Revocable Living Trust

The Double Step Up In Basis: Traditional Planning Makes Kids Pay Extra Capital Gains Tax

This describes how the traditional methods of estate planning for married couples causes children or other heirs and beneficiaries to pay extra capital gains tax due to the failure to take advantage of the double step-up in basis.

In the old days (about a decade ago), the emphasis on estate planning was always avoiding estate tax. Married couples would arrange their wills and trusts so that when the first spouse died, assets were left either in usufruct or to an irrevocable trust so that the assets of the first spouse to die would not be included, for estate tax purposes, in the estate of the surviving spouse. Assets were left to trusts commonly referred to as A/B trusts, credit shelter trusts, survivor's and family trusts, QTIP trusts, or bypass trusts. The goal was to, by leaving assets to an irrevocable trust at the death of the first spouse, those assets would escape estate taxation upon the death of the surviving spouse.

However, this planning method did not have the best capital gains tax result. In community property states, all of the community property would get a step up in basis upon the first spouse's death (to the value at the date of the first spouse's death), but only the assets that the surviving spouse owned would recognize another step up in basis when the surviving spouse died. The family was forfeiting another step up in basis.

Now, for almost all families, the fact that all the assets get lumped into the estate of the surviving spouse is irrelevant for federal estate tax purposes. Each estate can exempt $11.2 (for deaths in 2018) from the estate tax. And since new portability law allows the surviving spouse to use any part of the exemption that went unused by the first spouse to die, married couples can shield $22.4 million) from the estate tax. Simply put, estate tax is not an issue for most families.

So now, married couples should consider doing the opposite. They should consider arranging their affairs to that all marital assets get included in the estate of the surviving spouse. So long as the total is less than the estate tax exemptions, there will be no estate tax but the heirs will benefit from another step-up in basis when the surviving spouse dies. Then, if the heirs sell previously appreciated assets, there will be no tax to pay.

A simple way to include assets in the estate of the surviving spouse is to leave ownership of those assets to the surviving spouse (through a Last Will), Or if a married couple has a living trust to avoid probate, they can provide that the trust does not become irrevocable upon the death of the first spouse. However, if there is a blended family situation, or the couple is worried that the survivor may attempt to leave assets to a second spouse, or if the surviving spouse may need to qualify for Medicaid upon entering a nursing home, that couple may want to reconsider whether or not to put the surviving spouse in complete control of the marital assets.

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

Does a Revocable Living Trust Protect From Nursing Home, Lawsuits, or Income Tax?

People often ask whether creating, funding, and maintaining a revocable living trust gives them protection from the long term care Medicaid spend down that applies when one enters a nursing home with assets, whether the revocable living trusts protects assets in the event the Settlor of the trust is sued, and people also ask what effect a revocable living trust will have on their income taxes.

Regarding whether revocable trust assets give protection from the nursing home spend-down, the answer is clear. The Louisiana Medicaid Eligibility Manual provides that the trust is a resource of yours if you have the right to revoke it and use the funds for your own benefit. 

Regarding protection from lawsuits (creditors), the Louisiana Trust Code provides that a creditor may seize an interest in income or principal that is subject to voluntary alienation by a beneficiary. Since you can voluntarily alienate (and do whatever you want) your revocable trust assets, the assets in the trust could be seized if someone files a lawsuit against you, is successful in the lawsuit, and gets a judgment against you.

Regarding income tax, a revocable living trust is considered a Grantor Trust. Grantor Trusts are those where you have retained certain powers. One of the enumerated Grantor Trust powers is the power to revoke the trust. Thus, a revocable trust is a Grantor Trust for income tax purposes. Grantor Trusts are generally disregarded for income tax purposes during your lifetime. The IRS will treat you as the owner of your revocable trust assets. The Grantor Trust is ignored for income tax purposes, and all income is treated as belonging directly to you (the "Grantor"). During your lifetime, you will report the income from trust assets on your personal income tax return. 

To find out more, subscribe to our Youtube channel (Rabalais Estate Planning, LLC), subscribe to our podcast (Estate Planning with Paul Rabalais), or check out our website (www.RabalaisEstatePlanning.com).

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

Rules on an Irrevocable Trust and Nursing Home Medicaid

This post describes the regulations that exist regarding when assets in a trust are considered resources of someone who is applying for Long Term Care Medicaid.

Many Seniors are concerned about the cost of long term care, especially if it is necessary that they spend months or years in a skilled nursing facility.

