Capital Gains Tax

Children Donate Naked Ownership Interest Back To Surviving Parent

I've been working with a family recently. Dad passed away without a last will and testament ("intestate"). I explained to the family that since Dad died intestate, Dad's half of the community property would be inherited by Dad's children, subject to Mom's usufruct.

The children wanted to support Mom both emotionally and financially. The children wanted Mom to own everything so they asked me if they could donate their naked ownership interest back to Mom.  I told them that we would have to complete the Succession first in accordance with Louisiana law, and that Dad's half would have to go to the children, but then once the children were put "in possession" of the property, they could donate it back to Mom. Everyone felt good that Mom would own 100% of the property and the other Succession assets.

There were no gift or estate tax issues involved in the transaction since the estate tax exemption in 2018 is so high ($11.2 million). In fact, the children may benefit in the long run because when Mom dies many years from now, the children will benefit from the step-up in basis of Mom's entire estate as it passes to the children.

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.

Tax Consequences When Living Trust Settlor Dies

Because our government likes to tax people, there are a number of different taxes that come into play when the Settlor of a Revocable Living Trust dies. In general, the "tax at death" landscape has changed from avoiding estate tax, to avoiding capital gains tax and income tax. The following are the types of tax that might affect you if you are a Settlor, heir, beneficiary, legatee, trustee, executor, Agent, or Grantor, Trustor, or other participant in someone's transfer of wealth.

(1) Federal Estate Tax. For most people, you ain't gotta worry about it. If you have less than $11.2 million in assets when you die, you don't even have to file a federal estate tax return. Married? Exempt $22.4 million from the 40% estate tax. Yes, like everyone says, you can call me when you win the Powerball.

(2) Louisiana Inheritance Tax. It went long gone back in 2004. Doesn't exist any more.

(3) Capital Gains Tax. Definitely in play. When someone dies, assets that they own in their name, or assets in their revocable living trust, get a step-up in basis at death. This can permit the Successor Trustee or the beneficiaries to sell appreciated assets and pay little or no tax. Example: Dad bought a share of stock for $10. Before his death, the share is worth $50. If Dad sells it before he dies, he pays capital gains tax on the $40 of capital gain. But if Dad does not sell the share, and he dies, then the heirs or beneficiaries inherit the stock at the "stepped-up" $50 (fair market value on the date Dad died). Note that in community property states like Louisiana, ALL of the community property gets a step up when the first spouse dies. It makes a lot of sense, when a married person dies, to document the value of the assets so that tax can be calculated later when the asset is sold. Remember: no capital gains tax unless an asset is SOLD.

(4) Income Tax. There are all kinds of income tax ramifications to inheriting. Depends on what you inherit and many other factors. However, in general, a distribution of trust principal to a principal beneficiary after a Settlor dies is free of income tax to the recipient. However, income tax consequences exist if you are the beneficiary of a Traditional IRA, 401(k), or other pre-tax retirement account. You may also be required to pay income tax on the "gain" portion of a tax-deferred annuity when you receive it. There are also income tax consequences to inheriting appreciated savings bonds. Note that if you are the beneficiary of a Traditional IRA, and you are not the account owner's spouse, you will likely inherit it as an Inherited IRA and you cannot wait until 70.5 to start taking required distributions.

Many of the decisions you make when establishing your estate planning program, and many of the decisions your Trustee, heirs, or beneficiaries make after you death, can have a significant impact on how much tax the government takes from your estate.

Paul Rabalais
Louisiana Estate Planning Attorney
www.RabalaisEstatePlanning.com
Phone: 866-491-3884

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Sell or Distribute Assets When Someone Dies?

When someone dies with assets, whether those assets are in trust or not, the people in charge must make a decision to either sell (liquidate) the assets, or distribute them in their same form to those left behind.

When someone with a living trust dies, the Successor Trustee is typically heavily involved in that decision. If it is appropriate to sell assets, then the Successor Trustee will sell those assets, the proceeds of the sale will be payable to the Trust, and the Successor Trustee will deposit those funds into a trust account for subsequent disbursement to the beneficiaries of the trust. Trustees will sometimes sell real estate (a home, for example) that the survivors have no use for. Successor Trustees may also sell mutual funds or other investments and disburse those to beneficiaries.

