Property Ownership

Don't Like Paying Taxes? Geithner Says Too Bad.

It has been a busy year for us here at Platt Law, and we haven't been as regular with our e-newsletter as we have in the past. For that, I apologize.

There has been a great deal of uncertainty and debate in the wealth management and planning world regarding the future of the tax laws and how they will affect the average American as we try to build wealth for our families and provide for them in the future.

A question I get almost daily from my clients centers on the future of the wealth transfer taxes in this country. If you recall, the current tax laws will lower the estate and gift tax exemption to $1 million per person on January 1, 2013 (less than six months from today). What this means to you is that if your estate (which includes the death benefit value of any life insurance policies you own) is over $1 million, your family could pay up to 55% of each dollar over that amount to the IRS.

Amy Winehouse's House: Not So Orderly After All?

A few months back, I shared a report by Forbes magazine indicating that the late singer, Amy Winehouse, had done a good job of estate planning. It was reported that she had updated her estate planning documents shortly after her divorce to reflect her wishes that he not inherit her wealth were anything to happen to her.

However, Forbes is now reporting that an intestacy proceeding has been filed in court with a majority of her estate being listed as the assets that must pass through probate. What does this mean? It could mean a number of things:

But I Thought I Owned That!

You know something I see fairly regularly in my practice is confusion about how people think they own assets versus how the assets are actually owned, i.e., whose name is on the title--whether that be manifested as a property deed, stock certificate, bank statement, etc. This confusion usually occurs when someone owns property (or thinks they own property) with someone else.

For example, husband and wife purchase a home together, and they think that they both own it. But if you look at the deed for the home, it only has husband's name on it. Or three business partners purchase a vehicle for company business, but instead of the company's name on the title, it has the partner's name on it who will be driving the vehicle.

What difference does it make? In normal day-to-day activities, it probably makes little noticeable difference. However, when certain events occur (such as death, disability, divorce, lawsuit, dissolution of business, sale or gifting of an asset) whose name was on the title can make a big difference in terms of time and money.

Put the Fun in Funding

The other day, my wife went over to her grandparents' home to help them make sure their trust was properly "funded." After her visit, she shared with me her grandparents' confusion about the funding process because they thought "everything was all taken care of" when they signed their trust document. This is such a common misunderstanding that I thought the topic of funding was worth revisiting today.

What Does It Mean to Fund a Trust?

Funding is the process of transferring ownership of assets from your individual name into the name of your trust (or making your trust a beneficiary of beneficiary-designated assets). The terms of your trust agreement will only control property that is actually owned by your trust. This is why funding a trust is just as important as setting it up.

I like to use the bucket analogy. Think of your trust as a bucket. Your trust document contains instructions on what to do with the things in the bucket. Funding is simply the process of putting things into the bucket.

Can the Name of Your Trust Put You at Risk?

One of my clients approached me the other day with a concern that I felt deserved a thoughtful answer. This client had recently come across an article written by an attorney who claimed that naming your Revocable Living Trust (a very common estate planning tool) with your own family name could put your family’s privacy in grave danger. The article’s author claimed that such a practice “completely destroys the entire privacy prong of trust benefits.” [emphasis mine]. This statement is misleading for at least two reasons:

"Grandma's Pie Plate" - Avoiding the Fights

The Deseret News ran an article today discussing one of the most important estate planning strategies for avoiding family fights after a death in the family.  There is a real temptation for people to ignore these issues until it is too late.

Joint Ownership as an Alternative to Estate Planning (Part 1)

Joint ownership is commonly thought to be an easy alternative to estate planning. Perhaps you (or your parents) have kicked around the idea of adding the name of a trusted adult child on a checking account or the title to your home. The thought is that as Mom (or Dad) gets older, the

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