus $38 minus $1,160.50 equals $801.50. This is the institutionalized spouse's patient liability. The concept here is that the community spouse always gets to keep all of the community spouse's income. But if the community spouse's income is less than the applicable Maintenance Needs Standard, then the community spouse gets to keep enough of the institutionalized spouse's income to get the community spouse up to a total of monthly income that equals the Maintenance Needs Standard.

Keep in mind here that these are Louisiana rules and your state's rules may differ. Also note that this calculation is not made, nor is it relevant, if the patient is denied Medicaid due to too many countable resources or for some other disqualifying reason.

This post is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice. Please do not act or refrain from acting based on anything you read on this site. Using this site or communicating with Rabalais Estate Planning, LLC, through this site does not form an attorney/client relationship.

Paul Rabalais

Louisiana Estate Planning Attorney

www.RabalaisEstatePlanning.com

Phone: (225) 329-2450

Use "Return of Transferred Resources" Rules To Qualify for Louisiana Long Term Care Medicaid

This post will help people who have a family member or loved one in a nursing home (or their loved one is about to enter a nursing home) and the family member or loved one has more than $70,000 of countable resources.

Most people think that if you enter a nursing home owning more than $2,000 of assets (other than your home and car), then you will be forced to spend all of those assets on your care until you deplete them down to less than $2,000. Nursing homes are expensive so the money gets depleted rapidly, preventing seniors from being able to leave an inheritance to their children or other loved ones.

But there is a particular legal strategy that can enable you to protect at least half of your countable resources, even if you don't take advantage of the strategy until you (or your loved one) are already in the nursing home as a private pay patient.

Let's use an example to describe how the Return of Transferred Resources provisions of the Louisiana Medicaid Eligibility Manual ("Medicaid Manual") can help one family save $100,000. Let's say Mom (who is not married) is entering the nursing home with a bank account balance of $200,000.

Now we must look at a couple of provisions of the Medicaid Manual. The first provision says, "Do not continue to count the uncompensated value of a transferred resource if the original resource is returned."

Another important provision states, "If only a part of the asset or its equivalent is returned, the penalty period is modified, but not eliminated."

In our example, let's say Mom donated $200,000 to Daughter just prior to Mom entering the nursing home. Mom then applies for Medicaid and gets denied due to the transfer of countable resources. Medicaid will assess a penalty period equal to 40 months ($200,000 transferred divided by $5,000 LA monthly private pay rate). The penalty period begins the month Mom is determined eligible for Medicaid except for the transfer of resources.

Next, Daughter returns to Mom $100,000 of the original $200,000 transferred. As a result, Medicaid will modify the penalty period from 40 months to 20 months. Now, Mom has $100,000 in Mom's account. Daughter has $100,000 in Daughter's account. And Mom's modified 20 month penalty period is underway. Mom uses the $100,000 in Mom's account to pay for her care during the 20 month penalty period.

At the end of the 20 month penalty period, Mom has less than $2,000 of countable resources, the penalty period expires, Medicaid starts covering Mom's nursing home expenses, and Daughter still has $100,000 in Daughter's account.

A few things to keep in mind. We are basing this on the Louisiana Medicaid Eligibility rules. If you live in another state, find out what your state's rules are on the return of transferred resources. Second, DON'T TRY THIS AT HOME. Complications result through the Medicaid Application process, the many transactions that take place, and the providing of appropriate financial institution documentation to Medicaid and other third parties. Get good help. One false move and you could do more harm than good.

Also, the family members that play a role in this must be 100% cooperative and supportive. It does not good if they turn around and spend all of the money on themselves.

So, what should you do? Call our office and say you'd like to find out of t he "Transfer and Return" strategy can help your family protect assets. We'll look at your situation and determine whether this would be worthwhile to take advantage of.

This post is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice. Please do not act or refrain from acting based on anything you read on this site. Using this site or communicating with Rabalais Estate Planning, LLC, through this site does not form an attorney/client relationship.