On the other hand, sometimes it makes sense for the Successor Trustee to simply distribute the assets to the beneficiaries in the same form. Occasionally, a family has an emotional attachment to stock that a parent owned, and the beneficiaries will receive the stock in their own name.

Sometimes the family will want to continue owning real estate owned by the deceased (or the deceased's living trust). The Successor Trustee, immediately after the death of the Settlor, can transfer the real estate to the beneficiaries, outside of probate, so that each beneficiary owns an undivided interest in the real estate. It's also not uncommon, if the real estate was not owned in a limited liability company, for the beneficiaries to form an LLC and put their undivided interest in the property into the LLC. This could limit their liability exposure. Each beneficiary would then own a membership interest in the LLC.

So there are lots of decisions, each with tax consequences, that must be made when someone with a trust dies. Note that if there was not living trust, then the executor of the Last Will has similar decisions to make, but the actions of the executor are under the scrutiny of the judge that is assigned to oversee the Succession judicial proceeding. It's generally easier to administer a trust after a Settlor dies than it is to administer a Louisiana Succession which requires extra judicial processes and supervision. 

Paul Rabalais
Louisiana Estate Planning Attorney
paul@rabalaisestateplanning.com
Office phone: 866-491-3884

Is Estate Tax Owed on Living Trust Assets?

Assets that are either in your name or in your Living Trust are going to be included in your estate when you die for federal estate tax purposes. The federal government assesses about a 40% tax on the value of your assets when you die, but only if they exceed a certain amount.

Starting in 2018, as a result of our new tax law, an individual will be able to exempt $11.2 million of assets from the 40% estate tax. To take it a little further, married couples can exempt up to $22.4 million from the federal estate tax.

In fact, for most families, it is more advantageous for assets to be included in your estate for tax purposes than excluded. Assets that are in your estate, for tax purposes, get a step-up in capital gains tax basis when you die. This permits your heirs to sell assets after you die and pay no tax on the appreciation from the time of your initial purchase until the time of your death. This can save a load of tax.

In fact, since Louisiana is a community property state, we get to benefit from the special rule that says that all of the married couple's community property gets a step-up in basis at the first death, not just the deceased spouse's half. And if you set up your estate planning program the right way, the entire estate will get another step-up in basis when the surviving spouse dies. We call this the "Doube Step-Up." But it doesn't happen automatically, you have to actively work with the right estate planning attorney who can guide you through this.

It's worth mentioning at this point that the federal gift and estate tax are unified. Here's what that means. If, in 2018, you donate more than $15,000 to anyone, no one owes tax. By giving more than the annual exclusion amount ($15,000 for 2018), you simply start using up some of your $11.2 million estate tax exemption. That's right - no one owes taxes if a gift is in excess of $15,000 (unless, of course, you give away more than $11.2 million, but that would be one heckuva gift!

And note that based on the new tax law, the estate tax exemption is scheduled to revert back to $5 million (indexed for inflation), in 2026, unless, of course, Congress and the President change it again.

Year-End Gifting Decisions

Here on December 29, it happens every year. We get blitzed with year-end gifting decisions. Yesterday, a gentleman walked into my office wanting to speak with me about whether his parents should engage in year-end gifting. HIs parents have a large estate but the son said the CPA told them not to give because they would lose the step-up in basis.

I asked the son what the parents were intending to gift. He said, "Cash - my parents are going to do a transfer out of their savings account." I then asked if the parents "wanted" to gift. He said the parents were ready and willing to do it - it sounded like the parents were getting some personal satisfaction out of making the gifts.

They decided to gift. Generally, a gift of cash is better than a gift of an appreciated assets (like appreciated stock or real estate). The apppreciated assets that remain in the parents' estate will get a step-up in basis at death. But there is no loss in step up when the gift is cash.

What Estate Related Matters Need To Be Addressed When Wealthier Parent Dies?

I was working with an older, wealthier client yesterday and the husband asked if we could prepare a list of what their survivors would need to address after they pass away. 

Every circumstance is unique but in this matter, the following are a few of the things that will need to be addressed when wealthier Louisiana parents pass away.

If the husband left assets to others through his last will and testament, a Louisiana Succession will be necessary. There may also need to be an Ancillary Probate in other states if he owned real estate in a state outside of Louisiana. If he and his wife had created a Living Trust, then no Succession will be necessary if assets are titled in the name of his trust when he dies.

