12 Point Estate and Asset Protection
Plan Checklist for 2019
By Phil Rarick, Estate Planning Attorney
______#1. Successor Trustee. This is the person you have appointed to step into your legal shoes if you become incapacitated – in other words, one of the most important estate planning decisions you can make. Who have you appointed to take charge if you are incapacitated? Do you trust this person 100%? Is this person a good problem solver if there is a dispute in the family? What is the order of succession of trustees? If you have any question whatsoever about your order of succession, please call the office at (305) 556-5209.
______#2. Asset Protection. Do you have any rental real estate that is in your individual name or an S corporation? Do you have a single member LLC? This is low hanging fruit for any potential creditor, and likely needs to be protected by placing the property in a multi-member LLC (limited liability company) or LP (limited partnership). Do you know which assets you own that are protected and which are exposed? If not, we can help analyze this important issue.
Note: While a living revocable trust is a powerful legal tool to avoid probate and keep legal control in your family, it does NOT protect your assets. We have numerous legal strategies to help protect your hard earned money and make you an unattractive target for a lawsuit.
______#3. Estate Tax Planning Check. Tax planning has dramatically changed due to the new tax law known as the Tax Cut and Jobs Act (TCJA) passed at the end of 2017. This law in many cases gives only temporary relief: Example: The estate tax exemption returns to $5.6 million in 2026 but the rate remains at the high rate of 40%. Therefore, all assets owned at death are taxed at 40% over $5.6 million.
Note: Under the new law, if a person is not a U.S. citizen or non-resident, the tax rate is 40% over the exemption of $60,000. Foreign investors who are non-residents and own property in the U.S. need to do special planning to avoid this tax.
______#4. New Durable Power of Attorney Law. Check the date of your Durable Power of Attorney (“DPA”) in your portfolio book. The Florida legislature completely overhauled the DPA law in 2012. If your DPA is dated prior to 2012 it is highly advisable that you update this important legal tool.
______#5. Trust Funding. Funding is simply the transfer of your assets into your trust. If our firm drafted your trust, immediately after you signed your trust, we reviewed how your assets are titled and gave you detailed Funding Notes. Have you followed up on these instructions? It is a good idea to annually review the funding of your trust. It may also be advisable to sign a new assignment of assets into your trust that will help sweep into the trust assets acquired after you signed your trust.
______#6. Family Transitions. Has there been a marriage, divorce, or separation of anyone named in your will or trust? Has there been a birth of a child or grandchild? If so, your estate plan may need to be amended.
______#7. Life Insurance. When is the last time you checked (a) the owner of your life insurance policies; and (b) the beneficiary designations for those policies? Some life insurance should be owned by an irrevocable life insurance trust to avoid the estate tax.
______#8. Corporate Minutes. If you have an incorporated business, when is the last time that you updated your corporate minutes? For S corporations, it is important to keep annual minutes for income tax and asset protection purposes. Remember, the corporate veil can be pierced and your personal assets attacked if you do not follow basic corporate formalities.
______#9. $15,000 Gift Allowance. Do you wish to consider making gifts to family members to reduce your estate tax exposure? Current law for 2019 allows you to make gifts of $15,000 per person per year ($30,000 if married) with little or no tax consequence to you or the recipient. For some persons, this is an effective tool to reduce your estate tax liability. However, see the warning in Point #10 for gifts to minors. Note: Gifting must be done no later than December 31, 2019.
______#10. Gifting To Minors – Big Mistake! Making outright gifts to minors or naming a minor the beneficiary of anything without a trust can raise a host of unintended legal issues that may be costly to remedy. See our recent article on our web site blog: Big Mistake: Naming A Minor the Beneficiary – Of Anything!
______#11. Health Care Surrogate. If you have a child over 18 who is now in college it is highly recommended that he/she give you legal authority to make medical decisions on their behalf. Remember, once your child turns 18, he/she is an adult, and you have no legal authority to make any legal decision on their behalf.
______#12. Estate Plan Review. Has it been more than three years since we sat down and reviewed your estate plan? If so, we recommend that you schedule a meeting as soon as convenient to assess whether your plan continues to meet all the needs of your family.
To schedule an appointment to review or update your estate plan or the funding of your trust, call Rarick & Beskin at (305) 556-5209 or email Christy at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are available to meet you at our Miami Lakes, Weston, or Ft. Lauderdale office.