Tag Archives: Estate

Keeping the Family Together With a Private Foundation

A private foundation has many advantages for the high net worth (HNW) individual. Along with the tax benefits, the foundation also provides a way of keeping families together.

Private foundations sound like they are only appropriate for the ultra-rich; but that’s not the case.  There are over 90,000 private foundations in the U.S. and 98% are under $50 million.  In fact you can start a private foundation with as little as $250,000 according to Foundation Source.

Of course the immediate advantage of a private foundation is the tax benefit you get from funding it.  It sets you apart in the world of philanthropy and allows you to leave a legacy that can outlive you.  It also provides protection from unsolicited requests for donations; you can always tell people that it’s a wonderful cause but you’ll have to check with your board.

But one of the major benefits of a family foundation is that it can act in many ways like a family business.  It can create the glue to keeps a dispersed family together working toward a common purpose.  It creates a way of instilling family values and transmitting those to a younger generation.

A large proportion of family foundations have two or more generations on the board.  Most are set up as family affairs with membership limited to immediate members of the family.

Contact us for more information.

 

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Changes in tax law create problems for trusts – what to do now.

In our previous discussion of this issue we reviewed why so many estate plans included an A/B (or “spousal” and “family”) trust as a key provision of the plan.  It was a way of avoiding high estate taxes on modest sized estates.  However, when the tax laws were changed to increase the amount exempt from estate tax to $5.45 million per person (the current amount) it exposed some problems with these plans for people whose estates are under the exemption amount.

These are:

  • Inconvenience
  • Administrative costs
  • Capital gains taxes

Inconvenience:

Setting up two trusts requires establishing separate banking and investment accounts to hold the assets of each trust.

The surviving spouse may be allowed to use the income and assets in the “family” trust for health, education, maintenance and support but has to be careful that the heirs to the trust do not dispute the manner in which these assets are managed or dispersed. In the case of a blended family, this could cause problems.

Administrative costs:

Determining which assets go into the “family” and the “spousal” trust often requires the assistance of an attorney, a CPA or a financial advisor.

The income in the “family” trust requires a separate tax return and the tax rates on the two trusts are different.

This means that the surviving spouse may need expensive professional help for the rest of his or her life.

Capital gains taxes:

This can be the biggest issue of all.  When someone dies, the assets owned by the decedent have a step-up in cost basis.  This means is that if someone bought stock ABC many years ago for $1 per share and dies when the stock is worth $100, the new tax cost basis on ABC is $100.  If the heirs sell it for $100 there is no capital gains tax.   If it’s left to the spouse the spouse receives the stepped-up cost basis.  At the death of the spouse, the heirs receive a second stepped up cost basis.

Only assets left to the surviving spouse or to a “spousal” trust receive a stepped up cost basis at the survivor’s death.  Because the assets in the “family” trust never become the assets of the surviving spouse for tax purposes there is no second step-up in cost basis when the survivor dies.

For example, if ABC is put in the “family” trust with a stepped up cost basis of $100 and the stock is worth $200 per share when the surviving spouse dies, the heirs have to pay a capital gains tax of $100 ($200 – $100 = $100) when they sell.  If it had been left to the surviving spouse, the capital gain tax would have been avoided.

If the estate plan documents were prepared when the exemption was much lower, the result could be an actual increase in cost and increase in taxes rather than a tax saving.  It may be time to meet with your attorney and bring your estate plan up to date.

In our next essay we will briefly look at ways to increase the amount that can be left estate tax free to over $10 million.

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Changes in tax law create problems for trusts

The Federal Estate Tax was created in 1916 to help pay for World War 1.  The tax is levied on everything you own or have interests in at your death.  At first, it did not apply to many people but inflation and prosperity began taking its toll.  From 1987 to 1997 the government tax on estates over $600,000 was 55%.

By then, many people who owned a nice home and had savings and investments became worried that a lot of their money want going to go to the government rather than their heirs.  Each person has his or her own exemption.  A married couple has two exemptions.  However, if one died, leaving everything to the spouse, the surviving spouse only had one exemption left.

The legal profession came up with an answer: the A/B Trust otherwise known as the “spousal” and the”family” trust.  Under current law, you can leave an unlimited amount of money to your spouse free of tax.  But you can leave up to $600,000 to a trust that your spouse can use for his or her benefit but is not legally their property.  This is known as the “family trust.”  The rest goes directly to the spouse or to a “spousal trust.”

Then when the surviving spouse dies, the heirs inherit both the “family trust” assets ($600,000) and the surviving spouse (or “spousal trust”) assets up to the $600,000 limit – for a total of $1,200,000 free of federal estate tax.