He will likely have left assets either in ownership, or in usufruct, or in trust, for his wife and kids. Assets will need to be retitled into the proper form (such as into a Usufruct account or in trust). 

There may be a federal estate tax return that must be filed (even if no federal estate tax is due after the first death) within 9 months from the date of death. Both the terms of his estate legal documents, and the moves his family make are likely to have income tax and capital gains tax consequences. Good help here can save a ton.

After the surviving spouse dies, it is likely that one or more of the adult children are named as executors or trustees. If the surviving spouse left assets to the kids through her last will and testament, another Succession (and Ancillary Probates in other states) must happen. If the surviving spouse had assets titled in the name of her trust, the successor trustee (typically one or more of the kids) can disburse assets from the trust to the beneficiaries immediately, skipping the court-supervised Succession.

Estate tax returns may need to be filed, and estate tax may need to be paid. The children should get good help making sure that they inherit IRAs and other assets the right way so that taxes are minimized or avoided on the distribution or subsequent sale of inherited assets.

Don't make the mistake of asking for help after you've made a mistake that you can't undo. If you need help, call our office at 866-491-3884.

Should I Donate Property? Or Let Children Inherit It When I Pass Away

Several people in the last few days have asked me whether they should donate a piece of property to their child, or whether they should let the child inherit the property from the parent. 

There are several factors to consider when determining whether to donate property, or to leave to a child or other heir through your Will or Trust. Here's a few of the factors:

(1) Capital Gains Tax. If you purchased a piece of property for $50,000, and it is now worth $200,000, and you donate the property during your lifetime, the donee (the person you give the property to) will receive a "carry-over" basis. When the donee sells the property, they will pay capital gains tax on what they receive in excess of $50,000. If, however, the child inherits the property from you through your Will or Trust, the inheritor will enjoy the benefits of the "stepped-up" basis. The inheritor's basis will be the value of the property on the date of death. For this reason, many elect to hold on to their appreciated property and let the child(ren) inherit it.

(2) "I Don't Want Them To Sell It. Some people own family property and they do not want it sold after it has been transferred either through gift or inheritance. Perhaps that may be a factor that would warrant you keeping the property for your lifetime, and then allowing the inheritor to own it when you die - perhaps when they are more mature and more likely to abide by your wishes to keep the property in the family.

(3) The Property Generates Income. If the property generates timber or rental or mineral income, this may be a factor as to whether your keep it or donate it. Perhaps you want to continue to receive the income because you want it or need the income, or perhaps your child who may be in a lower income tax bracket may pay less tax if they receive the income.

(4) "I Just Him To Have It." Some people simple want their child or children to own the property - now. If that is really what you want - for whatever reason - then give it to them. Just make sure it is an informed decision in light of all of the other factors that come into play.

(5) Estate and Gift Tax. Because individuals have a $5.49 million gift and estate tax exemption that they can use by making gifts during their lifetime or by leaving assets to others when they die, the estate and gift tax should not be afactor for most people who are contemplating making gifts of property. If a gift is made that is larger than the annual exclusion amount (currently $14,000), no tax is due  - the Donor simply used up some of their $5.49 million estate tax exemption.

(6) Future Medicaid Eligibility. If there is a concern that the parent may need the Louisiana Long Term Care Medicaid benefit if they go into a nursing home in the future, this may be a factor that warrants making the donation now. If the parent holds onto the property and needs nursing home care in the future, the parent would not qualify for Medicaid until after he or she sold the property and used all of the proceeds of the sale on long  term care  nursing home expenses.

As you can see, several factors go into whether you should keep property or donate it before you pass away. Make sure your decision is fully informed - a mistake could cost your family plenty. For more help, call us at 866-491-3884.

"If I Give More Than $14,000 To My Daughter, She Will Have To Pay Tax," Says Everyone - Incorrectly!

I was having a conversation a few days ago with a man who wanted to preserve as much as he could for his family - and as little as he could from the government. It was a difficult conversation to have because - in spite of his confident nature - everything that came out of his mouth was wrong.

While he was on the topic of gifting, he said, "I want to put some things in my daughter's name, but if I give her more than $14,000 in any year, she will have to pay tax on it."

