New School Year May Require a New Estate Plan

Posted by on Aug 15, 2016 in 529 Plan, asset protection, estate planning, Family Law, Wills |

New School Year May Require a New Estate Plan

For parents and students, the commencement of a new school year is much like what January 1st is to everyone else: Looking back on the recent life events and choices, while looking forward to the lofty ideals of what lays ahead – a fresh start to the “new” year. In the inception of the new school year, it is time to consider whether you are sporting an old, and less effective, estate plan. Explore your current status, and determine if you are properly prepared for tomorrow. A lot can happen in a year: children get older, family relationships change, or the size of your estate increases. Let us take a look at possible life events that can warrant a revised estate plan:

Marriage & Divorce: If you have recently married or divorced, it is important to go back through your current estate plan to see whether these life events are addressed in your will or trust documents. First and foremost, marriage does not revoke a will. Divorce, however, may have an effect on the validity of the will. When you fail to amend your will following a divorce, and unless there is a provision within it that states otherwise, the will is treated as if the former spouse died upon divorce (wishful thinking, right?). As an alternative, the divorce or dissolution of marriage judgment can contain such language stating that the provisions in the will regarding the former spouse are valid, notwithstanding the divorce. Therefore, if you no longer want your former spouse to be the beneficiary of any portion of your estate, you need to check the language of your current will. If you get married following the execution of an estate plan, your spouse is entitled to an intestate share (in Florida, this is “per stirpes”) of your estate by statute, unless the new spouse waives the right, or the document itself provides otherwise (intent not to provide for new spouse, or provision providing for spouse in contemplation of marriage). Also, you may have had your former spouse designated as a Power of Attorney, or health-care surrogate. Thus, it is very important to ensure that your estate plan is consistent with your wishes following a divorce or marriage.

Children: if you have a new child following the creation of your estate plan, it is important to ensure that your new bundle of joy is provided for. You may want to set up a trust, a 529-college plan (see “Student Tax Holidays & Savings,” above), alter beneficiary designations in your will, and nominate a legal guardian.

Estate Size Increase: You want to make certain that your estate plans are tailored to your estate size. Therefore, when your estate increases, you may want to make some changes in terms of tax and estate planning. Furthermore, if you have an estate plan that is set up to avoid probate, and acquire new property, you will want to assign that property to your living trust. You may want to consider a variety of estate planning strategies, anywhere from setting up an LLC to protect certain assets from lawsuits, to reducing the size of your estate for tax purposes.

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How To Save Money This Back To School Season

Posted by on Aug 11, 2016 in 529 Plan, Legal News, tax |

coffee, cup, mug

How To Save Money This Back To School Season

August has arrived! The time to mark your calendars for your “back to school sales tax holidays!” This sales tax holiday has provided a couple days for shoppers to ravish the malls and department stores for clothing and school supplies. Here, in South Florida, your tax breaks will cover the standard clothing and school supplies, as well as computers and tablets (priced up to $750).

Florida state Rep., Larry Ahern, stated “[w]e are trying to take some of the burden off Florida families as they prepare for their children going back to school in August.” Speaking of burden’s – if you are participating in back-to-school tax savings, your child’s college years are probably just around the corner! While you can shop ‘til you drop every year, there are other tax-planning techniques that can be used to save for your child’s college expenses, while avoiding those pesky taxes.

The 529 Plan is a tax shelter for college savings. It allows you (or really, anyone) to contribute to an account to save for a designated person’s college education (it can be anyone, including yourself), and is not subject to federal taxation. The money in the plan can be used for any qualified expenses associated with college, including room & board, books, fees, computer, internet, etc. There is no age limit for when the plan can be used, and it can roll over to another family member (if little Jimmy Jr. decides not to go to college, sister Sally can use it). You can maintain control, and appoint a guardian/trustee to manage it upon death. So not only do you avoid tax on withdrawals, but any capital gains are taxfree as well. There is no federal income tax on money in the 529-college savings plan (plus, no income tax in Florida). NOTE: you have to keep in mind that any amount that you put in the 529-plan can be considered a “gift” for transfer tax purposes. However, the “annual exclusion” for the year 2016 (this amount changes every year), allows anyone to can make up to $14,000 in gifts that are excluded from transfer taxes (which are collected upon death, and subject to an exemption that is currently in the amount of $5,450,000).

So while you are stretching your legs for the mall-marathon that will be taking place each August, take a moment to consider the significant tax-free benefits of planning ahead for your child’s college education!

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The Final Four isn’t your only key to your Child’s College Education

Posted by on Mar 25, 2015 in 529 Plan |

Florida 529 Special Plans, College Planning

It’s that time of year: you’ve got your 2014 NCAA tournament bracket set up, and you’ve determined your final four. While the function of college sports is high on the charts for education selection, that’s only half of the battle. What’s left? Funding. Fortunately, if you start planning early, you can ensure that the top four selection is your child’s greatest concern when it comes to a college education. Consider the following estate planning resource as a means of both providing for your child’s college planning, while maximizing tax savings.

The Florida 529 Savings Plan allows any U.S. citizen to contribute to a savings account for the benefit of any other. The account is then managed by a professional fund manager who will invest according to your investment option of choice. All federal and state income taxes are then deferred until a withdrawal is made from the account. If such withdrawal is made for a “qualified higher education expense,” there are no income tax consequences. There is no set time for using the plan, and it can be rolled over from one beneficiary to another. Not only does the plan allow you to make monthly payments that are invested to create tax exempt income; you can also use it as a strategy to decrease your gross estate, and avoid gift and estate taxes.

The 529-Plan allows the owner to maintain complete control over the account, including the right to terminate and withdrawal, while removing all of its contents from the owner’s taxable gross estate. As a result, it is an incredibly useful tool in reducing taxes, while maintaining control and investing in the future of a loved one

It is important to consult with an estate planning attorney and/or financial advisor, as there are a variety of wealth management strategies associated with this plan, and it is important to ensure that such strategy compliments each estate plan.

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