Friday, July 10, 2020

New Video: The Three Essential Estate Planning Core Documents

Watch this video by Stuart R. Morris, Esq., CPA, B.C.S., founding partner of Morris Law Group about the three core documents that are the basis for estate planning - a Will, a Revocable Trust and an Irrevocable Trust. For more information, visit www.law-morris.com or call (561) 750-3850.


Who Will Make Healthcare Decisions for You If You Are Unable Due to Illness or Injury?


During these unprecedented times, as unpleasant as it is, people have been thinking more about estate planning and ensuring that their end-of-life healthcare wishes are followed. There are two legal documents that state your wishes as far as what end-of-life care you would like done and who makes those decisions if you are unable to: a living will and a designation of health care surrogate.

A Living Will Expresses Your Wishes

A living will, despite its name, does not deal with whom your property and assets will go. Instead, it states the type of healthcare you would like to receive toward the end of life. Some examples of what a living will includes are:
  •  your wishes regarding a feeding tube and artificial nutrition,
  • whether you would like pain relief
  • if and how long you would like to be on a ventilator and life support
  • and other life-saving measures you may or may not want done.
By putting this down in writing, your health care surrogate will have no doubts about what type and how much care you would like to receive in the event that you are unable to voice this yourself. This is not to be confused with a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) form. This is a form you would get from your doctor that says if you code (i.e., your heart stops during an operation or while you’re in the hospital), you do not want cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to be performed on you. It does not address other possibilities and care options.

You Designate the Decision-Maker

A health care surrogate is the person you designate to make health care decisions for you if you are no longer able to do so. Typically, this is a person’s spouse, but does not have to be. It is vitally important to have this document on file with your doctor and given to your surrogate.

An unmarried person who becomes incapacitated and does not have a health care surrogate becomes a ward of the state and the state makes the decisions, which may not be made in accordance with that person’s wishes. As such, it is critical to pick a person who agrees with your wishes and will execute them as you desire. For example, if you would like to have life support ended after two weeks of no improvement, but your surrogate does not agree with this perspective, he or she may not do what you wanted.

While a spouse is the obvious choice, if he or she has conflicting opinions on end-of-life care, it is better to pick another relative or close friend that agrees with your choices.

Everyone Over 18 Needs These Documents

These are documents that every adult needs to have in place, regardless of age. A life-changing accident or illness can happen to anyone at any time, and it is essential to have a plan enacted to ensure your wishes are followed. Another document called a HIPAA release authorizes the people you name to be able to talk to your doctor and receive information about your medical condition. 

Parents, please note, if your children are headed off to college soon or leaving the nest, make sure they sign a living will and health care surrogate document before they go. Even though you may think of them as children, if they are over age 18, they are considered legal adults in the eyes of the law. In the event of your child suffering a critical injury or illness, you wouldn’t be able to make medical decisions or even speak to the doctor without these legal documents naming you as the health care surrogate.

A well-known example of a person not having these documents in place that resulted in many years of contentious litigation and the incapacitated person’s wishes not being followed is Terri Schiavo. You may recall this landmark case that attracted both “right to life” and “right to die” advocates. She did not have a living will or health care surrogate, and her husband and family had a long court battle over what they thought Terri would want.

Without a living will, doctors are compelled to keep you alive with heroic measures, including putting you on a respirator and feeding tube, doing CPR, using multiple drugs to maintain blood pressure and heart function, dialysis, amputation, other surgery and more. With a living will, you can specify if you want food or water to continue or be withheld, if you want experimental measures or even if you want to be kept alive for a certain amount of time so that your children living out of state have time to say goodbye.

Get Help from a Professional for Peace of Mind

These documents can be confusing. To make certain that they are filled out correctly and in accordance with your wishes, discussing it with you lawyer is by far the best option. 

Morris Law Group is here to help you and your family members set up your living will and health care surrogate documents. Having them in place will give you peace of mind and will provide your loved ones with the guidance needed to make the decisions you would want if you are incapable of making them. For assistance with your advance directives, please contact us or give us a call today at (561) 750-3850.

3 Core Estate Planning Techniques and Documents

Estate planning is a complex process that entails a detailed evaluation of your goals, desires, potential income, taxes, asset protection and charitable planning, among many other considerations. It starts, however with three basic core techniques: your Last Will and Testament (Will), a Revocable Trust and an Irrevocable Trust.
A Will is the legal document where you can express your final wishes for the management of your estate. This includes the distribution of assets, guardianship for minor children and burial instructions. Without a properly executed Will, a person is deemed to die “intestate,” and his or her assets will be distributed according to the state’s intestacy laws. Although a Will can adequately provide for the distribution of assets upon your death, it does not sufficiently provide for your necessary care in the event you become incapacitated. It also must proceed through the costly and very public probate process after you pass. Once a Will is probated, it becomes a public record and can be viewed by any member of the public.