We hear this often. And every time we hear it, it's wrong.

The Technical Side of Gifting

Here's the technical side of gifting. Each year a person can donate $14,000 (or whatever the present interest annual exclusion amount is - it gets adjusted for inflation) to as many people as they want and there are no TAX CONSEQUENCES to that donation. Most people understand this.

But where most lay people misinterpret the law is the following. Any gift, regardless of the value of the gift, is exempt from income tax both to the donor (the person making the gift) and the donee (the person receiving the gift). That's right. If Dad gives $114,000 to Daughter, no one pays any income tax. 

So, what's the catch?

The $114,000 gift described above is a TAXABLE GIFT. But no one pays any income tax. Here's the only tax consequences. You see, Dad has an estate and gift tax exemption of $5.49 million. By making a $114,000 taxable gift, no one owes any tax. Dad must report to the IRS (on a Gift Tax Return - IRS Form 709) that he made a taxable gift. But no one owes any taxes. Dad simply used up $100,000 ($114,000 - $14,000) of his gift and estate tax exemption. Now, when Dad dies, instead of being able to exempt $5.49 million free of the 40% estate tax, Dad can only exempt $5.39 million of assets from the 40% federal estate tax. 

When Dad learns this he exclaims, "I'll never have anywhere near an estate of more than $5 million so making a taxable gift really doesn't matter in my circumstances." Congratulations Dad! You now understand that making gifts in excess of the present interest annual exclusion amount (currently $14,000 for gifts made in 2017, but subject to increase) causes no one to pay any tax.

Gifting can be tricky. If you're gifting, you can make some big mistakes if you don't take into account all of the income tax, capital gains tax, property tax, estate and gift tax, and other nontax considerations that result from making gifts. Some families benefit from giving cash, while others may benefit from giving appreciating assets. Some families lose out when they donate appreciated assets. So get some expert help and have a good estate and tax legal program in place for your family to preserve and protect what you have.

Lafayette,Louisiana Family Benefits From Dad's Estate and Medicaid Planning

I've been working with a Lafayette area family lately. Dad has his home, his life savings, and a couple of other pieces of property, and he wants to make sure his kids get it when he dies. His biggest threats to his children, as he sees it, are:

  1. Losing the assets due to a long-term care nursing home stay;
  2. Taxes; and
  3. Probate

A large part of his life savings is tucked away in his Individual Retirement Account (IRA). He also has investments held in an account that is not an IRA, and he has some money in bank accounts.

He realized that his IRA is threatened. He knows that any distributions from the IRA during his lifetime or after he dies will be subject to income tax to the recipient of the distribution. He was questioning whether taking required minimum distributions each year was the smartest way to handle his IRA. Here's what he said:

"If I just keep taking my required distributions, then I will pay tax on those distributions and the remainder of my IRA will continue to grow tax-deferred. All of the future growth will be ordinary income to whoever receives a distribution and those distributions in the future could be taxes at a rate as high as 40%, particularly if they go to my kids. Plus, if I go to a nursing home, I will be forced to take large distributions, pay the income tax, and then spend the remaining amounts on my nursing home expenses."

Then he asked:

"Wouldn't it be better if I took larger distributions that the required distributions, pay the tax, and then place the after-tax proceeds in a special trust account where it will be protected from my future nursing home expenses? Oh, and since the trust is a Grantor Trust, any future appreciation of my investments after I take it out of the IRA will passtax-free to my kids due to the step-up in basis that they will enjoy when they sell the assets after my death?"

His analyses appears to make a lot of sense. Most people are encouraged to keep every penny that they can inside their IRA. I'm not saying that's wrong every time, but as long as the investments grow inside the IRA, then a big chunk of each distribution will go the IRS. If the IRA goes ahead and takes distributions faster than required, and pays the tax on those distributions, then future appreciation would escape taxation due to the step-up in basis. Plus, if the IRA owner takes distributions and places those funds into the right kind of trust, then there is the added benefit of being protected from future nursing home costs.

Anyone who has an IRA and is concerned about future taxes and about losing the IRA to nursing home expenses, should have a conversation with an estate planning attorney who understands not only the estate tax, but the income tax and capital gains tax consequences of taking minimum distributions versus taking distributions larger than the minimum required amount.

