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Bay Area Estates and Tax Law Blog

A continued look at ABLE and its utility as an estate planning tool

We spotlighted the ABLE program in our previous blog post. We noted in our December 11 entry that this federal government initiative can provide valuable benefits for disabled individuals and their families.

ABLE does so by enabling eligible claimants to make non-deductible contributions into accounts that let them grow tax-free. Account holders can apply distributions from savings vehicles (also without tax consequences) toward a wide-ranging list of so-called “qualified disability expenses.”

What is an ABLE account, and might it be relevant for your family?

First of all, let’s get that ABLE acronym straight.

The ABLE Act is federal legislation that was passed back in 2014 during the Obama presidential administration. The commonly used shorthand designation does have a formal tag, which is Achieving a Better Life Experience.

What can you expect in a candid sit-down with estate planning counsel?

We alluded to year-end resolutions in our immediately preceding blog post, noting in our November 27 entry that many good-faith planners resolutely try "to stay on top of important things in life."

We get that many individuals and families find that hard to do when it comes to estate planning. The age-old perception that the subject matter is simply for "old" and relatively well-heeled people and all about death and taxes can be hard to shake.

Scratching off that year-end list: Time to talk estate planning?

Kudos for you if you’re a good-faith planner who truly does try to stay on top of important things in life. Perhaps you have some sort of to-do list that you periodically adjust and try to stay tracked in on throughout the year.

Many people do, of course, whether on a computer spreadsheet or a scratched-through index card that follows them around in a shirt or blouse pocket from day to day.

4 tips to transfer wealth smoothly

As you make an estate plan, you hope that your heirs will not fight over your assets. That becomes your top priority. You have seen examples within your own family of rifts that grow between adult children when their parents pass away. You have seen those long, complicated court battles and the way that some children never really get back on good terms when it's all said and done.

You can't bear the thought of your children fighting and never becoming close again. You want them to enjoy the holidays together, to get to know each other's children and to stay in touch. As busy as life gets, you want them to try to stay close and enjoy each other's company. You never want your estate to be the catalyst that begins to push them apart.

Divorce, 401(k)/IRA transfers, bankruptcy and … trusts?

Legal commentators frequently make the point that the realm of estate planning is far broader and multi-faceted than is commonly appreciated. Legions of individuals and families in California and nationally duly note that planning applies to focused money concerns and key end-of-life considerations, but don’t immediately see the wider ramifications of estate administration.

Take bankruptcy, for instance. More specifically, consider a case where divorce, tax-sheltered account transfer and subsequent bankruptcy all have integrated relevance and can ultimately be influenced by smart and proactive estate planning.

The impressive flexibility, tailored aspects of trusts

This story hardly seems surprising. Reportedly, the central idea inherent in a trust -- one party’s holding property of potentially varied types for the benefit of another -- goes back many centuries.

One recent article on the broad and effective role that trusts often play in estate administration states that those planning tools might have first been authored “when nobles went off to do battle in the Crusades” more than 700 years ago. Departing fighters entrusted their assets to someone they could trust -- logically enough, a trustee -- for safekeeping in their absence or in the event they died in far off lands.

Bills and taxes: Estate administration can be complex

Many things related to a person's estate have to occur after they pass away. These tasks are left to the administrator of the estate. It is imperative that anyone who is creating an estate plan, as well as those who have to administer an estate, understand an estate's bills and tax burden.

When a person passes away, handling the estate isn't as easy as reading the will and handing out the assets named in it. Instead, there are specific things that an estate is responsible for. The assets held by the estate, with the exception of those in trusts that can't be touched by creditors, have to be used to pay off the debts of the estate if creditors make a claim. The estate also has to file a final tax return.

Twelve years and counting: musical icon’s estate battle rages on

One-of-a-kind musical legend James Brown was something to behold on a stage when the music kicked in. And a recent Forbes article notes that even now, nearly a dozen years after his death, legions of people still regard the pop/soul icon “with rapt fascination.”

Brown died in late 2006, leaving an estate plan that he hoped would be duly sorted through and settled in timely fashion and without material issues.

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