Paul Rabalais

Louisiana Estate Planning Attorney

www.RabalaisEstatePlanning.com

Phone: (225) 329-2450

2019 Medicaid Asset Limit Updates

Every year the State of Louisiana's Department of Health adjusts certain Louisiana Long Term Care Medicaid asset and income limitations for Long Term Care applicants and recipients. The following is a summary of the changes made for 2019.

The Long Term Care Resource Limit for Single Individuals ($2,000) and Married Couples ($3,000) has not changed.

The Spousal Resource Standard has increased from the 2018 amount of $123,600, to the 2019 new limit of $126,420. What this means is that if one spouse is in a nursing home (the "institutionalized spouse") and one spouse still lives in the community (the "community spouse"), the the community spouse can retain up to $126,420 of Countable Resources. The rationale is that the spouse who is not in the nursing home needs assets to live off of.

Note that the Louisiana Home Equity Limit has increased from $572,000 in 2017, to $585,000 for 2019. Most people realize that the home is not a countable resource - it is an exempt asset. But what some don't realize is that when a Medicaid recipient dies, the State of Louisiana has Estate Recovery Rights which allows the State of Louisiana to force the sale of the home to reimburse Medicaid for what Medicaid spent on the deceased Medicaid recipient's care.

However, if the home, at the time of Medicaid application, is worth more than $585,000, then the applicant will not qualify for Medicaid due to Louisiana's Home Equity Limit of $585,000.

Regarding monthly income, the new Spouse's Maintenance Needs is $3,160.50 of monthly income. Generally, the Community Spouse will be permitted to keep the first $3,160.50 of the couple's monthly income. Exceptions to this rule apply, however, so work with the right estate planning attorney to protect as much of your assets and income as possible.

Finally, the Average Monthly Cost for Private Patients of Nursing Facility Services increased on March 1, 2018 from $4,000 to $5,000. This means that if you make an uncompensated transfer within five years prior to applying for Medicaid, you will be assessed a penalty period of the value of the transfer divided by $5,000.

Note that this post does not address any of the planning strategies that are available to help people protect what they own, nor is it an in depth discussion of the Medicaid definitions, such as countable resource or exempt asset, nor do these figures apply to all 50 states - each state is different so if you live outside of Louisiana, make sure you are working with the correct figures.

This post is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice. Please do not act or refrain from acting based on anything you read on this site. Using this site or communicating with Rabalais Estate Planning, LLC, through this site does not form an attorney/client relationship.

Paul Rabalais

Louisiana Estate Planning Attorney

www.RabalaisEstatePlanning.com

Phone: (225) 329-2450

2019 IRS Estate and Gift Tax Rules (With Analysis)

Let’s look at and analyze the 2019 gift and estate tax rules. First, the basics: the gifting annual exclusion amount remained at $15,000 for 2019, and the gift and estate tax exclusion amount increased from $11.18 million in 2018 to $11.4 million in 2019.

Now let’s take a closer look at these. Regarding the $15,000 annual exclusion amount, it’s worth noting in any discussion regarding gifting, that if a person (donor) makes a gift in excess of $15,000 in a calendar year, the tax consequence is that the donor must file a gift tax return (IRS Form 709) showing that part of the gift and estate tax exclusion amount was used. In almost every “taxable gift,” no tax is due. The gift merely needs to be reported. And it’s worth noting that married couples can each give $15,000 without any gift tax reporting requirement, which further means that married couples can donate $30,000 to as many individuals as they want, each year, without being required to report the gift on a gift tax return.

Regarding the gift and estate tax exclusion amount, note similarly that each spouse has an exclusion amount of $11.4 million for 2019. In theory, the married couple can exclude assets valued at $22.8 million from the 40% estate tax.

It’s worth noting that the estate tax law, in its current form, is scheduled to “sunset” after 2025. Absent Congressional action, the exclusion amount reverts back to $5 million, adjusted for inflation, in 2026.

There is concern from some about the potential for clawback of lifetime gifts. Specifically, the sunset of the higher exclusion amount could deny estates of individuals who die after 2025 the full benefit of the higher exclusion amount applied to previous large gifts.

