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Bay Area Estates and Tax Law Blog

New laws, new wrinkles: some estate planning considerations

Imagine if the estate planning realm was essentially static, operating under relatively unchanging conditions and in a manner largely the same from generation to generation.

In such a universe, planning advice would unquestionably be monotonous and even arid. Moreover, there wouldn’t seem to be much need for a professional adviser to be exactingly diligent about having clients timely review and adjust their strategies to conform to new laws and realities.

Spotlight on various estate tax scenarios

A financial writer notes in a recent Forbes article that some estate planning commentators are improperly focused on the potentiality of what is termed a “wealth tax” for the nation’s richest individuals and families.

Ashlea Ebeling states that they might more reasonably focus upon suggestions and corresponding adjustments to the country’s laws governing estate taxes.

Protecting precious cargo: estate planning for new parents

Virtually any ongoing source of estate planning information -- including our blog at the long-tenured Bay Area Law Offices of Connie Yi -- will occasionally restate a fundamental point concerning the planning community.

That point stresses a common misconception shared by scores of millions of Americans.

How can you enhance a trust’s already impressive flexibility?

Regular readers of our blogs in the Bay Area and across California know that we strongly endorse the clear utility of tailored and well-drafted trusts at the Pleasanton Law Offices of Connie Yi. We note on our established firm’s website that, “Trusts can be an integral piece of estate planning for many individuals, couples and families.”

A core reason why that is true owes to the impressive flexibility of trusts across many dimensions. Trusts enable creators (grantors) to exercise continued financial control during their lifetimes and ensure that their wishes are carried out regarding heirs and other parties after they die. Trusts are attractive legal instruments for shielding assets from creditors and lawfully avoiding outlays to tax authorities. Importantly, too, trust assets typically bypass the probate process and are shielded from public scrutiny.

Choosing a guardian? Ask these questions

The most important thing you do with your estate plan, many would argue, is to pick a guardian for your children.

After all, they're worth more to you than anything you own. Yes, you want things to go smoothly in a financial sense. You want your assets to get passed on properly. But if you had to choose between that and giving your kids a good, stable upbringing, you would pick your kids every single time.

Let’s see now, which child should I pick to administer the estate?

Michelle Herting is a California business adviser and writer on estate planning topics. She makes two quick child-centric points in a recently penned article that are relevant to the planning process. We note them immediately below for readers.

The first is this: A parental strategy to respond to the kids the same way when conflict arises over perceived differentiated treatment seldom works. Herting notes that moms and dads trying to quell discord frequently “make the well-intentioned mistake that fair and equal are the same.”

When does it morph from tax avoidance to tax evasion?

One is lawful. The other can yield a lengthy prison term and financial penalties of a staggering degree. The former is part of a strategy that is both recommended and implemented by proven estate planning attorneys. The latter is a flat taboo that none of those professionals would ever endorse.

Today’s blog post spotlights tax avoidance and tax evasion, respectively. Avoidance is a lawful tactic/strategy that helps to promote the interests of tax filers in California and nationally. Conversely, evasion -- which could never logically be termed a strategy -- is a criminal act and certain recipe for stark legal challenges.

Trusts vs. wills: typically not a one-or-the-other proposition

We’ll get straight to the point regarding subject matter that we introduced in our immediately preceding blog post (please see our September 6 entry).

That point is this: In the estate planning realm, wills and trusts play distinctive roles that, while different, are complementary rather than opposed.

Estate disputes, retirement and a lack of savings

A lot of estate disputes are really financial matters. One child doesn't get as much as another and disputes it. Another child doesn't get as much as expected and disputes that. Still another doesn't like that so much money went to charity and thinks it should have stayed in the family. Another wants to keep the family home when their siblings want to sell it.

In essence, people do not see eye-to-eye about money, and what they think, feel or know about that money is very important to them. They are willing to fight for that position in court, even if it means fighting with their siblings.

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