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Will the Estate Tax Ever Go Away?

Will the Estate Tax Ever Go Away?

The “Estate Tax” is the tax that the government puts on the assets that are transferred to your beneficiaries when you die. Taxable assets can include real estate, stocks, money in a bank account, and other valuable belongings. It does not look like the estate tax will permanently go away. However, with careful planning, you can reduce taxes substantially.

Americans have been planning their estates in accordance with the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Act since 2001. This Act is important because it changed 441 tax laws and was the biggest estate tax reduction in 20 years. Here is an overview of what the Act covers:

Lower Tax Rate
The Act lowers the tax rate on the following taxes:
1) The marginal estate tax; the tax levied on your estate when you die. Note: This tax can be a burden on heirs if you die and leave behind assets for them, but no monetary funds to cover the tax on that asset. For example, if you leave behind a home, the government might tax up to 55% of its value. Your heirs will have to find a way to pay those taxes if he or she wants to keep it. The Act’s lower tax rate helps to decrease the amount of taxes on assets such as your home so that your heirs are not overburdened, or forced to quickly sell the asset at a low price so funds to pay taxes are available.
2) The generation skipping transfer tax (GST); the tax break given to you if you are transferring assets to a grandchild or great-grandchild.
3) The gift tax; the tax levied on assets that are given away as gifts before you die.

Increased Asset Transfers
The Act increases the amount of assets that can be transferred at death without the estate or generation-skipping tax.

Temporary Tax Repeal
In the year 2010, the generation skipping tax will be repealed. This repeal means that grandparents can gift portions of their assets directly to their grandchildren and great grandchildren without having to lose a portion of those assets to taxes.

For the year 2010, the estate tax also will be repealed for one year. If you die in the year 2010, you can give your entire estate to your heirs without having to worry about paying any taxes. However, if you die in 2011, only $1 million is eligible to be passed on to your heirs without being taxed.

Because the estate tax will not be permanently repealed within the foreseeable future, it is important that you plan your estate so that your desires can be carried out in the most efficient manner, regardless of the year of your death.

Understanding the complicated tax system can be a challenge for someone not versed in tax law. If you are planning your estate protection and distribution, we recommend meeting with an attorney. Your attorney can walk you through the steps needed to ensure that your heirs receive as much of your assets as possible.

Last Will And Testament Planning Is Necessary

Last Will And Testament Planning Is Necessary

Ready to start thinking about your Last Will and Testament but don’t know where to start?

Choosing an attorney

Find a lawyer with related areas of expertise, like estate planning and taxation law.

And check with local the Bar Association to see if the attorney has had any disciplinary actions taken against him or her.

A Living Will is as Necessary as a Last Will and Testament

Tell family members, your lawyer and your doctor where your Living Will is located and what it says.

When you enter a long term care facility, give your Living Will to the director to make sure they will honour it.And make sure all your friends and relatives, know about it too in which case they will help carry out your wishes.

Make sure your Last Will and Testament is up to date as well as your Living Will. Don’t do your Living Will and Testament yourself. Office supply stores and the Internet sell computer programs that create Wills and power of attorney forms, but these often gloss over the intricacies of tax laws. You may save money on legal fees up front, but you can put yourself in a disastrous situation down the road.

Power of Attorney

A power of attorney is a most important document. A power of attorney appoints someone to take care of your finances when you are too incapacitated to handle them yourself. This document has various clauses that can help to protect your assets if you, your spouse or your parent needs to go into a nursing home. But many things require rearranging – sometimes with gifts, sometimes by setting up financial vehicles, sometimes through purchases. But nothing can be done if you’re incompetent to deal with your finances and nobody else has authority to deal with your finances either.

A Power of Attorney For Your Last Will And Testament Can Expire

Make sure your power of attorney is up to date. Remeber you are giving the power to enforce your Living Will as well as your Last Will and Testament if necessary.

Last Will And Testament

Consider building in compensation for extra special care. People often leave their assets to their children in equal shares, but many times one child is especially involved while others are less attentive. If one child is giving you care directly, probably in their home, you may want to consider giving them more.

Make sure your Will is up to date. Laws change and your Last Will and Testament is your last chance to see wishes and bequests carried out.

Should You Pay Taxes Or Not?

Should You Pay Taxes Or Not?