Some Seniors explore getting assets out of their name timely to make themselves eligible for Medicaid. These same Seniors, however, are uncomfortable putting assets in their children's names for fear of losing control of the assets, and for fear of giving their children unwanted tax consequences.

Some people explore putting assets in trust for purposes of gaining future Long Term Care Medicaid eligibility. The Louisiana Long Term Care Medicaid Eligibility Manual (the "Manual") has specific rules regarding whether trust assets are considered a resource of the Medicaid applicant, rendering them ineligible for Medicaid benefits.

Regarding when the Medicaid applicant is a trustee of a trust, the Manual provides:

"Count the trust as a resource, regardless of whose funds were
originally deposited into the trust, if the applicant/enrollee:
 is the trustee, and
 has the legal right to:
- revoke the trust, and
- use the money for his own benefit."

Regarding when the Medicaid applicant is a Settlor of a trust, the Manual provides:

"Count the trust as a resource if the applicant/enrollee is the settlor
(created the trust) and:
 has the right to revoke it, and
 can use the funds for his own benefit"

Regarding when assets are not considered a resource and penalty periods apply to the transfer of the assets to a trust, the Manual provides:

Consider penalties under the transfer of resource policy (refer to
I-1670 Transfer of Resources For Less Than Fair Market Value) if
the applicant/enrollee:
 created the trust,
 does not have the right to revoke it, and
 cannot use the principal for his own benefit.

The traditional "avoid probate" revocable living trust clearly is a resource for a Medicaid applicant. Many people, however, create other trusts, and transfer assets to those trusts, which can enable a Senior to avoid the risks inherent in transferring assets during into children's names, while starting the five year penalty period and protecting assets from the nursing home spend down.

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 Case Study: Married Couple with $3m Estate

While every individual and couple that engages in estate planning has a different set of circumstances - no two are the same, the following is a case study of a Louisiana couple that has accumulated some wealth, never engaged in estate planning before, has two adult children who are late 20's and early 30s, and wants to keep control of their estate, provide for the surviving spouse, preserve it for the kids, keep estate matters simple, and avoid tax and government interference.

Let's say that the couple owns a home in Louisiana and a condo on the beach in another state. The husband worked for a chemical company, built up his 401(k), and when he retired, he rolled over his 401(k) into his traditional IRA. They have a joint brokerage account, vehicles, and a boat. Total estate is $3,000,000.

Some of the issues we would discuss include:

(1) First Spouse Dies. We would discuss how they want to leave their estate to their spouse when the first spouse dies. Do they want to leave their estate in full ownership to their spouse? Do they want to leave their estate in trust for their spouse so that assets get preserved for the children after the surviving spouse dies? Or, since they live in Louisiana, do they want to leave usufruct to their spouse, giving their spouse an obligation to account to the kids at the termination of the usufruct? Each of these options has varied estate tax, income tax, and capital gains tax consequences. Gotta do this right the first time before the first spouse dies.

(2) Surviving Spouse Dies. Do they want to leave assets to their children outright or in trust? Do any children have special needs, the inability to handle a lump sum inheritance, marital issues, or some other issues that would warrant leaving the inheritance to a child in trust? Lots to discuss here.

(3) Who's In Charge When You Can't? Who should be primary and backup for Trustee, Executor, Durable Power of Attorney, Health Care Power of Attorney, etc. We'd discuss the life-support machines decision.

(4) Taxes. We discuss the distribution rules for IRAs and retirement accounts and how those rules differ for spouse and non-spouses as beneficiaries. We'd discuss the step-up and double step-up in basis which can save the heirs a fortune when the sell your assets.

(5) Avoid Probate. We'd discuss the pros and cons of the "Will Based Plan" and the "Revocable Living Trust Based Plan," which can allow the surviving spouse and the children to avoid multiple probates in multiple states - given that the couple owns real estate in two states. The RLT Program would keep brokerage accounts from being frozen in the future.

Again, since very person is different - their objectives, their family, what they own, don't take this info and think that it perfectly applies to you. You need to work with the right estate planning attorney the first time so that problems don't surface later.

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

When a Corporate Trustee May Be Appropriate

People create trusts for lots of different reasons. A few reasons include putting assets in a living trust to avoid probate, providing that assets after death remain in trust to be doled out to children or grandchildren over time as opposed to in a lump sum, or leaving assets to a trust for a 2nd spouse and having those assets revert back to your children after the death of your surviving 2nd spouse.