Recently, the IRS proposed regulations to resolve this issue. The example they gave was of a taxpayer who made gifts taxable gifts of $9 million prior to 2026, and then died during or after 2026, when the gift and estate tax exclusion amount was less than $9 million. The proposed regulations of the IRS state that the credit amount against estate tax will be based on the higher $9 million amount rather than the lesser amount that may be in effect after 2025.

Note that we still have portability (which makes it easier for married couples to get the full utilization of two estate tax exemptions), step-up in basis for capital gains tax purposes, and gifts in excess of $15,000 still must be reported even though typically no gift tax is due.

Happy New Year!

This post is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice. Please do not act or refrain from acting based on anything you read on this site. Using this site or communicating with Rabalais Estate Planning, LLC, through this site does not form an attorney/client relationship.

Paul Rabalais

Louisiana Estate Planning Attorney

www.RabalaisEstatePlanning.com

Phone: (225) 329-2450

Designating Your Spouse versus a Trust for your Spouse as Beneficiary of your IRA

A common estate planning principle communicated by spouses who have children from prior marriages and relationships is, “If I predecease my spouse, I want my assets to be available for my surviving spouse’s needs, but when my surviving spouse dies, I want my assets to revert back to MY children.”

This can get complicated when the estate consists of Traditional IRAs, as many estates do. Let’s take the example of a Husband and Wife who each have two children. When H dies, his IRA is worth $1,000,000. In the year after Husband dies, Wife is 80 years old.  

When it comes to income tax planning and IRAs, most recommend to keep the IRA balance as large as possible, allowing an IRA owner to earn investment income on deferred income taxes. 

In this post we will discuss two strategies: (1) Naming the surviving spouse as the designated beneficiary of Husband’s IRA; and (2) Naming a trust (for the benefit of the spouse) as the beneficiary of Husband’s IRA. 

When a surviving spouse is the designated beneficiary of an IRA, the surviving spouse’s ability to roll over inherited benefits to her own IRA gives her a powerful tax-deferring option, not available to any other IRA beneficiaries. If the surviving spouse holds the IRA as an owner, her Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) are determined using the Uniform Lifetime Table under which her Applicable Distribution Period (ADP) is the joint life expectancy of the surviving spouse and a hypothetical 10-years-younger beneficiary. If she withdraws only the RMDs under the Uniform Lifetime Table, the IRA is guaranteed to outlive the surviving spouse. And it’s likely that the IRA will be worth more in the surviving spouse’s late 80’s than it was when she inherited it at age 80. 

Let’s look at some numbers. Since Wife can use the Uniform Lifetime Table, her first required distribution the year after Husband dies (assuming a $1,000,000 IRA value) is $53,500 (5.35% of the IRA value). The next year her RMD is 5.59%. And the next year, 5.85%. If the investment performance of the IRA exceeds these distribution percentages, and she only takes the RMDs, the IRA will grow.  

The downside, however, is that since Wife is treated as the owner of the IRA, Wife can name whoever she wants as the beneficiary of beneficiaries of her IRA. She could exclude Husband’s children by naming Wife’s children, or perhaps even Wife’s new spouse that she married after Husband died! 

So instead of naming Wife as the designated beneficiary of Husband’s IRA, Husband considers naming a trust for Wife as beneficiary. The trust instrument might provide that RMDs go to Wife for her lifetime, but when Wife subsequently dies, trust assets revert back to Husband’s children. But since a trust was named as the beneficiary of Husband’s IRA, even if the trust qualifies as a “see-through” trust, RMDs after Husband dies will be based on the single life expectancy of the surviving spouse (Wife) which results in substantially less income tax deferral than would be available if the surviving spouse were named as the outright beneficiary and rolled over the benefits into her own IRA. 

