One of the most important decisions to make after someone dies is how to administer their probate estate. Many times family members rush to qualify as Executor without understanding the issues involved with being an executor.
Over the past 40 years I have prepared thousands of wills. Each time the wills are organized in articles and paragraphs, all of the pages are numbered, the Testator’s initials are placed on the corner of each page, the will is signed at its logical end, and a self-proving affidavit is appended. All of these actions are designed to ensure that the wishes of the Testator (the person who makes the will) are followed and to reduce the possibility of fraud by the substitution of pages in a will.
The number of people who itemize could fall by more than half in 2018 because of changes made by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) enacted on December 22, 2017. That's bad news for many charitable givers. But for those who are age 70½ or older, a tax benefit from their charitable contributions may be available even if they don't itemize. The key is to make the gift by way of a qualified charitable distribution (QCD).
From 1987 through 2003, the federal estate tax exemption amount was between $600,000 and $1,000,000. This prompted many people to create Irrevocable Trusts to hold life insurance, or other Irrevocable Trusts to hold appreciating assets. The purpose was to remove life insurance proceeds or to remove the appreciation of an asset (think Amazon or Alphabet stock) from one’s taxable estate.
I was always amazed how my grandfather could build anything. There was no home project that was too big or too complicated for him. Unfortunately, that gene skipped my generation, and when I get involved in do-it-yourself projects around the house, I generally make more work and more expense to fix my work by a professional. In a recent Virginia case, Irving v. Divito, the decedent’s attempts to modify his estate plan had the same result as my attempts to fix plumbing.
Estate planning is more than just tax planning. It is the “peace of mind” planning that protects you, your family and your assets during your life and after.