Many people believe that estate planning is only for people who are particularly wealthy, have elaborate schemes in mind for passing their money to their heirs, or for people who are acutely ill and contemplating their death. This could not be farther from the truth!
Estate planning is for every husband, wife, mother, father, grandparent, business owner, professional, or anyone else who has someone they care about, are concerned about providing responsibly for their own well being and for the well being of those they love, and for anyone who seeks to make a difference in the lives of others after they are gone. Estate planning is not only death planning, but its life planning and an essential and rewarding process for individuals and families who engage in it.
When done properly, estate planning requires that a highly trained individual lead you through one or more in-depth meetings to uncover your hopes, fears, and expectations for yourself and for those who are most important to you. This process almost always requires the preparation of several sophisticated legal documents, but those documents themselves are not estate planning. Planning is a process, represented by a complete strategy that is properly documented and maintained by a professional who has taken the time to get to know you, and who is committed to continuing to serve you.
At The Singer Law Firm, we regularly create plans that rely on one or more of the following planning techniques:
- The preparation of wills and trusts and related ancillary documents, including revocable living trusts, to control the disposition of property upon death, avoid probate, and to protect against incapacity or disability during life.
- The creation of life insurance trusts to keep insurance proceeds out of the taxable estate and to ensure that life insurance proceeds are protected and invested for the protection of the beneficiaries.
- The preparation of living will and health care powers of attorney to protect our clients against subsequent incapacity and/or disability.
- Estate planning for second marriages.
- Estate planning with special needs trusts for families with special needs children and beneficiaries.
Comprehensive Estate and Tax Planning:
There are many things to consider when planning your estate. It is important to have an attorney who will listen to your needs and explain your options so that your wishes will be fulfilled. Attorneys at The Singer Law Firm will work with you to ensure that your estate passes according to your wishes while minimizing your estate taxes.
How important is it to you to pass along your values together with your monetary assets?
How do you know whether or not your estate plan is going to accomplish what you want your family to remember you and honor what you stand for?
Imagine yourself after your death looking down from a cloud at your loved ones. What do you want to see as your family evolves without you?
This task is called Legacy Planning. It is the living and breathing part of your estate plan. In many respects, it is a totally separate inquiry and story of your life, your values and ethics. No estate plan should be without it.
A revocable trust provides no asset protection for the trust maker during his or her life. Upon the death of the trust maker, however, or upon the death of the first spouse to die if it is a joint trust, the trust becomes irrevocable as to the deceased trust maker’s property and can provide asset protection for the beneficiaries, with two important caveats. First, the assets must remain in the trust to provide ongoing asset protection. In other words, once the trustee distributes the assets to a beneficiary, those assets are no longer protected and can be attached by that beneficiary’s creditors. If the beneficiary is married, the distributed assets may also be subject to the spouse’s creditor(s), or they may be available to the former spouse upon divorce.
Trusts for the lifetime of the beneficiaries provide prolonged asset protection for the trust assets. Lifetime trusts also permit your financial advisor to continue to invest the trust assets as you instruct, which can help ensure that trust returns are sufficient to meet your planning objectives. The second caveat follows logically from the first: the more rights the beneficiary has with respect to compelling trust distributions, the less asset protection the trust provides. Generally, a creditor steps into the shoes of the debtor and can exercise any rights of the debtor. Thus, if a beneficiary has the right to compel a distribution from a trust, so too can a creditor compel a distribution from that trust.
Planning for Physicians, Dentists and Health Care Providers
As a physician and health care professional you have special talents and responsibilities. Those responsibilities often carry added liability. Many doctors even feel like they are walking around with a target on their back.
Planning for physicians and health care professionals contemplates not only helping you properly structure your own incapacity and estate planning, but it also contemplates strategies to streamline your income tax profile, coordinate various business aspects of your professional practice, and provide a measure of protection from lawsuits.
Planning for Special Needs
A Special Needs Trust is a trust that can supplement the needs of a special needs beneficiary while allowing the beneficiary to maintain his or her governmental benefits, including Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security and Medicaid. With medical advancements, persons with disabilities are living longer and public benefits are often necessary, yet there is no guarantee that public benefits will provide adequate resources over the disabled persons lifetime, or that existing public agencies will continue to provide acceptable services and advocacy over a disabled persons lifetime.
If the special needs trust is established by you or someone other than the disabled person and the disabled person does not have the legal right to demand trust assets, the trust is not considered a countable resource for purposes of government benefits. Therefore, the special needs trust beneficiary can continue to receive benefits even though he or she is a trust beneficiary. The trust will give the trustee the discretion to make distributions to the beneficiary to the extent possible without reducing benefits, and trust assets are available if the beneficiary no longer qualifies for governmental assistance or that assistance is no longer available.
If the trust is established on the beneficiary’s behalf pursuant to court order, for example as part of a personal injury settlement, the trust will not impact the beneficiary’s eligibility, but it may need to include a payback provision that reimburses the state for its assistance before trust assets pass to the trusts other beneficiaries.
Common savings vehicles for children, like Uniform Transfer to Minor Acts (UTMA) accounts, typical trusts, or designating a retirement plan, insurance policy or annuity directly to an SSI or Medicaid recipient will cause a reduction or elimination of public benefits. Recognizing this, some parents make the difficult decision to disinherit their special needs children, but this severe action is unnecessary.