Let’s look back at the numbers. If a trust for Wife is named as beneficiary of Husband’s IRA, the first RMD when Wife is 80 (based on the same $1,000,000 IRA) will be $98,000 (9.8% of the IRA value). At age 81, the RMD will exceed 10% of the account value. And each year, the percentage will increase. If Wife lives long enough after Husband dies, the RMDs based on the required single life expectancy table will cause most of the benefits to be distributed to Wife outright which will defeat the purpose of trying to protect those IRA assets for Husband’s children. 

So keep in mind that there are tradeoffs when it comes to naming beneficiaries of IRAs.

Designating a Trust for a Non-Spouse as Beneficiary of an IRA (Individual Retirement Account)

This article address the Required Minimum Distribution (“RMD”) rules when a trust for the benefit of a non-spouse is named as the beneficiary of an Individual Retirement Account (“IRA”).

To address this topic, we’ll need to first address the RMD rules for a non-spouse beneficiary, and then look at how those rules are impacted by naming a trust for a non-spouse as a beneficiary of an IRA.

Let’s take an example. Let’s say Dad owns a $500,000 IRA. He wants to name his son (“Son”) as the beneficiary, but Dad is worried that Son will blow the money after Dad dies. Nonetheless, Dad dies and Dad’s IRA gets transferred to Son’s Inherited IRA.

Some people mistakenly believe that Son can wait until Son is 70.5 years old before distributions must begin. Others mistakenly believe that Son will be penalized if he takes distributions prior to Son turning 59.5. However, the rule is that Son may take distributions based on Son’s remaining life expectancy. So, if Son is 30 when Dad dies, the IRS tables indicate that Son has a life expectancy to age 83 (53 year remaining life expectancy). Son must take a minimum of 1/53 (about 1.9%) of the IRA starting in the year after Dad dies.

However, Dad’s concern is that, due to Son’s immaturity, or perhaps due to Son’s wife’s influence over Son, Son will take a distribution of the entire amount, and spend it, perhaps without even being able to pay the tax on that significant amount – this would create a tremendous problem for Son.

So Dad looks into the possibility of naming a “Look-Through” or “See-Through” trust for Son as the beneficiary of Dad’s IRA. The trust would require that, after Dad’s death, the trustee would see to it that Son would receive his RMD, and the trustee could make additional taxable distributions to Son if the trustee determined that Son needed them for his health, education, maintenance, or support.

If Dad properly sets up the trust, Dad knows that Son will be an income until age 83, and that Son’s basic living needs will be met. Dad will also know that Son will not be able to blow the entire IRA, so Dad will protect Son from himself (and perhaps Son’s wife).

There are four requirement of a trust that must be met to get the “Look-Through” or “See-Through” treatment. But when these requirements are met, you can look through the trust and use the life expectancy of the individual trust beneficiary for RMD purposes. An ineligible trust will require taxable distributions at a much faster rate.

Note that for purposes of this article, we did not address the following circumstances: when a surviving spouse is involved, when there are multiple beneficiaries and the concept of separate accounts, and we did not address naming a charity, an estate, or an ineligible trust as a beneficiary of an IRA.

This post is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice. Please do not act or refrain from acting based on anything you read on this site. Using this site or communicating with Rabalais Estate Planning, LLC, through this site does not form an attorney/client relationship.

Paul Rabalais

Louisiana Estate Planning Attorney

www.RabalaisEstatePlanning.com

Phone: (225) 329-2450

Should You Have a Will or Living Trust?

When people put their legal affairs in order, they have a decision to make. One of the questions they have to answer is, “ Should I use a Last Will and Testament (“Will”) as the legal instrument to pass along my estate to my heirs, or should I use a Revocable Living Trust (“Living Trust”)?

Let’s start with the basics. If you use a Will to pass your estate to your survivors, you’ll like have provisions leaving your estate, or parts of it, to your spouse, your children or others, or perhaps even leaving assets to a trust the terms of which are part of your Will (called a “testamentary trust”) that will be established with assets after your death.

With a “Will Plan,” you leave title to all your assets in your name: your home, your other real estate, your investments, and so forth. When you die, your assets are frozen (even though you had a Will), and your survivors must retain an attorney or attorneys to go through the court-supervised process of transferring assets to the people who are named in your Will.