At a tax rate of 55%, that saves the heirs a whopping $330,000 in taxes.  Everyone thought that was a great idea.  Many estate plans and trust documents were prepared with these issues in mind.  There were some drawbacks with these plans but the estate tax savings overwhelmed all other considerations.

Beginning in 1988 the amount of the exemption that could be passed on to non-spousal heirs was gradually increased.  In 2000 it went to $1,000,000 and for one year – 2010 – there was no estate tax at all.  In 2012 the law was changed and the limit was raised to $5 million and indexed for inflation.  In 2016 the estate tax exemption is $5.45 million and the estate tax rate is 40%.

This means that a lot fewer people will be subject to the estate tax and now are faced with the negative aspects of this approach to estate planning. These include

  • Inconvenience
  • Administrative costs
  • Capital gains taxes

We will address these issues in our next essay.

Questions?  Call us.

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Five reasons for Trusts

In the past, estate planners usually cited two reasons for setting up trusts:

  • Minimize probate
  • Avoid estate taxes

There are several ways of avoiding probate without a trust and the federal estate tax does not apply to estates under $5,450,000 in 2016.  This removes a big reason for setting up a trust.

Here are five reasons for setting up a trust that are usually not considered.

  1. Divorce.  Setting up and funding an appropriate trust can protect a child or heir from losing family assets in a divorce.
  2. Changing a legal location.  If a trust is revocable the actions of a local court do not inhibit the heirs from moving.
  3. Serving disabled loved ones.  A special needs trust can be used to protect assets for an ill child or spouse.
  4. Minimizing identity theft.  If a trust is set up using its own tax identification number, the trust may be protected if your social security number is compromised.
  5. Protecting the elderly.  As people age, they can suffer cognitive impairment.  If the trust is drafted properly, successor trustees or co-trustees can be named to manage the older person’s financial affairs.
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It’s National Estate Planning Awareness Week

We are reminded by an attorney friend of ours that October 19-25 is National Estate Planning Awareness Week. We are told that most Americans don’t have an estate plan. That means that there will be both confusion and probably squabbling when one of these people dies. Even worse, the whole thing can end up in court.

Contrary to popular belief, estate planning is not just for the wealthy. It’s for everyone who has someone they care about. Over the decades we have frequently helped people cope with the death of a spouse, a parent or just a good friend. Even with a up-to-date will or trust there is inevitably a great many loose ends that need attention.

Even those who have the proper documents in place often overlook the fact that they usually don’t get into the kind of detail that the people who are left behind really need. That’s why we have published a set of books specifically designed to cover the subject of estate planning and more. You can get a copy of BEFORE I GO and BEFORE I GO WORKBOOK from Korving & Company or order it from Amazon.com.

To read the first three chapters free, go HERE. And if your estate plan is non-existent or out of date, this is a wake-up call.

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What Your Executor NEEDS to Know

We live in an age when everything about us seems to be public. Facebook has our pictures, the pictures of our kids, our cats, where we go, and who our friends are. Computer hackers have our e-mail addresses, our social security numbers and our deepest secrets (if we ever worked for the government). So it’s only natural that we try to hold on to as much of our privacy as possible. Unfortunately, that means that the people who we appoint to take care of our affairs after our death are often in the dark.

Here is how one on man described the situation when he asked his sister where her estate planning documents were.

Years ago, my sister named me as her personal representative, but she hadn’t given me copies of any of her estate-planning documents. Eventually, I took a trip to Phoenix to visit her and my brother-in-law, in part to discuss this very topic with her. When I asked her where she kept the documents, she led me into the guest bedroom. She opened the door to the closet, bent down and uncovered a well-camouflaged “secret compartment” in the carpeted floor. In the compartment was a locked metal box with a combination lock.

I looked at her incredulously and asked how she could expect me to be able to open the box without knowing the combination. “Oh, you’ll find that in the butter dish in the fridge,” she told me.

There was no way I would’ve found the lockbox under the trapdoor in the closet in an obscure room of her house — not to mention the combination. In fact, I wasn’t even sure I’d be able to get into her house, which was in a gated community with a coded keypad.

We have experienced similar situations many times and it is one of the reasons we wrote BEFORE I GO and the accompanying workbook.

You executor needs to know where your important papers are, how to get to them, how to access bank and investment records and any important computer files. If you do not leave them with clear instructions, you are running a huge risk that either your wishes won’t be followed or that you will have created a huge burden on your executor and cost them precious time and additional stress.

If you are interested in our guide book, you can download the first three chapters of BEFORE I GO for free by going HERE.

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Where Should I Keep My Estate Planning Documents?

The Hook Law Firm has a good article on where you should keep your estate planning documents.  Read the whole thing.

They make a number of good points.

