COVID-19 Update: You can do Your Planning From Home

For many people, estate planning can seem intimidating but is ultimately relatively simple. Everyone needs an estate plan, but not everyone needs special arrangements to save on estate taxes or plan for business succession. Individuals and families who do need these more complex strategies may not know where to start. Below are a few advanced estate planning strategies. Before deciding a strategy is right for you, contact an experienced estate planning attorney to discuss your options and your unique situation. An attorney can recommend the best course of action and make sure you understand every option on the table.

Generation-Skipping, Dynasty, and Grandchildren’s Trusts

Many transfers of wealth between family members can incur taxes that should be considered. However, there are several generation-skipping trusts and strategies that can be used to distribute assets to the younger generation without depleting the estate with hefty federal and state taxes. A generation-skipping trust, for example, allows individuals to leave $1 million to their grandchildren, great-grandchildren and beyond without incurring a transfer tax. The amount will remain available to the individual’s spouse and the individual’s children as long as they are alive. A dynasty trust is similar to a generation-skipping trust, but lasts for over two generations. Finally, individuals can leave up to $10,000 each year to any other individuals, including grandchildren and great-grandchildren, without incurring gift taxes or other wealth transfer taxes. These gifts can be made to a trust to ensure younger generations are not left with large sums of money they cannot yet manage.

Special Arrangements for Businesses

Business owners may also take advantage of more advanced estate planning strategies. For example, business owners may begin to give their business interests to their children or beneficiaries to avoid estate taxes on the business. A way to do this without ceding control of the business is to issue non-voting stock to family members.

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Less than 46% of Americans surveyed by Gallup in 2021 had a will. This number is shocking—not having estate planning documents can cost your loved ones thousands in legal fees, not to mention family strife and arguments. Or, if you and your family are some of the 54% with plans in place for the future, when was the last time you revisited and updated your estate planning documents? Outdated documents may also cost your family in time and money.

A person without—or with outdated—estate planning documents may not be fully protected. Tax season is a great time to revisit existing estate plans or think about establishing new ones. Why? Tax season serves as a natural (and government-imposed) check on your assets and liabilities. Changes in yearly earnings or the sale and acquisition of significant assets can have big tax implications and big implications on what you may want to reflect in your estate planning documents.

Changes to Watch Out For

In 2022, many individuals are finding that investing as a hobby is easier than ever. Investments can fluctuate in value, and estate planning documents should account for big windfalls or substantial losses. In the same vein, cryptocurrencies are beginning to become a more mainstream investment for many individuals. However, cryptocurrencies require private keys to access. Estate plans should include instructions for accessing cryptocurrency portfolios to avoid losing assets to a misplaced password.

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The recently passed Inflation Reduction Act includes several initiatives that provide tax breaks and rebates for households that take steps to improve their energy efficiency. Consumers who make energy efficient home upgrades and purchases may qualify for up to $10,000 or more in these benefits, in addition to other benefits such as lower electricity bills and a smaller carbon footprint.

Tax Credits for Homeowners

Homeowners could get up to a 30% tax credit for installing solar panels or other renewable energy equipment, such as windmills. Costs incurred in installation from 2022 through 2032 qualify for a 30% tax credit. The credit falls in later years, dropping to 26% in 2033 and 22% in 2034. This extends a previous tax credit set to expire in 2023 and, starting in 2023, includes battery storage technology so homeowners can pair solar panels with storage.

Other home efficiency projects, such as energy-efficient windows and water heaters, also qualify for a 30% tax credit toward installation costs. The cap on these savings is $1,200 a year, though some projects can qualify for higher caps. The installations must meet certain efficiency criteria to qualify, and some specific items have individual caps. The credit also covers the cost of a home energy audit (up to $150) and an electrical panel upgrade (up to $600).

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Estate planners are increasingly using trust protector provisions in trust documents. While these provisions can be flexible and preserve the intent of a trust’s grantor, they also come with risks and complexities. A panel of the trust and estate planning attorneys at Braverman Law Group are hosting a CLE/CPE course to provide a practical guide to structuring trust protector provisions and discuss best practices.

What Are Trust Protector Provisions?