If you have a Living Trust, your Living Trust will be prepared, for example, so that after you pass away, your trust provides that your estate, or parts of it, are to be transferred from your trust to your spouse, your children or others, or assets may remain in trust for the benefit of minors, irresponsible heirs, or heirs who are receiving government benefits so that they should not inherit assets in their name. When you establish your Living Trust, you will likely work with your estate attorney to transfer title of assets to your trust, such as your home, other real estate, investments, and so forth.

When you die, trust assets are not frozen. Attorneys and the court system do not have to get involved in the trust settlement because the court system only governs assets that are titled in your name when you die. In your Living Trust, you designated a Successor Trustee or Co-Trustees who will have immediate authority to transfer assets from your trust. Many people perceive it that their Living Trust replaces the Will.

So, which program should you have? It’s ultimately your decision, and some people make decisions like this based on their prior life experiences. Will clients often tell us something like, “When my mother died 12 years ago, I don’t remember her probate being too difficult. We had to do the probate to get the house in our names, but we were not in a big hurry.”

We hear from some Will clients the something like the following, “I don’t have any children so if my distant relatives and favorite charities named in my Will have to go through probate, so be it…I’ll be dead.”

Trust clients often tell us something like, “When my father died, his probate took years and it was difficult and expensive, and I don’t want my kids to go through that, so let’s set up a Living Trust.”

We’ll also hear, “My spouse and I want to make things as easy as we can on the surviving spouse when one of us passes, so let’s establish a Trust.”

Other Living Trust clients say, “If my spouse and I can establish a Living Trust and avoid the future delays and expenses of two probates (one when each of us dies), then a Living Trust seems like a no-brainer.”

And other Living Trust clients tell us, “We pre-arranged our funerals to make things as easy on our survivors and we’d like to do the same kind of pre-planning and pre-arrangements for our estate.”

Now, if you go the Living Trust route, make sure you watch my popular YouTube video titled, “If You Have a Revocable Living Trust, Watch This Now,” which address the important topic of trust funding.

Bottom line or Will vs. Living Trust? Take action. Talk to an estate attorney. Hopefully the attorney’s own biases don’t preclude you from making an informed decision. But get started. Failing to act puts the government in complete control of your estate, and who wants that?

This post is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice. Please do not act or refrain from acting based on anything you read on this site. Using this site or communicating with Rabalais Estate Planning, LLC, through this site does not form an attorney/client relationship.

Paul Rabalais

Louisiana Estate Planning Attorney

www.RabalaisEstatePlanning.com

Phone: (225) 329-2450

Two Types of Louisiana Last Wills: Part Two - The Notarial Testament

In the other post to this two-part series, we discussed the ins and outs of the olographic testament in Louisiana. In this post we address the more common type of testament: the notarial testament.

Mainly since the olographic testament has the requirement that it be written entirely in the hand of the testator, notarial testaments are more common. Notarial testaments are generally type written and computer generated, typically by an attorney.

There are strict formality requirements that must be met for a notarial testament to be deemed valid by a judge in the proper state court. All notarial testaments must be in writing and dated. And the following requirements must be met when the testator knows how to sign his name and to read and is physically able to do both:

(1) In the presence of a notary and two competent witnesses, the testator shall declare or signify to them that the instrument is his testament and shall sign his name at the end of the testament and on each other separate page.

(2) In the presence of the testator and each other, the notary and witness shall sign the following declaration, or one substantially similar: “In our presence the testator has declared or signified that this instrument is his testament and has signed it at the end and on each other separate page, and in the presence of the testator and each other we have hereunto subscribed our names this __ day of _________, ____.

Note that there are many court cases where judges have been forced to decide whether the formality requirements of a notarial testament have been met.

Note also that there are other notarial testament requirements for circumstances where: a testator is literate and sighted but physically unable to sign; the testator does not know how to read, or is physically impaired to the extent he cannot read; the testator knows how to and is physically able to read braille; or for a person who has been legally declared physically deaf or deaf and blind and who is able to read sign language, braille, or visual English.

