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Greenwich Connecticut Estate Planning Law Blog

Trust taxation varies heavily by state

After a lifetime of hard work and tough choices, you would want to be able to choose who benefits from your fortunes. A surviving spouse or children may be at the top of your mind, while you may also want to contribute to charitable organizations or important cultural institutions.

One thing all these goals have in common is the strategic estate planning that often goes into fulfilling them. Federal law and the tax code of the state of Connecticut affect most of the higher value estates, which can make trusts an attractive way to transfer assets without estate taxes taking hold.

Some assets can avoid probate court

Children find out that a will says something other than what they expected. Taxes or liens take a big bite out of the value of the estate. These are only some of the disadvantages of lacking a clear estate plan, which may send all the possible beneficiaries to probate court.

Probate court is not necessarily an unpleasant experience. Connecticut vests several basic powers in these courts to make them more accessible to all citizens. But people with any amount of value in their estates may find it useful to avoid probate court for several of their assets.

Understanding survivorship language in an estate plan

Estate planning should be an essential part of getting older. However, there are numerous issues that come up with this process. Often, people make mistakes with writing a will, and one of the biggest involves using the wrong type of language. 

For example, it is important to include survivorship language in an estate plan. Married couples who grow old together need to account for the fact they do not know who will outlive whom. The testator--the person writing the will--probably wants to leave behind most of his or her assets to the spouse on the provision that he or she outlives the testator. Spouses also need to account for the fact both could die at the same time. This is why spouses need survivorship language. 

Grandmother gets guardianship in Connecticut divorce case

Parents are always concerned about the well-being of their children. But a mother and father are not the only stakeholders in the care and education of a boy or girl. If parents are not available to be full-time custodians, others may gain standing in children's lives as guardians.

A guardian has most of the same duties and privileges as a confirmed parent. They have the rights to make decisions about how a child is raised, how the health care of a child is managed, where a child is educated and other vital aspects of life.

What's the best way to revoke a will?

It's your hope that the first will you create is the will that remains in effect until you pass on. While this could happen, there may come a point when you realize that you need to revoke your will and alter your estate plan.

Here are some situations that may call for you to revoke a will:

  • Marriage
  • Divorce
  • Birth or adoption of a child

Create an estate plan with the goal of avoiding probate

The probate process is costly, time consuming and stressful. Fortunately, you can create an estate plan with the goal of most your assets avoiding the probate process.

There are four ways to pass down property without it going through probate:

  • Revocable living trust: Any assets inside a living trust are owned by the trust, not you. Subsequently, when you pass away, these assets are transferred to your heirs without going through probate.
  • Joint property ownership: The most common forms of joint property ownership include community property, tenancy by the entirety and joint tenancy with a right of survivorship.
  • Death beneficiaries: There are many financial assets that allow you to name a beneficiary, such as an IRA and 401(k) retirement account. This allows your beneficiary to receive the asset shortly after your passing, as opposed to after the probate process.
  • Gifts: It's obvious to some but most never take advantage of this way for an asset to avoid probate. When you gift an asset to someone while you're living, they become the owner. This is in contrast to leaving it to them in your will, which subjects it to probate.

Could you benefit from a living will?

Adding a living will to your estate plan may be one of the best decisions you ever make, as it can give you peace of mind in knowing that your health care wishes will be followed in the future.

In short, a living will is your statement to medical providers about the types of life-prolonging treatment you do and do not wish to receive. This is important in the event that you're suffering from an illness or injury that makes it impossible to personally communicate your desired treatment.

Disappearance of mother prompted temporary guardianship

There are many happy reasons to appoint a guardian for a child in Connecticut. New adoptions create a stable environment for a newly expanded family. Relatives getting a turn at caring for children over long periods of time often enjoy the experience.

There are also a few bitter or difficult reasons to become or require a guardian. One of them is when a parent is gone, and there is no clear responsibility among other relatives on who must put a roof over children's heads and feed them as well as tend to education or health care.

3 important people to identify in a will

No matter how late you decide to put your estate plan together, you will have some important decisions to make. Having a detailed will in place prior to your passing can make a big difference in how your family members tackle your estate and resolve inevitable disputes.

While preparing your plan, think about who you will designate in different roles. This choice may be simpler if you have a surviving spouse, but if you are a widow or widower, this may require some critical thinking. Here are three key players you will want to name in your will.

Supreme Court rules on taxation of trusts in estate plans

One guarantee of states and municipalities across the United States is a type of probate court, which allows people to legally take responsibility for assets that used to belong to someone else. Each jurisdiction has its own rules and laws to follow, which often deal with how assets are divided or distributed when there is no directive from the deceased person.

It is rare but reasonable that a decision on the federal level changes how estates are managed or planned by savvy strategists. One recent example is the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, which included a provision raising the minimum for estates taxed by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

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