Give us a call at 866-491-3884 to start a conversation about how to protect your IRA from the government. Don't wait another day. Every day that you wait could be costing you and your family!!!

Seven New Louisiana Estate Matters That Walked Into Rabalais Estate Planning During The Last Two Days

I have been fortunate to have seven different families, from Metairie, Baton Rouge, Shreveport, Gonzales, and Zachary. ask me to help them with various estate matters over the last two days. Each family has a different situation and a different concern, so I thought I'd give you a general overview of their problems and how we are solving them so that if you have a similar problem you will know that you are not alone and there is someone that can help who has helped others in similar situations.

Here are the seven different situations that families have retained me in the last two days to help them:

  1. Mom's Investment Account Frozen. A gentleman came and met with me two days ago. His mother had passed away and, as a result, her investment account was frozen. Mom and the son had the same investment advisor. The investment advisor suggested that the son come see me so that we could complete the probate (also known in Louisiana as "Succession") to obtain the necessary court orders which will allow the family to have access to Mom's currently frozen investment account.
  2. Want To Protect Each Other and Teenage Child. A couple came in that had been referred by another financial advisor. The couple had a teenage child and wanted to make sure that their "legal affairs were in order" because they had done no estate legal planning in the past. We will be setting up an estate legal program for this couple to make legal matters easy or nonexistent when one spouse dies, and then making sure that guardians and trustees are named for their minor child should something happen to the parents before the child is an adult.
  3. Couple With No Children. Working with a couple that has been married for decades with no children. They have some pets that are important to them. We will be setting up an estate legal program so that when one of them dies, matters will be under the continued control of the surviving spouse, and that after they both pass away, funds will be set aside for the care of their pets, with the remainder of their estate being divided among four charitable causes that they care deeply about. Nice and fun couple - organized too!
  4. Blended Family. Working with a couple each of whom was in their second marriage. They each had one child. The children lived geographically far apart and had not spent much time together. The couple wanted to make sure that protections were in place for each other so that when one dies, there is no interruption from the children, and then when both spouses die, things are in place for the two children to inherit outside of probate and other court legal proceedings being necessary. Another really nice couple.
  5. Protect Mom's Money From Nursing Homes. Working with a family where Mom is currently residing in an assisted living facility. The family realized that all assisted living facilities in Louisiana are private-pay, but they are worried that if Mom's conditions worsens, Mom will have to move to a skilled nursing facility and be forced to spend $6,000 monthly or more on her care.  We are setting up a legal plan for the family so that Mom's money will be protected if she has to reside in a nursing home in the future. Plus, probate will be avoided when Mom dies.
  6. Execute Will. I wrote a Will for a woman many years ago. She passed away recently. I met with the family and they retained us to execute Mom's Will and complete Mom's Succession so that the home and Mom's CDs, and the vehicle, could be transferred 100% into Dad's name. We are also updating all of Dad's estate planning legal documents because he wanted to change how things would be disbursed upon his death.
  7. Plan For Two Children. Now working with a gentleman who contact me after "watching some of my videos and reading some of my blog posts online." He has a rather large estate, much of it in real estate, and he wants to make sure that it goes to his two children the right way and he wants it to be easy for his two children to inherit the property. We also had some discussions about capital gains tax and estate tax to make sure that his children would avoid as much tax as possible as this property gets transitioned to the next generation.

While many people think that estate planning is the same for everyone, you can see from reading these seven examples that every family and every individual has a unique situation that requires unique solutions. If you have an estate that you want to protect for your family, feel free to give my office a call at 866-491-3884 to start a conversation about the easiest ways to protect what you have for your loved ones.

Paul Rabalais

 

Louisiana Family Wants Estate Plan That Does 2 Things: Avoid Probate and Protect From Nursing Homes

Was working with a couple recently that had three grown children. One child lived in Lafayette. Another child lived in Lake Charles. The third child lived in Virginia. The couple told me they wanted to accomplish two things:

  1. They wanted an irrevocable trust that would protect assets from nursing home costs; and
  2. They wanted the surviving spouse and the children to avoid probate.

We discussed some of the issues that were involved when a large portion of their life savings were in their IRAs. The couple was serious about protecting what they had because one spouse had a parent that was spending a fortune right now on nursing home costs and private sitter costs. The other spouse that I was working with had seen parents lose a home and significant savings to nursing home costs.