Because notarial testaments are generally prepared by lawyers trained in the intricacies of estate planning, and can use their experiences to serve their clients, notarial testaments are generally more thorough than the customary olographic testament prepared often by a do-it-yourselfer.

Provisions in notarial testaments typically appoint executors, authorize the independent administration, waive bond requirements for executors, trustees and usufructuaries, leave assets in a testamentary trust for minors, irresponsible heirs, heirs receiving certain government benefits, and to keep property in the bloodlines for more than one generation.

In Louisiana, some notarial testaments bequeath usufruct to a surviving spouse and name naked owners who are entitled to ownership of assets at the termination of the usufruct.

In addition, most notarial testaments address reasonable contingencies, such as what happens if one or more of the executors or heirs predecease the testator.

This post is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice. Please do not act or refrain from acting based on anything you read on this site. Using this site or communicating with Rabalais Estate Planning, LLC, through this site does not form an attorney/client relationship.

Paul Rabalais

Louisiana Estate Planning Attorney

www.RabalaisEstatePlanning.com

Phone: (225) 329-2450

Two Types of Louisiana Last Wills: Part One - The Olographic Testament

In Louisiana, there are only two forms of valid Wills (known by our Louisiana law as “testaments.” The two forms are: olographic and notarial. This post addresses the less popular olographic (some people refer to it as an “holographic” Will).

When we discuss whether a handwritten Will is valid, we must look to the terms of the Louisiana statute that defines and olographic testament. Note that there are many, many court cases where lawyers have argued, and judges have determined, whether someone’s handwritten attempt at a Will is valid, and if so, how it should be interpreted.

Nonetheless, our Louisiana law states that “An olographic testament is one entirely written, dated, and signed in the handwriting of the testator.” The statute goes on to state, in part, what it means to be dated and signed, including the fact that writings after the signature do not make the testament invalid and such writing may be considered by the court, in its discretion, as part of the testament.

Many people think that if they just meet the validity requirements of an olographic testament, then everything will go hunky-dory when they pass away. But those people should think again.

It’s easy to make a valid olographic testament, but problems often surface after the death of the testator because the wording was either insufficient, ambiguous, errors were made, reasonable contingencies were not addressed, or bequests were made outright to people when they should not have due to age or financial immaturity.

The bottom line on Louisiana olographic Wills is that it is possible, if not simple, to write your own Will that would be recognized by a Louisiana court as a valid Will. However, if the reason you attempted to write your own Will was to save some costs today, know that the future costs to your estate and your heirs (both financial and emotional costs) will far outweigh any savings you felt you realized by making your own olographic testament.

This post is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice. Please do not act or refrain from acting based on anything you read on this site. Using this site or communicating with Rabalais Estate Planning, LLC, through this site does not form an attorney/client relationship.

Paul Rabalais

Louisiana Estate Planning Attorney

www.RabalaisEstatePlanning.com

Phone: (225) 329-2450

What Legal Matters to Address When Loved One Dies Unexpectedly

This post describes what estate legal issues typically get addressed after the unexpected death of a loved one.

Many people pass away after a long life due to natural causes, or they pass away after a prolonged illness. The death does not come as a shock or surprise to survivors, and the legal affairs are often in order with trusted loved ones having access to all of the estate information.

However, sometimes death comes completely unexpected, perhaps due to a medical issue (for example, a heart attack) or due to some type of accident. When this happens, questions often instantly arise among the survivors. Questions like:

Did he have his legal affairs in order?

Did she have a will or a trust?

How do we cover funeral expenses?

What did the deceased own and owe?

How will income taxes be handled?

What happens to all personal effects?

How do we deal with the deceased's business?

How do the monthly bills keep getting paid?

Who is responsible for dealing with all of this?

All of these questions that survivors have often lead to a statement, "We need to talk to an estate lawyer."

Perhaps the best reason to talk to an estate settlement lawyer sooner rather than later is because there is so much uncertainty that can be eliminated by talking to an estate attorney that can quickly map out a suggested plan of action to deal with the various estate issues involved.

