I have been practicing law for over twenty years since I became a lawyer at the age of twenty-six. During that time I’ve been building an Estate for myself and my family. My estate planning experience comes mostly from my life, not any specific study of one set of laws. Hard work. It’s the only way to build an Estate.
Even then, sometimes that’s not enough. I know guys who work two jobs, guys who work in their yards when they’re not working at their jobs, but do they have an Estate? You want to leave something behind for your kids when you leave this world. It’s the American way. You want to give a something to charity when you’re still walking on the planet, that’s just good manners. All of this requires that you successfully plan your Estate.
The number one thing to do is make a Will. Everyone has something to give when they die. Having a will will simplify how that something is distributed. You set up an Executor with directions on whom to give what. We help you write a simple will, with clear instructions to the named Executor on what you want done with your money.
Currently, there is no Estate tax on the first $5 million assets of an individual’s decedent estate. If you are married, then we can plan your estate to utilize the exemption amount in each spouse’s estate. That’s $10 million dollars without any Estate taxes. We do this by the use of a special will called a disclaimer Will. At your death, your spouse disclaims, i.e., renounces title to any of the decedent’s gifts valued in excess of $5 million dollars and the funds pass to a trust set up for her/him in the Will. So your spouse has the benefit of that money, but doesn’t take ownership of it. Since the sum is below the taxable threshold, no tax is paid on it. The spouse then has their own $5 million dollars acquired through the marital share of jointly held property for which is an unlimited marital deduction. So your entire estate passes without estate tax, and the surviving spouse only has one-half in her Estate at her death. (The trust passes out to the kids through your Estate at the death of the surviving spouse).
In New York State, however, the taxing starts at $1.0 million dollars. But the rate is much lower than the Federal Estate tax so we don’t worry so much. In any event, we can help you plan to avoid that tax also, which can be as much as $100,000 on a modest estate of $2.4 million.
In addition to my tax saving advice, I can help those of you who need counsel on the legalities involved in filing bankruptcy, or in reducing your debts to a manageable level. Our law firm does many bankruptcy filings for people who have just not been lucky enough to find that their work has resulted in a large estate. People in insolvent estates have every bit as much dignity as those doing tax planning. Our great country allows people to get a “fresh start” if they’ve gone bankrupt. We can show you which assets will go through a bankruptcy proceeding as “exempt” property, thereby allowing you to hang onto them. We can help you plan to make sure that you have as much property as the law currently allows. Furthermore, we will advise you NOT to file bankruptcy if we feel that a reasonable arrangement for payment over time will be acceptable to all of your creditors. We will spend time with you to make the right financial plan for your situation.
As you may know, we also do divorces and disability hearings. I only mention these practice areas because they tie into the financial planning realm nicely. A divorce creates two estates where there was only one before. A disability claim creates some back pay that must be saved, lest the claimant fall into relying only on the monthly income portion of the award. As your counsel, I will consult with you and your family to give you sound advice on planning your new estate going forward.
I wish to thank all of our clients, past and future, for allowing me to have this moment of your time to show the importance of Estate Planning.