We discussed all of the tax aspects of their estate legal program, including:

  • The income tax consequences of assets held in a trust;
  • The protection of the step-up in basis of appreciated assets at their death;
  • The likelihood that there will be no estate or inheritance tax when they die;
  • The income tax consequences of distributions from their traditional IRA and their Roth IRA.

We also discussed how they wanted to provide funds for their grandchildren's education and the best ways to accomplish that. We also discussed, at their request, how owning long term care insurance might fit into their overall legal plan to protect their estate for themselves and their children. They mentioned that they were already staring to look into long term care insurance possibilities with an insurance provider.

At the end of the discussion, I believe they felt that by discussing these issues with me and working toward an estate legal plan to protect their family, they have a plan in place that gives them peace of mind, knowing that they have done what they could to protect their estate.

How To Complete the Probate of a $1 Million Louisiana Estate

I've handled many Louisiana Successions over the last 25 years. Every one is different and there can be many different ways to "skin the cat." But I want to give you an overview of what typically is involved when a "typical" one million dollar estate is being probated in Louisiana.

First, some terminology - Probate or Succession. When someone dies with assets in their name in the United States, it is up to our government (the judicial system) to see to it that those assets are managed properly and then ultimately transferred to the rightful heirs after all applicable delays and court costs, attorney fees and other administrative expenses have been taken care of. The fact that the government must oversee this is the topic of another discussion.

All other states, except Louisiana, call this court-supervised process "Probate." In Louisiana, it is also commonly referred to as a "Succession." For purposes of this discussion, I will call this procedure in Louisiana - "Probate."

So let's look at an example. Dad died years ago leaving everything to Mom. Now, Mom just passed away three weeks ago. Mom lived in Louisiana when she died. Mom had previously signed a Last Will and Testament ("Will") leaving her entire estate equally to her three children. She named her oldest child ("Sonny") as the executor of her Will. When Mom died, she owned a home worth $300,000, bank accounts valued at $100,000, CDs valued at $200,000, an IRA valued at $150,000, a separate stock account valued at $100,000, an annuity valued at $50,000, US Savings Bonds valued at $50,000, a vehicle valued at $20,000, and other personal effects valued at $30,000. Mom also had a few debts. Mom has two credit cards (each with a $5,000 balance). There are ongoing insurance and maintenance expenses associated with the house. Mom's daughter, Sissy, paid the $10,000 funeral expense out of her own pocket.

So, here are the typical steps involved in settling this million dollar estate.