If you are in this circumstance, make sure you quickly locate the last will and testament or trust of the deceased - the last will needs to be filed at the courthouse.

Although every estate settlement is unique, it often helps when all of the "parties" gather together for a meeting with the estate attorney. The "parties" will include the executor that is named in a will, along with all of the people who will inherit from the deceased.

These parties often have questions and they may be nervous that estate issues will be handled improperly. However, when all of the parties get together with an estate attorney who can lay out a plan for getting all matters addressed, the parties often start gaining peace of mind. When the parties know that communication will flow freely, and there will be transparency throughout the estate settlement process, heirs start to let their guard down because they know that their rights are going to be preserved. It's usually the failure to communicate, and the uncertainty from the failure to communicate, the causes heirs to lose trust in one another, and then relationships get damaged - often permanently.

Even though every estate settlement is different, most start with the family producing the last will and testament, and then the estate attorney prepares and files the necessary court pleading at the courthouse, to get the executor "confirmed." If no last will and testament exists, then the court will often appoint an "administrator" to handle the things that an executor would have handled if an executor was named in a will.

Once the executor is confirmed by a judge, or an administrator appointed by a judge, then that personal representative can gain access to information from third parties regarding estate details, and the personal representative can open an estate account and get access to the deceased's previously frozen accounts.

From there, a good estate attorney will develop a good short and long term plan for dealing with the various estate issues, and few surprises will surface during the process because a good estate settlement plan was created from the get-go.

This post is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice. Please do not act or refrain from acting based on anything you read on this site. Using this site or communicating with Rabalais Estate Planning, LLC, through this site does not form an attorney/client relationship.

Paul Rabalais

Louisiana Estate Planning Attorney

www.RabalaisEstatePlanning.com

Phone: (225) 329-2450

Estate Planning for ExxonMobil Retirees

The following is an overview of estate planning for retirees from ExxonMobil Corporation.

I've been fortunate to create, maintain, and oversee the estate legal programs for hundreds of ExxonMobil retirees. In addition, I was fortunate to inherit a few shares of Exxon stock when I was eight years old - from my grandmother.

While all ExxonMobil retirees are different, the "typical" ExxonMobil retiree is in his or her 60's, has worked at ExxonMobil for decades, and has a retirement account that is his largest financial asset.

The retiree either still has an ExxonMobil Savings Plan account, or has rolled it over into an Individual Retirement Account (IRA). Some ExxonMobil retirees take advantage of the Net Unrealized Apprecation (NUA) rules and have a brokerage account where they have transferred their employer stock out of their savings plan into a brokerage account. However, only a small percentage take advantage of this. Most retirees roll over their Savings Plan into an IRA.

In addition to the retirement account, the ExxonMobil retiree has other assets, such as a home, individual or joint brokerage account, vehicles, bank accounts, perhaps other real estate, such as rental property or family property, and perhaps they have their "toys," such as campers, RVs, boats, Harleys, Some retirees have no toys because it takes them a couple of years to get through their "Honey-Do" list.

The objectives of the ExxonMobil retiree often include having an estate legal program in place to keep things simple for themselves and their survivors, provide for their family the right way, be fair to all heirs, avoid tax, keep the government out of their estate, and in some circumstances, deal with nontraditional issues like blended families, children who can't handle a lump sum of money, or special needs children who are receiving valuable government assistance.

When it comes to plan design, we must address how to handle the distribution of the retirement account. This can be anything from simple to extremely complicated, particularly when retirement account owners name trusts as beneficiaries of retirement accounts. We need to keep an eye on the required distribution rules.

For the "probate" assets, we often create a revocable living trust (RLT) to avoid Succession/Probate both when the retiree passes away, and when the spouse of the retiree passes away. Real estate, brokerage accounts, and other probate assets get transferred to the RLT, and the RLT dictates the distribution of the assets after the death of the retiree and their spouse.