Often, people who create trusts designate an individual to be the trustee, Successor trustee, or co-trustee. These individuals are often family members. But sometimes, people who set up trusts are more comfortable naming a corporate trustee because naming an individual or family member as trustee is simply not appropriate.

Perhaps you do not want to show bias toward one of your children by naming them as a trustee. Or perhaps because of the potential conflict between children and a 2nd spouse, you don't want to name one of them as a trustee. 

Some of the reasons that people have designated a corporate trustee are as follows:

(1) Experience. Corporate trustees often better understand trust provisions and trust law - more so than an individual that has never served as a trustee.

(2) Unbiased. An individual who is also a beneficiary of a trust may find it difficult to be biased in the administration of their duties as trustee. Corporate trustees can act with more bias.

(3) Accounting. Corporate trustees are capable of preparing and providing the necessary trust accounting, and, if necessary, the trust tax return preparation.

Note that corporate trustees typically require that the trust assets must meet or exceed certain values. If the trust assets are minimal, then an individual trustee who is willing to serve with little or no compensation may be your best or only option.

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

Final Steps To Putting Your Trust Program In Effect

Once all of the documents are ready and accurate, it is time for you to sign your legal documents and make it all official. When you sign your trust, you'll also likely sign a host of other legal documents, such as transfer documents transferring real estate to your trust, your pour-over Will, your powers of attorney and living will declaration, and more - depending upon the particular circumstances of your customized estate planning program.

Once all of the documents are signed, your attorney's office will likely record the transfers of real estate at the courthouse. This takes care of making sure that your real estate is in your trust. Also, on your trust is signed, you can visit your financial institutions and brokerage firms to re-title your investment accounts in the name of your trust. 

This process if re-titling your assets into the name of your trust is commonly referred to as "funding your trust." It's important that your trust be funded properly before you die so that your heirs won't have to deal with a judicial administration of your estate after you die.

Info to Gather When Starting "Avoid Probate" Living Trust Based Estate Plan

I'm often asked, "Paul, what information do we need to gather and bring in to get started on our estate planning?" Well, this advice is based on a "typical" (even though there is no such thing as typical because every family's situation is unique and requires customization) person or couple who wants to set up an estate legal program and prevent their family and loved ones from having to go through the court-supervised judicial probate or Succession estate administration process. This typically involves establishing a Living Trust and transferring title to some of your assets into your trust while you are alive in order to make it easy for your Successor Trustee to access and disburse those assets when you die.

In general, there are three groups of information that must be provided: (1) family information; (2) asset information; and (3) substantive legal decisions.

(1) Family Information. This is typically simple. We are going to need the names of all who will participate in your estate planning program either while you are alive or after you die. This typically involves the full names (as you would have them listed in legal documents) of yourself and spouse, children, and sometimes grandchildren or others if they are included. We typically do not need the social security numbers of all of these people. although you may have to provide these numbers to financial institutions on items like IRA and annuity beneficiaries.

(2) Asset Information. When you get started, you should have a good working knowledge of what you own. It is particularly helpful if you gather, up front, all of your real estate legal descriptions. In Louisiana, these real estate legal descriptions can be found on the "Act of Sale" from when you purchased the property, or the "Judgment of Possession" if you inherited the property. We need these up front so that we can prepare the necessary transfer documents that will be signed at the same time that you sign your trust. Documents regarding investments and brokerage accounts don't have to be provided up front (but great if you have them), because you cannot transfer those assets to your trust until after your trust is signed.

(3) Substantive Decisions. All of the "who gets what, how they get it, who will be in charge" decisions are gathered through the dialogue you'll have with your estate planning attorney. These are important decisions and you need an experienced attorney to guide you through this. But it doesn't hurt give some good thought to these things in advance.

Paul Rabalais
Louisiana Estate Planning Attorney
www.RabalaisEstatePlanning.com

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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Difference Between Pre-Nup and Will or Trust

I was working with a couple recently. Each spouse had children from a previous marriage, and they wanted to make sure their estates were set up the right way to protect themselves, their spouse, and their children - the right way. They knew there was the potential for conflict when they die because the sets of children did not know each other very well, and we all know what happens when people who do not know each other well have to share an inheritance!

The couple had a pre-nup from before they got married about 20 years earlier. Note that pre-nup can also be referred to as "Marriage Contract," or "Separate Property Agreement." They also had old Wills. Some of the provisions of the Wills were in conflict with what the pre-nup stated.