Our firm represents companies of all sizes, from small limited liability companies to large corporations, in making strategic decisions that help them attain their business objectives on an ongoing basis.
Our corporate attorneys understand how important it is that our legal services be efficient, cost-effective, and comprehensive. Whether you are an entrepreneur seeking business and tax planning advice regarding entity selection when forming a business, you are a member of a well-established company negotiating the acquisition of a business or the terms of a non-compete agreement, you are involved in litigation of a contract or other business dispute, or you need to develop a succession plan for your limited liability company, our lawyers will carefully tailor a solution designed to address your unique concerns.
Limited Liability Companies (LLCs):
LLCs have become the most flexible and preferable entity for most operating businesses. They combine tax planning flexibility with administrative simplicity, legitimate asset protection, and a built-in plan for succession of interest after the business owner retires or dies.
LLCs provide a powerful tool for estate planning, too. Families who may not operate going businesses can still benefit from the protection and flexibility that LLCs provide, by creating a proven and reliable structure to manage and distribute family property to children or future generations.
Over 80% of people with substantial net worth hold significant real estate investments. To most others, the family home, farm or recreational property is their largest and most emotionally treasured holding. Our firm represents these individuals, families and trustees in their personal and business real estate matters.
Whether you need help in resolving and negotiating the sale or purchase of an existing home, a transaction that involves construction of a new home, a business lease or deal for commercial property, we can represent you from the initial contract negotiation through the closing.
We draft and review documents that help individuals, businesses and real estate professionals manage transactions, such as sales contracts, deeds, commercial and residential leases, title and loan papers, and mortgages.
We also represent home owners and subdivision trustees in advising them of their rights under private indentures and restrictions, including the negotiation and resolution of disputes.
When an estate has firearms, the executor must be careful to avoid violating federal (and state and local) firearms laws. These laws strictly regulate possession of, and access to, certain weapons, the transfer of permissible weapons and bar certain persons from owning or having any access to firearms. Failure to comply with these laws may result in criminal liability, including stiff punishments and fines, and forfeiture of any weapons involved. 5 Careful estate planning can help with compliance with some of these laws. Most trusts used to own firearms FAIL to comply with these laws and either explicitly or implicitly create potential criminal liability for a trustee or beneficiary.
- See Restatement (Third) of the Law of Trusts §2 (2003).
- Treas. Reg. §301.7701-4(a).
- Treas. Reg. §301.7701-2.
- 26 U.S.C. §5872; 27 C.F.R. § 479.182.
What can a Gundocx Trust do for you?
1. Purchase NFA Items
As you already know, using a trust expedites the process for purchasing NFA firearms like silencers. Simply bring a copy of your GunDocx Trust with required Schedules with you when you purchase your NFA items. The dealer will use the information in the trust to fill out your Form 4. Make sure that you enter your new NFA firearms information into your Schedule A as well! The dealer will then mail the Form 4 and the copy of your trust to the ATF.
2. Share Your Firearms
Using your GunDocx Trust to purchase NFA items and firearms allows you to share those items with others without committing an “accidental felony”. There are still some rules to follow. Here’s how: First, Section 7.01(a) defines who is a beneficiary of the trust. First, it says that anyone you name as a “Lifetime Beneficiary” is a beneficiary of the trust and may have possession of the trust’s assets under the Trustee’s authority to provide benefits. In your Gun Trust Portfolio you will find forms which allow you to formally appoint and remove “Lifetime Beneficiaries.” A Lifetime Beneficiary is only a beneficiary during your lifetime and is not entitled to receive assets at death unless you designate them as a “Remainder Beneficiary” or assign them a specific item on your Personal Property Memorandum. Second, Section 3.01 also says “a[ny] person with whom I am engaging in a firearms-related activity including but not limited to … shooting … may be a [lifetime] beneficiary while so engaged and for that duration”. This is a fail-safe measure for in consideration of times you are at a range or out somewhere and someone wants to try out your firearm, for example. This language was added so that you could hand someone your firearm while you (Trustee) are in a social situation, allowing that person the color of law as a beneficiary… so the transfer is not potentially considered a felonious transfer.
3. Specific Gifts
Your trust allows you to distribute your firearms by using a written memorandum. The Personal Property Memorandum allows you to designate a beneficiary of a specific item. A separate Personal Property Memorandum can be used to designate your Remainder Beneficiaries upon your death. Page 000001
4. Avoid Probate for Your Firearms
This is a big deal in many states, and anywhere you might be concerned with privacy. Your GunDocx Trust protects your firearms from going through the probate process. If you have a will or if you have no estate planning documents in place, your assets will be probated upon your death.
Probate is a judicial process that settles your estate and transfers your property to your heirs. If your estate goes through probate, it will become public knowledge. A trust protects the privacy of your estate and allows you to transfer your assets to your friends and family without having to go through the court.
Probate is an expensive and confusing process. Additionally, when your estate is being probated, it is subjected to the discretion of a superior court judge. The judge has the ability to deviate from the instructions in your will. If you have no will, inheriting decisions are left entirely up to the court. Your GunDocx Trust will protect you from this process and ensure that your wishes are carried out without judicial interference.
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