Trusts, on the other hand, would not be subject to probate and public recording. There are two main types of trusts: Revocable and Irrevocable trusts. They work as the names suggest, in that Revocable Trusts can be modified during your lifetime, and Irrevocable Trusts typically cannot be modified without the consent of the beneficiaries. This makes Irrevocable Trusts sound like an unwise choice, when in actuality, they are extremely useful for tax and estate planning purposes.

There are two basic types of Irrevocable Trusts: Inter Vivos and Testamentary. Inter Vivos Trusts are created when the Grantor is still alive, and Testamentary Trusts are created from the Grantor’s Will after he or she passes. While all Testamentary Trusts are Irrevocable, not all Inter Vivos Trusts are; the status of an Inter Vivos Trust is up to the Grantor.

Due to the fact that Irrevocable Trusts cannot be modified, anything in them is removed from the Grantor’s estate and therefore will not be subject to the estate tax. Therefore, it is important that they are set up correctly.

A classic example of a commonly used Irrevocable Trust is an Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust (ILIT). An ILIT is used to keep the value of a life insurance policy out of the owner’s estate. The policy is sold to the owner’s ILIT and the ILIT is the owner of the policy, safely removing it from the Grantor’s estate. It also makes the distribution of the policy upon the insured’s death go more quickly and smoothly. An ILIT also provides more creditor protection than merely distributing the proceeds of the policy directly. Additionally, it helps to prevent wealth transfer problems for the recipient of the proceeds.

Inter Vivos Irrevocable Trusts may also be used to give gifts to grandchildren with the proper tax planning. Giving a gift to someone two generations under you triggers the Generation Skipping Transfer Tax (GST Tax), which is currently 40 percent. The GST Tax has an exemption equal to the estate tax exemption. It is a complicated tax, making it imperative to set up this kind of trust properly. This will ensure the recipient of the gift receives the amount you actually want them to receive without them having a pay a high tax.

Revocable Trusts also have many uses in estate planning. They are commonly used as a way to avoid probate administration after death. Probate can be costly and takes time to sort out the affairs of the deceased person. A Revocable Trust sets out what the Grantor would like done with his or her property before death, ensuring a smoother administration. Another key advantage of using a Revocable Trust in the place of a Will is that Wills become public record after a person dies, whereas the provisions of a trust stay private. In order to make sure all of the Grantor’s bases are covered, a Revocable Trust should be accompanied by a Pourover Will. This type of Will states that any property not titled to the trust should be retitled to the trust. People often forget to retitle all of their assets to the trust or acquire new assets and do not think about it. 

Revocable Trusts also remove the need for ancillary probate. This is required probate when the deceased person has real property in another state. By putting the real property into a Revocable Trust, there is no need for ancillary probate.

It is also a creative way to plan financially for incapacity. A Revocable Trust operates free from court interference, and, if set up while the Grantor still has “capacity,” the Grantor may choose Trustees who will serve in the event of incapacity. This is much more advantageous than the court appointing a guardian or conservator. Both are extremely expensive and, in the event that capacity returns, incredibly difficult to remove.

Morris Law Group’s experienced attorneys can help you plan for your future with the most effective estate planning techniques for you and your situation. It’s imperative not to postpone your estate planning. Without any form of estate plan in place, you are subject to the state’s intestacy laws that will dictate how your assets will be divided upon your death. In addition to the possibility of your assets being distributed to a relative you may dislike or hardly know, your family could be faced with significant tax and fiduciary issues.

Contact us today at (561) 750-3850 for more information about estate planning and to set up a consultation with one our attorneys. 

Friday, June 19, 2020

New Video: What You Need to Know Before Hiring an Estate Planning Attorney

In the video below, Morris Law Group's founding partner, Stuart R. Morris, Esq., CPA, B.C.S. discusses some crucial information you need to know if you are seeking to hire an estate planning attorney soon. For more information about Morris Law Group or Stuart R. Morris, please visit https://law-morris.com or call (561) 750-3850


The Key Benefits of an Investment LLC


An Investment Limited Liability Company (LLC) is a unique estate planning technique that Morris Law Group uses to provide clients with protection from creditors.  An Investment LLC is a multimember holding company whose primary purpose is to own non-qualified investment accounts in a manner that is protected from creditors. Since the LLC has more than one member, a personal creditor of any individual member cannot attach the LLC’s assets. Additionally, our client maintains control over the underlying investments (buying, selling, etc.) by acting as the manager of the LLC. Please watch our video below on Investment LLCs by Morris Law Group founding partner Stuart R. Morris, Esq., CPA, B.C.S.  