This led me to want to educate you about the difference between the two. In general, the purpose of the pre-nup is to determine who owns what. In the typical pre-nup when spouses get married later in life, and they each have their own children, the spouses will want to deviate from the presumed community property regime, and they will want to keep everything as separate property - what the husband has and what the husband earns during the marriage is HIS, and what the wife has and what the wife earns during the marriage is HERS. So it is real clear who owns what when one of them dies (or, if they get divorced) - no community property. The pre-nup is not the place to say who gets what when you die. In Louisiana, each party is represented by a separate attorney, each party signs the pre-nup, and it is typically recorded at the courthouse. It's a contract.

The Last Will, or the Revocable Trust, dictates who gets what when you die, and who is in charge of the administration and distribution. The WIll or Trust is not the place to try to control what is separate and what is community. Sure, your assets may retain their community or separate property status when placed in a trust, but the WIll or Trust should merely be used as a vehicle to dispose what you own, not declare what you own with your spouse.

Too many times we see conflict between the provisions of the Marriage Contract and the Last Will or Trust. You are asking for trouble if that is the case. Make sure you understand the role of each so that there will be a simple and quick estate administration when you die, with everyone (and the lawyers) being clear on everyone's rights.

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

What To Do When Person Who Set Up Trust Dies

Here's what needs to be done after someone who had set up a Louisiana Avoid Probate Living Trust passes away.

Obviously, there are a number of non-legal tasks that must be addressed, from making funeral arrangements to notifying family and friends. But once we start talking to a family about legal matters, the initial things we often review are the trust instrument and the assets.

Regarding the trust instrument, we will always initially review who was designated as the Successor Trustee or Co-Trustees. We'll also take a close look at what action is required after the death of a Settlor. The actions required may be very different depending upon whether the Settlor was married or single at the time of his or her death.

If the Settlor was married, the trust might require that assets be divided into two trusts after the first death. This was pretty much "standard practice" back when the estate tax exemption was lower and we wanted to make sure that the assets of the first spouse were not lumped into the estate of the surviving spouse for federal estate tax purposes. Now, with couples being able to exempt more than $20 million, it's not as critical that there be a division of assets upon the death of the first spouse.

If the Settlor, at the time of his or her death, was married, then the trust is likely to require distributions to the principal beneficiaries of the trust, although some trusts may require that assets remain in trust for some period of time.

Another thing we look at is the assets of the Settlor and in the trust. The trust may own real estate, investments, or other assets. The trust might be named as the beneficiary of the Settlor's IRAs, life insurance, or annuities.

And the Settlor may have owned assets in his or her own name when the Settlor died. Assets may have either intentionally or inadvertently been left out of the trust. If there are probate assets left out of the trust, then we want to determine the existence and contents of, perhaps, a pour-over Will. If there are probate assets in the Settlor's individual name (not in the trust), a Succession may be required to pour-over those assets into the trust for distribution.

Finally, as part of this first step, we want to review the trust instrument to determine the rights and obligations of the Trustee and the beneficiaries. Some trusts have customized duties and powers that must be followed.

Bottom line - don't assume that you know what the trust instrument provides and requires. Work with an estate planning attorney who can spot and solve issues that you do not know exist.

Paul Rabalais
email: paul@RabalaisEstatePlanning.com
Offices: All over South Louisiana
website: www.RabalaisEstatePlanning.com

4 Estate Planning Tips For 2018

2018 brings some changes to the estate planning horizon. The following are four tips that you can take advantage of to protect your estate in 2018.

(1) Taxes. With the new law changes, there will be less emphasis on gift and estate tax avoidance, and more emphasis on capital gains tax and income tax avoidance. Smart married planners will ensure that their estate gets the valuable "double step-up in basis" (doesn't happen automatically), while other smart planners will arrange their affairs so that they and their heirs and beneficiaries minimize the income tax burden of a transfer of retirement accounts and other valuable assets.

(2) You're Living Longer. Because you are living longer, you need to protect your estate if you get sick for a prolonged period, or, if your mind becomes demented. Arranging all of your assets so that your trusted loved ones have access when you can't, and, for some, protecting your estate from nursing home poverty, is critical. To protect your estate from when you are sick, you must take action while you are well.

(3) Simplify Your Estate Settlement. Many Louisiana families want to arrange their estate so that judicially-supervised court proceeding (some call it "Probate;" other Louisianians call it "Succession"). Whether it's utilizing a revocable living trust or other probate avoidance strategies, act in 2018 to make estate settlement simple. In addition, have conversations with participants in your estate settlement - before your estate settlement. This can go a long way toward having an amicable estate settlement.