The first attempt to impose an income tax on America occurred during the War of 1812. After more than two years of war, the federal government owed an unbelievable $100 million of debt. To pay for this, the government doubled the rates of its major source of revenue, customs duties on imports, which obstructed trade and ended up yielding less revenue than the previous lower rates.

And to think that the Revolution was started because of Tea Taxes in Boston?

Excise taxes were imposed on goods and commodities, and housing, slaves and land were taxed during the war. After the war ended in 1816, these taxes were repealed and instead high customs duties were passed to retire the accumulated war debt.

What is Taxable Income?

The amount of income used to arrive at your income tax. Taxable income is your gross income minus all your adjustments, deductions, and exemptions.

Some specific taxes:

Estate Taxes:

One of the oldest and most common forms of taxation is the taxation of property held by an individual at the time of death.

The US still has Estate Taxes, although there are proposals to do away with them.

Such a tax can take the form, among others, of estate tax (a tax levied on the estate before any transfers). An estate tax is a charge upon the deceased’s entire estate, regardless of how it is disbursed. An alternative form of death tax is an inheritance tax (a tax levied on beneficiaries receiving property from the estate). Taxes imposed upon death provide incentive to transfer assets before death.

Canada no longer has Estate Taxes.

Most European countries have Estate Taxes, one prime example is Great Britain which has such high Estate Taxes that it has just about ruined the financial well-being of most of Britain’s Nobility which has been forced to sell vast Real Estate holdings over time.

. Such a tax can take the form, among others, of estate tax (a tax levied on the estate before any transfers). An estate tax is a charge upon the decedent’s entire estate, regardless of how it is disbursed. An alternative form of death tax is an inheritance tax (a tax levied on individuals receiving property from the estate). Taxes imposed upon death provide incentive to transfer assets before death.

Capital Gains Taxes

Capital Gains are the increases in value of anything (including investments or real estate) that makes it worth more than the purchase price. The gain may not be realized or taxed until the asset is sold.

Capital gains are normally taxed at a lower rate than regular income to promote business or entrepreneurship during good and bad economic times.

Employee Retirement Income Security Act

Employee Retirement Income Security Act

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) of 1974, is a United States federal law ratified to guard interstate commerce and the interests of members in employee benefit plans and their beneficiaries, through necessitating the reporting and disclosure to participants and beneficiaries of financial and other information with respect thereto, through setting up standards of responsibility, conduct, and obligation for fiduciaries of employee benefit plans, and through providing the appropriate sanctions, remedies, and ready access to the Federal courts.

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act’s interpretation and enforcement is handled by the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Department of Labor. ERISA protects the retirement assets of Americans through putting into practice rules that qualified plans must follow for ensuring that fiduciaries do not misuse plan assets.

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act generally defines a fiduciary as anyone who implements discretion authority or administers over a plan’s management or assets, including anybody who provide investment advice to the plan. Fiduciaries should follow the principles of conduct at all times and anyone who does not do so, may be held responsible for restoring losses to the plan.

The right of members to sue for benefits and breaches of fiduciary duty is also provided by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, including guaranteeing payment of certain benefits if a distinct plan is terminated through a federally chartered corporation known as the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. The act also protects the plan for misconduct and misuse of assets through fiduciary provisions.

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act requires pension plans to give vesting of employees’ pension rights after a particular minimum number of years to meet certain funding requirements. I t does not however, require employers to establish pension plans, instead only applies those plans that an employer has created. Likewise, the Act, as a general rule, does not require employers that have created pension plans to give any minimum level of benefits instead regulates the way in which an employee can get vested rights to a pension and the manner in which the pension benefits can be lessened due to events such as early retirement or return to work in the business after retirement.

The Act on the other hand, does necessitate employers to provide some forms of benefits such as survivor and joint annuities that permit married couples who have chosen for such coverage to give for continuing benefits to a surviving spouse that plans may not have offered.

The Employee Retirement Security Act was enacted to deal with irregularities in the administration of particular large pension plans, specifically the Teamsters Pension Fund, which had a quite colorful history concerning questionable loans to certain Las Vegas casinos.

One Less Furrowed Brow For 401k Plan Sponsors

One Less Furrowed Brow For 401k Plan Sponsors

There was a sneak preview of the Dept of Labor’s preliminary guidance on setting up 401k default investment options. These situations occur when 401k participants fail to select an investment option for their 401k contributions or a 401k default fund is used in 401k plans with automatic enrollment features.