  1. Attorney For The Children. Generally, each child must have an attorney since all of the children are participants in this court proceeding. For purposes of this situation, let's assume that all of the children are represented by the same attorney. All communications with the attorney will be with all of the children present. There is no conflict between any of the children. If there is any conflict among the children, then different children will have different attorneys and the proceeding will likely move much slower through the court system - in fact, many contested probates never wind up getting fully resolved.
  2. IRA and Annuity. Let's assume that Mom designated her three children as the equal designated beneficiaries on the IRA and the annuity with the particular financial institutions. If so, then the three children can apply directly to these financial institutions to get their benefits. We'll talk taxes later, but the beneficiaries will include distributions they receive from Mom's IRA as taxable income, and they will also have to pay income tax on the gain that was recognized inside of Mom's annuity.
  3. Get Sonny Confirmed as Independent Executor. Court pleadings will be prepared, signed, and filed at the courthouse to open the Probate and to petition to be confirmed as the Independent Executor. Let's assume Mom's Will not only designated Sonny as the executor, but she authorized him to act as an Independent Executor. It is critical that Sonny be confirmed as the Independent Executor so that he can start to gain access to Mom's accounts, pay bills on behalf of the estate, and perhaps sell estate assets that need to be sold. When the judge signs this first court order, the clerk of court will issue certified copies of the "Letters of Independent Executorship."
  4. Open Estate Account. Once Sonny receives the court-issued Letters of Independent Executorship, he will go to a bank and open an Estate Account. Sonny cannot open an estate account until he has these "Letters."  Let's assume he opens the Estate Account at the same bank that Mom used. The bank will open the Estate Account and they will transfer Mom's frozen bank account funds and her frozen CD funds into the estate account. There will be no penalty for early surrender of the CDs when the bank transfers the funds out of Mom's CDs into the Estate Account.
  5. Detailed Descriptive List of Assets and Liabilities. The family provides information to the attorney regarding the specifics of Mom's assets and debts when she died. The court requires that a detailed listing of all assets and debts be filed into the court record before a judge can authorize a distribution of estate assets to the heirs.
  6. Separate Stock Account. The children talked and decided that since they have no emotional attachment to the stock that Mom owned, it would be best to sell the stock and divide the proceeds of the sale among the children. Sonny, armed with his Letters of Independent Executorship giving him authorization to sell estate assets, sells the stock. The check from the sale is made out to: Estate of Mom. Sonny deposits this check into the Estate Account at the bank.
  7. Mom's Home. Since all three children have their own homes, the children agree that it would be best to sell the home. The children quickly clean out the house and Sonny, as the Independent Executor, gets with a realtor to list the home for sale. Two months later, they find a buyer to buy the house from the estate. Sonny attends the closing. The check for $300,000 produced at the house closing is payable to "Estate of Mom." Sonny deposits these funds into the estate account.  There is no tax on the sale of the house because, even though Mom and Dad purchased the home years ago for $120,000, the children will enjoy the "step-up in basis" at Mom's death. Since the new basis is the value of the home at Mom's death, and since there is no better way to determine fair market value than what a willing buyer and willing seller agree to shortly after death, it is fair to say that the basis was the sales price ($300,000). So, there was no capital gains tax to be paid upon the sale of the home.
  8. U.S. Savings Bonds. When Mom died, she owned 87 U.S. Savings Bondsthat were valued at $50,000 when Mom died. Mom had originally paid $33,000 for these savings bonds. The children decide to keep things simple by selling all of the bonds. Sonny goes through the process of selling all of the bonds, as the Independent Executor, and depositing those proceeds into the Estate Account. Income tax will have to be paid on the difference between what the US Savings Bonds were sold for ($33,000) and what they were sold for ($50,000). This taxable gain is $17,000.
  9. Mom's Vehicle. The children decide to sell Mom's old Lincoln. Sonny sells the vehicle. The check is payable to Estate of Mom. Check deposited in Estate Account.
  10. Personal Effects. The children get together at Mom's home shortly after Mom died and, informally, agreed on how Mom's personal effects are to be divided. Perhaps Mom may have even communicated to the children, or made an informal list of instructions, regarding her personal effects. Since these personal effects are not "titled," like an account or a piece of property is, the children are satisfied with their own personal division of personal effects. The attorney does not have to get involved in this aspect of settling the probate.
  11. Paying Estate Bills. Sonny will use the funds in the Estate Account to reimburse Sissy for the funeral expenses she incurred, and Sonny will also use the Estate Account to pay off Mom's credit cards, and to pay house maintenance expenses of the home from the time Mom died until the house is sold. Sonny may very well be required to prepare and file a final income tax return for Mom, which will be due April 15 of the year after Mom died.
  12. Executor Fee. As executor, Sonny is entitled to an executor's fee of 2.5% of the Succession Assets. Sonny does the math and concludes that he is entitled to an executor's fee of $25,000. Sonny has a decision to make: Does he collect the $25,000 executor's fee from the estate (he will pay income tax on this amount because he is being compensated for the services he rendered). Or does he waive some or all of the fee and allow the three children to simply inherit the estate assets one-third each without income tax consequences.
  13. Estate Tax. No federal estate tax is due because the value of Mom's estate is less than the applicable estate tax exemption of $5.45 million. No Louisiana Inheritance Tax is due because Louisiana no longer has an inheritance tax. We discussed above income tax consequences to the children's receipt of the annuity and IRA and US Savings Bonds.
  14. Judgment of Possession. Finally, a judge signs a Judgment of Possession which may close the estate and order that all remaining estate assets be transferred to the three children equally. Sonny, as executor, may want to hold back a sum of money just in case bills come in after all of the funds would have been otherwise distributed.

There you have it. While every Louisiana Succession or Probate is different, this is just one example of things that occur during the legal proceedings related to settling a $1 million dollar probate. Actually, the procedure would be the same whether the estate was worth $200,000 or $4,000,000.