(4) Get Started. Procrastination is a big obstacle to estate planning. Put it on your "To Do" list, and then get started so you can check it off your "To Do" list. You'll feel great knowing you have all your legal affairs in order for yourself and your family.

Happy New Year! Make 2018 your best ever.

Paul Rabalais
www.RabalaisEstatePlanning.com
Law Office locations: All over south Louisiana
Toll-free phone: 866-491-3884

Nine Elements of a Louisiana "Avoid Probate" Estate Legal Program

Many seniors in Louisiana express a desire that their family and loved ones avoid the court-supervised probate process when they die. Because every family is unique and each person or couple owns different types of assets, it's important that they have a foundation for their Program. The following is a description of nine different elements of the Louisiana "Avoid Probate" Estate Legal Program.

(1) Revocable Living Trust. Their Revocable Living Trust ("RLT") is the foundation of their program. This is the customized legal instrument where you state who is in charge of your trust when become incapable or when you die, who will inherit or receive distributions from your trust after you die, and it will also state the rights and obligations of all of the parties that are involved. Your RLT really replaces the traditional "Last Will and Testament." The disposition of your trust assets are controlled by your trust instrument, not your Last Will and Testament.

(2) Pour-Over Last Will and Testament. If you happen to own any assets in your name when you die, and the title of which becomes frozen when you die because they are in your name, your Pour-Over Will is necessary. The executor of the WIll, after your death, will hire an attorney and go through the court-supervised Succession procedure to have those assets in your name transferred to your trust. Note that many people who set up an "Avoid Probate" Legal Program never need to utilize the Last Will because all assets will be titled in a way making the Succession unnecessary. "Funding" your trust (or re-titling your assets) is a critical step in the process so that nothing is left in your name when you die that would require a judicial proceeding.

(3) Durable Power of Attorney. This can also be referred to as Financial Power of Attorney, General Power of Attorney, or POA. An example of when this may be needed is when you are incapacitated and there is an IRA in your name and you are unable to transact the IRA due to your incapacity. Your POA should enable your "Agent" to act on your behalf at the financial institution where the IRA is held.

(4) Health Care Power of Attorney. Also called a Medicaid Power of Attorney or Health Care Proxy. This will enable your trusted family member or friend ("Agent") to talk to doctors and access your medical records in the event you are unable to do this yourself.

(5) Living Will Declarations. This is the legal instrument where you make your wishes known regardling life support machines. People who execute Living Wills typically want to relieve their family from the burden of making an end of life decision by putting their wishes on paper, in advance.

(6) Asset Transfers. All of your funding and re-titling documents should be organized in the Asset Transfers portion of your Estate Legal Program. This is where transfers of real estate, investments, and business interests are documented.

(7) Burial and Funeral Wishes. Part of completing your Estate Legal Program may involve informal documentation of your wishes regarding certain aspects of your passing, such as your burial and funeral wishes. 

(8) Distribution of Personal Effects. Some people provide for the distribution of their non-titled personal effects (jewelry, furniture, guns, etc.) in their formal legal documents. Others take a simpler approach and make an informal list of how they want their personal effects disbursed. Check with your attorney regarding the best way to provide for the distribution of your personal effects.

(9) Trustee Education. Since the establishing of an estate legal program may be new to you, your attorney should provide both you and your Successor Trustee(s) with education and instructions as to how to best serve as a Trustee of Co-Trustee. 

While every client is different, with different needs, this should give you a pretty good example of what the typical estate planning program consists of. Now go take care of business!

Paul Rabalais
www.RabalaisEstatePlanning
Law Offices: All over South Louisiana
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.

Living Trusts and Income Tax

As we discuss an estate planning program with our clients, some of our clients that they would like to arrange their estate to avoid the court-supervised probate estate administration at their death, but they are concerned about how setting up a Revocable Living Trust might affect their income tax situation during their lifetime.

When you create a Revocable Living Trust, you will be what's referred to as the "Grantor" or "Settlor." You can amend or revoke the trust at anytime, and you are entiled to receive all of the income that the trust assets produce during your lifetime.

While there are many different types of trusts, this type is arranged so that you are still taxed on all income earned by the trust assets. You continue to use your Social Security Number on all trust bank and investment accounts. The trust does not need its own Tax Identification Number. As long as you live, all of the income is reported on your own personal income tax return, so you won't need to file a separate trust tax return.

Some people like that their trust does not complicate or change their tax status, but the assets in the trust will avoid the Louisiana court-supervised probate estate administration upon their death.

www.RabalaisEstatePlanning.com

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