Currently, 401k plan sponsors are rethinking their default fund decisions because they are concerned about the risk associated with their fiduciary responsibility and about the risk of the earnings performance of the default investments of those participants who failed to choose any.

When a participant fails to make a choice, the default fund is the choice made for them by the plan’s fiduciaries. And because the participant is NOT making the decision when a default investment is used, the plan fiduciaries are responsible to prudently invest their funds.

Many plan sponsors feel that their decision on the default investment is protected by the safe harbor exemption of Internal Revenue Code Section 404c. Section 404c provides an exemption to plan sponsors from liability for investment decisions when participants are given the choice to choose their own investments. Section 404c transfers liability to plan participants for their choices of investment options. Here, sponsors believe that by not making an active choice, the participant has decided to take the default investment.

And if the default investment is a Stable Value or Money Market Fund, the participant does not loose any of his principal. Plan sponsors feel that the participant’s funds are not at risk and so neither are they.

Because the participant is not making the decision when a default investment is used, there is no 404c defense for plan fiduciaries. Also, sponsors are required by ERISA to invest with a reasoned, thoughtful process for evaluating risk and returns and for providing investment options that are diversified and prudent.

Under the forthcoming guidance — which, said a Dept of Labor law specialist in the Office of Regulations and Interpretations, is subject to change – 401k fiduciaries are given a safe harbor on 401k investment management decisions and any breach that is “the direct and necessary result of investing a participant or beneficiary’s account” in a default investment. Investment managers and advisers, on the other hand, are solely responsible for any decisions they make with regard to the 401k investments or any resulting losses and do not get that kind of relief.

In order to qualify for that 401k safe harbor, however, 401k fiduciaries must allow participants:

– the opportunity to move their investments into an alternate account
– provide advance notice of the default investment and
– invest the assets in a certain kind of qualified default investment.

Moreover, that choice, which can be a lifecycle fund or a managed account, among others, must limit the presence of employer stock in the portfolio, as well as allow funds to be transferred out of the default.

The 401k fiduciary responsibility associated with selecting funds for the default investment options in a 401k plan has now been tempered with this new preliminary safe harbor.

One less furrowed brow for 401k plan sponsors.

Power Of Attorney Power Packs In A Paper

Power Of Attorney Power Packs In A Paper

The Power of Attorney is a legal document voluntarily entered into by two parties and duly certified by a notary public, usually a lawyer. The first and second party in the Power of Attorney are: the Principal and the Agent,respectively. In the power of attorney, the principal appoints the agent to perform a task in a legal capacity in his lieu.

The power of attorney empowers the agent to act upon any legal circumstance necessary of the principal, mostly if the latter cannot conduct with others, his legal affairs in person. This scenario happens in most cases, when the principal is gone from his domicile or away on a business trip for a lengthy period; or worse, if the principal is ill.

The power of attorney likens the agent as that of an employee as well as representative of the principal. Another popular term for the authorized agent in a power of attorney is Attorney-in-Fact.

The principal and agent who execute an agreement such as the power of attorney could either be an individual, partnership, or corporation. Both parties who execute the power of attorney should of course, possess legal capacity which means that parties must be 18 years of age or older and of normal mental capability.

When the principal authorize the agent in the power of attorney, the agent does act within the scope of the legal agreement. Therefore, the principal is also responsible for the acts that the agent entered into, in his behalf. In the exercise of the power of attorney, the agent is entitled to payment for services rendered and reimbursement for some of his expenses.

A most common use for the power of attorney is when the principal enters into a transaction such as the purchase of a real estate property. The agent, by virtue of the power of attorney, deals with the company, or owner of the property until the sale is consummated. Thus, the agent pays for and signs all the legal documents necessary (such as purchase application form, contract to sell, deed of restriction, etc.) for the business venture between the principal who is the buyer, and the property owner who is the seller.

Normally, the power of attorney is revocable or can be cancelled at any time. As such, the principal has only to accomplish the revocation of the power of attorney and again, have the cancellation duly certified by a notary public. The power of attorney also becomes null and void upon the death of the principal.

The role of the notary public in the power of attorney is vital and akin to a third force. The power of attorney becomes a legal instrument only if the notary public or solicitor, has certified the power of attorney to be so. The notary public then has to furnish copies of the notarized power of attorney to the concerned government agency that requires it. Thereafter, the power of attorney becomes a legal public document.