If you have lost a family member, and you want to work with an attorney who will help your family get through all of this quickly and easily while keeping the family relationships intact, give us a call at 866-491-3884 to start a discussion about handling the Louisiana Succession.

Basic Gifting Concepts To Avoid Estate and Gift Tax

Gifting may only be necessary for people who have large estates. With the estate tax exemption for deaths occurring in 2016 at $5.45 million, it may not be appropriate for most Louisianians to make gifts annually.

However, if an individual has or will have an estate exceeding these thresholds, it may make sense to do some gifting if one of the primary objectives is to preserve the estate for the family and minimize or avoid estate tax at death.

Individuals can donate up to $14,000 annually to as many people as they want to without incurring gift and estate tax consequences. If an annual gift exceeds this annual exclusion amount, then typically, no tax is due, but the donor will begin using his or her $5.45 million gift and estate tax exemption.

A person can donate cash, stock, property, an interest in a business, or any other asset having value. People should be careful, however, when they donate appreciated assets because it may result in extra capital gains tax when the asset is later sold or disposed of. When appreciated assets are donated, the done/recipient receives the assets at a "carry-over" basis. But when an individual inherits appreciated assets, the heir/recipient enjoys a "step-up" in basis.

Gifts can be either outright or in trust. Gifts are often made in trust when the donor does not want the donee to have complete control of the gifted asset. But if you donate in trust, you have to make sure the gift in trust meets the requirements of the "present interest annual exclusion," so that the beneficiary of the trust has a "present interest" in the gift.

Gifting to avoid estate tax can be complicated. Rabalais Estate Planning, LLC, has attorneys and office locations all around south Louisiana, including Baton Rouge, Metairie, Lafayette, Mandeville, Lake Charles, and Houma. Our website is www.RabalaisEstatePlanning.com. Our phone number is 866-491-3884. You can also email me at paul@rabalaisestateplanning.com.

Forget About The Estate Tax. Capital Gains Tax Is The New Sexy Tax To Avoid

Face it. Most families simply won't have to worry a lick about the federal estate tax. That's because about 99% of unmarried people don't have an estate that exceeds $5.45 million. And more than 99% of married couples don't have a combined estate of $10.9 million. So, for most families, no worries about trying to avoid the 40% federal estate tax.

But almost every family who engages in estate planning has assets that have appreciated in value. That means there is the potential for capital gains tax at both the federal and state level when those appreciated assets are sold.

Example: Let's say Dad bought stock in ABC Co. for $5 per share over the years. Now, that Dad is 76 years old, ABC Co. stock sells for $60 per share. That means that there is $55 of gain in each share of stock that Dad owns. If Dad sells the stock during his lifetime, he'll get hard with a capital gains tax.

Now let's say that Dad wants to beat the system so he decides to put that stock in his children's names before he goes into a nursing home (to avoid nursing home poverty) and before he dies (to avoid probate and to avoid death tax). So, he puts the stock in his kids' names. Voila - Dad thinks he beat the system. But after the transaction is complete, the stock goes up even more (let's say to $100 per share) and the kids decide to cash in and sell the stock. What no one realizes is that when Dad transferred the stock during his lifetime to the kids, the basis of the stock "carried over" to the kids, so when the kids sell the stock, they will have to pay capital gains on everything they receive in excess of the $5 per share. So, $95 per share will be subject to a 20BUT +% capital gains tax at the federal and state level.

Perhaps if Dad would have put the stock into the right kind of Grantor Trust, he would have removed the stock from his name for probate and nursing home purposes, BUT HE WOULD HAVE PRESERVED THE STEP-UP IN BASIS AT THIS DEATH. So, when Dad dies later when the stock is worth $100 per share, and then the kids sell the stock for $100 per share, the total capital gains tax bill for the sale will be $0 or zilch. Even though Dad kept the stock in his taxable estate by transferring it to a Grantor Trust, there will be no estate tax due to Dad's estate being valued at less than $5.45 million.

Many a "Do-It-Yourself" estate planner have mistakenly believed that they beat the government or beat Uncle Sam by putting stock or other appreciated assets in their kids' names while they are alive. But what they don't know is that Uncle Sam is laughing at them from a distance knowing that when the asset is later sold, Uncle Sam will collect a bundle because the children, unfortunately, receive a "carry-over" basis in the stock, as opposed to a "stepped-up" basis in the stock.