  • Make sure that you have original copy of your will.  Copies may not be accepted for probate.
  • Make sure someone knows where your important documents are.
  • Make sure that people you trust to use the documents can get to them.
  • Destroy old or out-of-date documents to avoid confusion.

We offer a set of books: Before I Go and Before I Go Workbook to guide people through the process of preparing their estate for their heirs.  You can order a copy at Amazon.com or get an autographed set directly from us for $25.  Just send us a check made out to Korving & Company, 1510 Breezeport Way, Suite 800, Suffolk, VA 23435.

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Survivors’ Income

We are frequently asked to help people whose spouses have died to help settle the estate and plan for life as widows or widowers.  One of the big questions that they face is determining what it costs to live as a single instead of a couple and where the income is going to come from.

We wrote a book specifically designed to help answer those questions.

Below is from page 53 of BEFORE I GO – WORKBOOK

Keep in mind that it’s a lot easier to determine the answer to many of these questions ahead of time, while both husband and wife are still living, and access to information about survivors’ pension benefits, social security income and annuity income are easy to determine.

For a copy of BEFORE I GO and BEFORE I GO – WORKBOOK contact us or order it from Amazon.com

My Survivors’ Income:

“GUARANTEED” INCOME
Social Security:         $__________________
Pension income #1: $__________________ Source:_____________________
Pension income #2: $__________________ Source:_____________________
Pension income #3: $__________________ Source:_____________________
Annuity #1:                $__________________ Source:_____________________
Annuity #2:               $__________________ Source:_____________________
Other Guaranteed:   $__________________ Source:_____________________
SUBTOTAL GUARANTEED: $__________________

PORTFOLIO INCOME:
Interest Income:       $__________________ Source:_____________________
Dividend Income:    $__________________ Source:_____________________
Rental Income:         $__________________ Source:_____________________
Business Income:     $__________________ Source:_____________________
Other:                         $__________________ Source:_____________________
Other:                         $__________________ Source:_____________________
SUBTOTAL PORTFOLIO: $__________________
GRAND TOTAL:                   $__________________

 

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Estate taxes and you.

Have you reviewed your estate plans recently? If not, you may want to do so now. The reason is that there have been some big changes in the amount of money you can leave to your heirs free of estate taxes.

For the 2014 tax year, the estate tax exclusion amount is $5.34 million. It increases to $5.43 million for 2015.

That’s good news, right?  Maybe not.

There may be a problem if your estate plan was drafted in 2001 when the exemption was $675,000. Since then, the exemption has fluctuated wildly from 2001 though 2011. During this time, many people had wills and trusts drafted that would double the exemption by creating “family” trusts.

It’s possible that the formula for determining how much of the couple’s assets will go to the “family” trust will now cause all of the assets go into the trust rather than to the surviving spouse. This may not be the result that most people want.

For added information about estate planning, get a copy of our book “Before I Go” and the accompanying workbook.

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Finding financial guidance for the middle aged executive

Let’s imagine that you’re now firmly on your career track. You’re an expert in your field and have a team of experts to manage some of the complexities of life outside of work.

  • You doctor gives you regular medical check-ups.
  • Your attorney to reviews your estate plans regularly.
  • Your CPA prepares your taxes and suggests ways to reduce them.
  • But there’s something missing ….

You are putting away some serious money and you are getting nervous about market risk so you want to find a good financial advisor. You don’t want a broker who will call you to sell stocks and bonds on commission. You want someone who will create a plan and give you unbiased financial advice. Someone who will manage your portfolio for you – commission free – so that your retirement plans won’t blow up just as you get ready to enjoy independence.

But there’s a dilemma. Just as you feel more comfortable knowing that the pilot on your next flight has spent thousands of hours flying your plane, you want to find a seasoned financial pro who has experience in all kinds of markets. But those years of experience could well mean that he’ll retire before you do! What’s the solution?

Recognizing that continuity is important in a relationship as personal as financial guidance, many advisors have set up teams.

Korving & Company is a good example. Arie Korving has nearly 30 years of experience as a financial advisor. A Certified Financial Planner, he is the author of numerous articles and books on finance and estate planning, he has experience that includes both Bull and Bear markets. He’s seen the investment world from both sides and knows that honesty and experience is what people want in their advisor.

Stephen Korving received his degree in finance from Virginia Tech with a focus on risk management. After graduation he joined Cambridge Associates, one of the country’s leading investment management consulting firms. Cambridge provides guidance to major institutions and the super-rich. A Certified Financial Planner, he teamed up with Arie ten years ago and in 2010 they founded Korving & Company, a boutique RIA (Registered Investment Advisor) focused on providing holistic financial guidance to executives and retirees.

Together they provide decades of experience and a plan to continue to do so for decades into the future.  Check them out.

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