Why Probate?

Why Probate?

Why Probate?
Nobody voluntarily chooses probate. People are too busy or preoccupied with health or other issues to plan. They pass away without a living trust and their heirs—-usually their children—- find that they can’t sell Mom or Dad’s house without a court order or can’t transfer Mom or Dad’s bank account without court approval. Even with a will, they may be forced to file a probate proceeding.
Alternatives to Probate
Because probate is expensive and time consuming, a responsible attorney first tries to determine if there is an alternative to probate. In California, the most common alternatives to probate are a Spousal Property Petition (if there is a surviving spouse) or a small estate transfer (if the value of the estate is less than $100,000). If these and other alternatives to probate are unavailable, then the only recourse for the decedent’s heirs is to file a probate proceeding.
Cost of Probate
Attorney’s fees and costs are set by law in California and are based upon the value of the estate. Here is the statutory fee schedule in California:
4% of the first $100,000
3% of the next $100,000

Getting the Best Deals in Attorney Services

Getting the Best Deals in Attorney Services

Sometimes, finding the right attorney and the best attorney services is not easy. There are lots of things that you need to consider. You have to think about the services you need and what specific legal expertise do you need. Your state laws for getting attorney services are also among the major factors that need to be considered. It is also a must that you know the exact specifications of the legal proceedings where you will need attorney services.

Here are some legal fields in attorney services to help you in your decision-making;

*Immigration attorney services –

If your case is related to immigration, you should get these services. You need to decide whether the immigration is employment-based or family-based. Also knowing your state laws about immigration is important in this case.

*DUI attorney services –

If you’re involved in a DUI case, you need to hire the best attorneys in town; or you might end up doing community service or even jail time.

*Social security attorney services –

If your problem involves social security issues such as medical insurance, you need to get these services.

*Criminal defense attorney services –

A good legal firm or attorney should be hired for this one.

*Divorce attorney services –

You need to find the best services in town so you can get past the humiliation of this dilemma fast

Whatever among these cases you are in, it is best to remember that you must hire an attorney who are reliable and sincere in helping you to win your case. After all, you are going to pay them and attorney services fees are mostly huge. Hence, it is just wise to get the best from what you will spend for.

Dealing with Attorney Services Fees

Speaking of fees, these are part of hiring attorneys. You need to pay them so they can give you what you expect from them. There are free attorney services but most need you to spend some amount. There are things that you have to consider when dealing with attorney fees.

Here are some;

*What fee arrangements you should use.

This will depend on your deal. You can ask your attorney on how he or she will charge you. There 3 basic arrangements for payments;

*Hourly rates – where you have to pay for the attorney services based on the hours rendered.

*Flat rate – mostly, this will include out-of-pocket expenses spent by the attorney.

*Contingency fee – this is usually some percent of what you will get from the case. You will talk about this; how much he or she will get depending on how much you will also get.

*What type of expertise is needed? When deciding about fees, the things to consider are the types or level of expertise needed in the case. Also, how much work is to be done should be considered.

How to Get the Best Attorney Services?

Being careful in choosing the attorney you will hire is crucial. First, the success of the case usually depends on how good you are represented. And second, because you are spending money here. You need to get what your money’s worth. It is best that you only hire a firm or an attorney who can give you the best attorney services. You may ask your friends or relatives if they have an attorney to refer. Referral is a good thing because you can be sure that you will get what you and your money deserve.