We'll have discussions about how assets are left to the spouse, and how assets are left to the children. We'll also address whether a bequest will be left to grandchildren, and, if so, how the grandchildren's inheritance will be managed for them while they are young.

The plan design component of the estate plan will also include conversations about who handles the retiree's money, and who makes the retiree's health care decisions in the even the retiree can't make those decisions on his or her own. We want to ensure that the court supervised Guardianship/Interdiction/Curatorship is avoided. We'll also discuss the life-support machines decisions.

No estate planning program for an ExxonMobil retiree is complete without a thorough discussion of the estate, income, and capital gains tax consequences of leaving assets to loved ones.

The, there will be miscellaneous things that will come up and be addressed, like putting people "on" the bank account and distribution of personal effects.

Once the plan is designed, our law firm then gets to work gathering family and asset information, and then customizing the various legal instruments necessary to make sure it is all in order.

After a review of these customized legal instruments, we'll get together for the execution of them, followed by titling/funding/beneficiary designation documentation, and organizing it all for easy access by yourself and others in your estate planning portfolio binder.

If you are an ExxonMobil employee or retiree, and you want to ensure that your estate is protected for yourself and your loved ones, give our office a call (225-329-2450, or toll free at 866-491-3884) to schedule an initial conversation with me. You and your loved ones will be glad you did - you've worked to hard NOT to protect what you have.

This post is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice. Please do not act or refrain from acting based on anything you read on this site. Using this site or communicating with Rabalais Estate Planning, LLC, through this site does not form an attorney/client relationship.

Paul Rabalais

Louisiana Estate Planning Attorney

www.RabalaisEstatePlanning.com

Phone: (225) 329-2450

Two Reasons to Transfer Out of State Real Estate to a Limited Liability Company

Some people own real estate in their own state, and they also own real estate in another state. There is often a right way and a wrong way to structure ownership of these properties.

The following are two reasons people transfer their out-of-state real estate to a limited liability company (LLC).

The most often cited reason to transfer real estate to an LLC is to protect yourself from potential lawsuits or other liabilities. Here's the deal: if you own real estate in your name in another state, and someone gets injured on the property, the injured party will sue the owner of the property (you). And if they are successful in their lawsuit against you, you will have to satisfy a judgment from your personal assets. So, your personal assets are at risk if you own real estate in your name.

However, if you transfer your property to your LLC, and someone gets injured, that injured party will sue the owner of the property (the LLC), and your personal assets are protected.

A second reason people transfer their out of state property to an LLC is to avoid the ancillary probate. When you die with assets in your name, your survivors will be required to go through a court proceeding ("Probate" or "Succession" - same thing really) and have the government's court system oversee the administration and disbursement of your things - some people consider this to be tedious, time-consuming, and expensive. And if you own real estate in your name in another state (outside of your home state), your survivors must hire a law firm in that other state to transfer your out of state property to your heirs. The "home-state" probate does not transfer out of state real estate that is titled in your name when you die. So, some people transfer their out of state real estate to an LLC to (1) gain limited liability; and (2) avoid the ancillary probate. The ownership of your LLC that owns out-of-state real estate can be transferred through your home-state probate.

Another alternate is to transfer your out-of-state real estate to an LLC (get limited liability and avoid ancillary probate), and then transfer your LLC to a revocable living trust so that an in-state probate is not even necessary to transfer your ownership interest in the LLC when you pass away. Don't try this at home! This is not a do-it-yourself task. If you live in Louisiana and want to get these benefits, contact my office.

There are many things to consider when taking these actions. Prior to transferring your property to an LLC, check with your lender (if you have a mortgage on the property), and check with your liability insurer (to make sure your insurance won't have to shift to a commercial policy). Make sure you get good legal help to cover all your bases and get the peace of mind you deserve.

This post is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice. Please do not act or refrain from acting based on anything you read on this site. Using this site or communicating with Rabalais Estate Planning, LLC, through this site does not form an attorney/client relationship.

Paul Rabalais

Louisiana Estate Planning Attorney

www.RabalaisEstatePlanning.com

Phone: (225) 329-2450