Trust protectors are third parties given power within a trust provision to make adjustments to the terms of trusts in a way that complies with the intent of the trust’s grantor, or the person establishing the trust. Trust protectors provide an extra level of flexibility not available in a traditional trust. These are especially useful in long-term trusts when the circumstances surrounding the parties to a trust may change substantially. A trust protector helps protect the spirit and intent of the trust when changes would not be otherwise possible.

What Are the Risks?

While trust protector provisions allow for more flexibility, they can be complex and subject to abuse. Different states and jurisdictions have varying laws surrounding the power of a trust protector and the structure of those powers. For example, a range of actions can be taken by a trust protector, and different jurisdictions limit those actions in different ways. Some allow trust protectors to modify trust terms, while others allow trust protectors to oversee the actions of the trustee. Trust protectors can sometimes make elective distributions, change the trust’s situs, or even replace the trustee. Trust agreements can identify the trust protector’s powers and designate the fiduciary extent, but estate planning counsel must fully understand the breadth and scope of the risks and consequences.

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Many people know it is critical to have a will—and sometimes a trust—as part of their overall estate plan. However, they may not know that there are different types of wills that can be utilized, depending on the person’s financial and personal situation. One of the more unique options is a pour over will. A pour over will works in combination of a trust, assisting the transfer of assets if the person who established the trust—called a grantor—did not transfer all the assets they wanted into the trust. Because pour over wills are a new concept for many, below are common questions and explanations about pour over wills.

How Does a Pour Over Will Work?

A pour over will functions after an individual has already created a trust and funded the trust—meaning, they have placed certain assets in the trust to be given to beneficiaries after their death in order to avoid the probate court process. However, as people tend to acquire more assets after the creation of the trust—and they may forget or not have the time to place these assets in the trust too—a pour over will can ensure these assets are still placed in the trust. A pour over will allows the grantor of the trust to state that any assets not previously added in the trust should be included upon the grantor’s death. These assets would then be treated the same as those initially added to the trust.

Technology is ever-changing, and it constantly affects daily life: how individuals communicate, travel, and even plan for the future. The term Web3 has been utilized more recently, seeing the near future as a new technological age where new platforms and marketplaces will be created. This new technology could also expand into the estate planning arena, where Coloradans are advised to completely change how they view estate planning entirely. Below are common questions and explanations about Web3 and how it could change the way estate plans are drafted and implemented forever.

What is Web3?

Web3 is seen as the potential next “generation” of the internet and technology at large, where social media platforms and search engines would be owned collectively, rather than by a single corporation. Rather than having to log into different accounts depending on the platform, individuals would be able to use a single personalized account throughout the internet and vote on how a platform should be improved over time. According to experts in the field, his technology would be built using blockchain technology, which is currently used by cryptocurrency.

How Can Web3 Affect My Estate Plan?

If Web3 becomes a reality in the future, individuals could build blockchain-based estate plans. This would allow individuals to set up smart contracts that would immediately pass their assets to their beneficiaries, without having to go through the current hurdles that individuals face—like probate court. When a person passed away, the assets would be sent to the listed beneficiary on the estate plan, which would speed along the estate planning process and not require loved ones to have to wait months on end—if not longer—until the assets are cleared to be given to them.

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Many individuals look forward to the day when they retire and spend their days relaxed and free—be it at home reading a book or tanning on a beach. However, they may not think about the planning they need to do beforehand to actually enjoy their retirement. Most people think about the most important aspect—saving money—but they do not think about other critical aspects of estate planning. Some of these steps are simpler than others but all are crucial financial preparation in order to be comfortable in retirement. Below are these vital steps Coloradans should accomplish as they prepare for retirement.

Paying Off Debt

While saving for retirement is extremely important, paying off any outstanding debts is just as critical. This includes debts from credit cards, mortgages, and student loans. Otherwise, the money the individual is saving for retirement will be eaten into by further debt repayment over the years. Many people overlook this crucial step and paying off debts sooner than later will leave more money in the future for retirement pursuits.

Retaining Health Insurance and Other Forms of Insurance

When people near retirement, it is essential they focus on the health insurance they have—both now and in the future. Especially are individuals age—and more health issues arise—they tend to rely on health insurance more than before. Beyond qualifying more Medicare when a person reaches 65 years old, many estate planning attorneys recommend having supplemental insurance as well. This can be one of many options, including a Medigap policy, a Medicare Advantage plan, or—if the individual was a federal employee—their federal employee health benefits.