Florida Requirements

In order to form an LLC in Florida, you must file the Articles of Organization with the state. This document lists the name of the LLC, its address, and the names of the managing members. You also will need an Operating Agreement. This sets up how the LLC will function, specifies the requirements of the members, determines how new managers are chosen, details a succession plan, and so on, but unlike the Articles of Organization, the Operating Agreement is private.

Tax Considerations

Investment LLCs are typically taxed like partnerships and are pass-through entities. This means that the tax that the LLC owes is passed through to the members. This sounds like it could be costly, but it actually provides a better result than being taxed as a corporation. Unless it is taxed as an S Corporation, corporations are taxed at the corporate level and then the shareholders are taxed on distributions, resulting in two taxes instead of one. However, it is important to note that LLCs can elect to be treated as a corporation (including as an S Corporation) for tax purposes if the members desire.

Married Couples Can Equalize Estates

In addition to the asset protection benefits, the Investment LLC also provides married clients the ability to equalize their estates better for estate tax purposes. In cases where one spouse owns the majority of the assets, their estates can be equalized by transferring such investment accounts to an investment LLC owned equally by each spouse. Furthermore, because all investment accounts will already be titled within the LLC, none of the accounts need to be retitled upon a client’s death (only the interest in the LLC needs to be retitled) resulting in significant savings on post-death administration costs.

Gifting Benefits

Lastly, Investment LLCs also provide significant upside in the event a client wishes to make gifts to trusts for the benefit of their descendants, as it can lead to a valuation discount. Consider the following example where Jim owns an investment account valued at $10 million. If Jim gifts $1 million from the account directly to his daughter, Heather, it will result in a gift of $1 million. However, if instead, Jim owns the $10 million investment account within an Investment LLC, and gifts a 10% interest in the LLC (actual value of $1 million) to Heather, a valuation discount for lack of marketability and control (that can exceed 20%) can be applied to the transfer, resulting in the gifting of a $1 million asset while only utilizing approximately $800,000 of Jim’s estate tax exemption.   

For more information on this specialized planning technique, please contact us or call Morris Law Group at (561) 750-3850.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Irrevocable Trust Compliance Examination

irrevocable trust annual compliance examination, morris law groupAt Morris Law Group, we can assist you in setting up a customized Wealth Preservation Solution to meet your unique wealth preservation goals. One way to protect your assets and ensure that they are preserved for your beneficiaries is through an irrevocable trust. These trusts are commonly designed to hold assets that will be outside of your taxable estate for estate tax purposes.

Annual Compliance Requirements

In order to maintain the integrity of the trust, as well as reap the estate and gift tax benefits, there are compliance actions that need to be taken on an annual basis. With respect to trusts that hold life insurance, if the cash flow needs of the trust exceed the annual exclusion gifting threshold, Split Dollar Arrangements and other techniques are used to avoid or minimize gift taxes.

The 2020 gift tax exclusions amount is $15,000 per individual and $30,000 for gifts made by a married couple to each donee. In order to pay the premiums, you, as the Grantor, can contribute an amount directly to the trust, and the trust will then pay the premium when it’s due.
The contribution to the trust for the insurance policy will not qualify for the gift tax exclusion unless the trust grants the trust’s beneficiaries certain limited rights to he gifted assets (these are known as “Crummey” withdrawal powers). If the trust contains these beneficiary withdrawal powers, it is essential that the beneficiaries receive Crummey letters (notice of withdrawal right) whenever a contribution is made to the trust.

Morris Law Group Will Handle the Particulars

Our team will oversee the timing, preparation and verification of the required documents including these Crummey letters to confirm all necessary formalities are being met with irrevocable trusts. Please be advised that failure to properly document these transactions on a timely basis may result in increased gift and estate taxes.
If you are interested in designing a customized Wealth Preservation Solution, or what we call a Generational Planning Solution,SM that can be put into place to give you and your loved ones peace of mind that your legacy will last for generations, contact Morris Law Group at (561) 750-3850 or visit www.Law-Morris.com and schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys.

Monday, May 4, 2020

New Video: Update Your Planning During This Low Interest Rate Environment

In this unprecedented time in the midst of the coronavirus, now is a good time to update your estate plan to take advantage of the low interest rates. For more information, watch this important video and call Morris Law Group at (561) 750-3850 to make an appointment to speak to one of our attorneys.