The Budget 2005 & Inheritance Tax

The Budget 2005 & Inheritance Tax

‘The Government’s economic objective is to build a strong economy and a fair society, where there is opportunity and security for all.”
So reads the opening statement of the Labour Government’s 2005 Budget. But the word ‘fair’ is wide off the mark when considering the incidence of inheritance tax on an increasing number of homeowners over the past few years.
The Inheritance Tax Problem
Over the past few years inheritance tax ceased to be the ‘rich person’s tax’ or the ‘voluntary’ tax which it used to be. The cause of the problem has been the ever increasing scale of house prices resulting in property values which far exceed the Nil Rate Band exemption for inheritance tax.
Research conducted by stockbrokers Brewin Dolphin, there are an estimated 2.4 million homes across the UK that are now valued above the £263,000 inheritance tax threshold, before taking any other assets into account. And one in five people anticipating an inheritance have no idea that anything over and above the threshold will be subject to 40% of tax.
In summary, the number of homes sold which were above the inheritance tax threshold rose from 3% in 1994 to 14% in 2004 and the Government has pocketed a staggering £3.3bn in inheritance tax since 1997!
The 2005 Budget
The inheritance tax issue was a main concern for the Chancellor Gordon Brown after various professional bodies have stressed the need for the threshold to be increased. Having heard the arguments the Chancellor did just that.
The current Nil Rate Band threshold is £263,000 and the Chancellor has announced that this is to be increased to £275,000 for the forthcoming tax year 2005/2006 and then further increased to £285,000 and £300,000 the following two years.
As a result of these increases the Chancellor has argued that 94% of estates would not pay inheritance tax. So has the Chancellor done enough?
Adequate Increases?
Are the increases to the inheritance tax threshold good enough? Should they have been increased further? It is certainly true that previous inheritance tax increases have not been so steep; usually the increases are made in line with current inflation rates. However, this Budget has seen an increase which is way above inflation.
On the other hand, the contrary argument is that the high rise in house prices necessitated such an increase, and even this may not be enough. The Halifax Building Society calculated that had the inheritance tax threshold increased in line with house price inflation over the last 10 years, then the current threshold would be sitting at £390,000 – significantly less than the figure announced by Gordon Brown.
Conclusion: Budget Blues
So was this a ‘bad’ budget’ from the inheritance tax point of view? Not entirely. Any increase in the Nil Rate Band is to be welcomed as it sets free some of those caught in the inheritance tax net. As Simon Massey (partner with chartered accountancy firm Menzies) told BBC News, “The increase to the Inheritance Tax threshold is a long way above inflation and is very welcome…It is good to see something being done.”
So whilst the increase may not exactly be in line with the current house price situation, it will certainly be a relief to many, and any increase is better than no increase at all.
LLB (Hons) PGDip.LPc.

The Basics Of Estate Planning

The Basics Of Estate Planning

Estate Planning may be a word that is encountered by many citizens especially the elderly. What is Estate Planning? What benefits does it provide to people?

Estate Planning is a method of arranging and considering alternatives that will satisfy specific wishes and goals to prepare for things that may happen to a person and the people he finds special to him.

Estate Planning includes organizing properties and not just putting them in a simple Will. It also lessens the taxes and fees that may possibly be charged to these properties. Estate Planning also includes contingency preparation to ensure that ones wishes regarding health care and medications will be followed.

An estate plan may be described as good if it financially coordinates with the future of the home, business, investments, insurance and other benefits if ever the person becomes sick or will pass away. A good estate plan also sets directions to bring about personal wishes regarding health care in preparation for the when the person becomes disabled.

It is very important to identify the real definition of the term “estate” before someone can really perform estate planning. Estate means all the properties a person owns or has control of. This is regardless whether if the property is solely named after him or is in managed in a partnership. This may include real properties, accounts, bonds and stocks, cash, buildings and establishments, jewelry, collections, all types of businesses and even retirement benefits.

Typically, those who really need to have an estate plan are parents who have minor children, people who have valuable properties and have sentimental values for them, and also people who are concerned about their medications and health care. However, people can still acquire an estate plan whether they have these categories or not. As long as they have all the things that are covered by an estate plan, then they can avail of it.

While a person is alive, it is important to prepare an estate plan and at the same time implement it. This is the perfect time for a person to perform and have legal capacity to come up with a contract. There may be challenges that could occur if an estate plan is implemented when a person is already disabled. Others may judge the lack of capacity and the person may be prone to fraud, abuse and coercion.

Estate Plans may include wills, power of attorney for health care, living wills, living trusts and limited partnerships. When entering into a contract, it is very important to make use of the services of a lawyer. Lawyers are the only certified people who practice these fields. They are also the only ones who can supply a person with all the legal requirements and advice needed in the estate plan. An attorney will be able to answer legal questions regarding the estate and they will also be able prepare the person on the cost of the estate plan and other finances the come with it.

Estate Planning involves sensitive decisions and legal matters. It would only be beneficial if the person will always consult with legal advisors and also seek financial and medical advice. It is important that before a person will enter into estate planning, he should already have a strong understanding of the process so that things will not be difficult for those who will be left behind.