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Married couples receive special benefits in estate and tax planning solely due to their married status. Many of these benefits make it easier for couples to pass assets along to one another and avoid complications when one of them die. Estate planning attorneys can advise clients on strategies they should utilize to take advantage of these benefits. One of these is a bypass trust, which married couples can use to avoid estate taxes on certain assets when one passes away. Below is information on bypass trusts and how they can be implemented into a Colorado estate plan.

What is a Bypass Trust?

A bypass trust is a legal arrangement that permits married couples to split their joint assets in order to avoid estate taxes when one spouse passes away. When the first spouse dies, the estate’s assets are split into two trusts. The first trust, called a marital trust, is owned by the surviving spouse. This is a revocable trust that can be altered at any time, and the surviving spouse owns the assets in this trust.

The second trust, the bypass trust, is an irrevocable trust—meaning it cannot be changed later. When the first spouse passes away, a majority of their assets go into the bypass trust. The surviving spouse can access the assets in the bypass trust and receive income from it. However, they technically do not own the assets in the bypass trust.

What Are the Benefits of a Bypass Trust?

One of the major benefits of a bypass trust is that often the surviving spouse does not need to pay the estate tax on the trust. Because of this, many couples will plan to have their IRA or 401(K) proceed placed in a bypass trust. However, it is important to note that after the passage of the SECURE Act, if IRA or 401(K) proceeds are within a bypass trust, the proceeds must be paid out within 10 years. This is a new change, so estate planning attorneys can advise clients on how this will affect their current trusts.

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Because everyone is different, they have unique estate planning needs. For some people, this means prioritizing savings for retirement, whereas for others, it may mean planning how they would like end-of-life care handled. For ultra-high net worth individuals, their primary estate planning goal is protecting their current assets for future generations. Ultra-high net worth individuals are those with over $30 million in net worth. Because of this, their estate planning strategies may be different from other individuals. Below are some estate planning strategies that ultra-high net worth individuals can utilize to maximize their wealth for future generations.

Splitting Family Income

Splitting family income can assist ultra-high net worth individuals in mitigating their estate tax liability—one of the primary estate planning goals for these people. The American tax system is based on the idea that individuals who earn more pay higher taxes. Because of this, their estate tends to be larger—meaning, their estate will have to pay an estate tax before assets are distributed amongst beneficiaries. By dividing income among other lower-income earners in the family, the family’s tax burden will be reduced. This reduction will be seen both yearly through income taxes and when a person passes away in their estate tax liability.

Planning for Business Succession and Instilling Financial Responsibility

Many ultra-high net worth families have accumulated most of their wealth through owning a business. For those families who this is true, they should start taking steps now to plan for the future of the business. This may include planning for who will take over the business in the future, discussing the transition, and giving them the ability to ease into a larger role in the corporation over time. Planning for a business’s future can allow owners to know that the business will be in capable hands, even after they pass away. While this may not seem like an estate planning issue, attorneys can advise clients on how to ensure a smoother transition and how to incorporate the business success into their estate planning documents.

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Estate planning strategies greatly vary depending on many factors. These include family structure, health needs, and the amount of assets. Because of this, high net worth families have unique needs and strategies they must utilize in the estate planning process. For example, most of the intentions of high net worth families focus more on protecting assets for future generations, rather than accumulating more wealth. Below are some strategies for high-net-worth families to incorporate into their estate plan—along with why these strategies are beneficial in the short and long term.

Gifting Assets—Both to Family Members and Charities

High net worth individuals can benefit from gifting some of their assets, so they can limit their estate size. Why individuals may not seem the inherent benefits in decreasing the estate size, it reduces the estate and gift tax liability after they pass away. To reduce the estate size—while still having enough to pass along significant assets to loved ones—high net worth individuals can gift up to $15,000 per year without having to pay a tax. So, individuals can gift assets to loved ones, that they would otherwise gift them in their will later, to reduce their tax liability now.

Similarly, it is important for high-net-worth individuals to remember that they can gift up to $11.7 million over their lifetime without having to pay a gift tax. Because of this high tax exemption, this gifting option is the most optimal strategy to reduce the estate size and minimize tax liability.

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