By: Phil Rarick & Jacqueline Bowden Gold, Estate & Business Law Attorneys
Note: Rarick & Bowden Gold is dedicated to helping families protect their hard-earned wealth regardless of size – we provide basic estate planning for families with modest savings and advanced planning for those with substantial wealth.
_____1. Wealth 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. Do you know which assets you own that are protected and which are exposed? If not, we can help analyze this important issue. Schedule a Wealth Protection consultation by calling Christy at (305) 556-5209.
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 wealth and make you an unattractive target for a lawsuit.
_____2. 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 family decisions you can make. Who have you appointed to take charge if you are incapacitated? Do you trust this person 100%? What is the order of succession of trustees?
_____3. 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.
_____4. Estate Tax Review. For those families that may have around $5 million or more in total wealth you need to take special note. The estate tax is 40% of all assets owned worldwide – including life insurance. However, you do have an exemption (let’s call it a free coupon) which this year is $12.06 million, but this number or coupon can give you false assurance because it drops down to about $6 million in 2026. This means anything owned over $6 million for a single person or $12 million for a married couple could be taxed at 40%. If you plan now, there are many legal options to avoid this tax. But the key is to plan now.
_____5. Non-Resident or Not U.S. Citizen. If a person is not a U.S. citizen or non-resident, the estate 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.
_____6. Durable Power of Attorney. 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.
_____7. 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.
_____8. 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.
_____9. 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. It is just as important to make sure that your minutes and certificate of ownership match what you report on your corporate tax returns. Remember, the corporate veil can be pierced and your personal assets attacked if you do not follow basic corporate formalities.
_____10. $16,000 Gift Allowance. Do you wish to consider making gifts to family members to reduce your estate tax exposure? Current law for 2022 allows you to make gifts of $16,000 per person per year ($32,000 if married) with little to no tax consequence to you or the recipient. However, see the warning in Point #11 for gifts to minors.
_____11. 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 article on our web site blog: Big Mistake: Naming A Minor the Beneficiary – Of Anything!
_____12. Health Care Surrogate. If you have an adult child over 18 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.
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 us at (305) 556-5209 or email Christy at email@example.com. Now is the time to get this item off your 2022 Checklist!
The information on this blog is of a general nature and is not intended to answer any individual’s legal questions. Do not rely on information presented herein to address your individual legal concerns. If you have a legal question about your individual facts and circumstances, you should consult an experienced Miami Probate attorney. Your receipt of information from this website or blog does not create an attorney-client relationship and the legal privileges inherent therein.