The Wealth & Wisdom Blog

Information on Estate Planning, Estate and Trust Administration and Unique Asset Planning

Post-Death Task List

If you’ve struggled to keep up with the names of the players on your favorite low-budget professional sports team, you would appreciate “Whose on First?,the classic comedy routine by Abbott & Costello.  Confusion over proper roles, titles and responsibilities related to the administration of a trust or estate can similarly arise following the death of a loved one.  Our law firm is currently administering a greater number of trust and estates than normal.  According to the CDC, mortality rates are 8-12 percent higher in winter months than in other seasons.  As occasioned by winter, the most morbid season of the year, in this month’s update I share a brief overview of the tasks associated with administering assets following death.  Surviving family should involve the appropriate professionals and have a clear understanding of “who is on first” when it comes to trust and estate administration.

While every situation is different, here are three general categories of the tasks, and who should e involved in each task to be completed:

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Administration Timeline

Administration Timeline
Timeframe:Task(s):
Beginning of Administration Process “Certificate of Trust” and “Acceptance of Trustee” documents prepared and signed.
By April 15 year following deathFile final income tax return of deceased.
As soon after death as may be reasonableNotify social security, V.A. and any institution making payments to decedent.
Within reasonable time after deathDetermine and pay all outstanding bills of the decedent.
Within 6 months of deathLocate all assets, notify of any changes in address, and prepare inventory and appraisement of same
During trust administrationMake changes in investments and holdings as may be prudent.
Maintain accounts.
Nine months from date of deathEstate Tax return due
Fiscal tax year end of trust (any month-end)First fiduciary income tax return due
Nine months from filing estate tax returnDeadline for making estimated estate tax payment, if any.
3 years after filing of final income tax returns End of claims period for potential liability for income taxes

 

Post-Pandemic Probate Proceedings

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, most “informal” probate proceedings are now being held via virtual “Zoom” hearings or by telephone.  While no two situations are alike, we generally follow the following steps whenever a probate court proceeding is needed:

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Re-Gifting Strategies

If you recently attended a party with a White Elephant gift game, or if your child has ever received a gift of a musical instrument, you understand and appreciate the fine art of re-gifting.  In our family, certain family members have been known to repay the kindness of a Christmas gift by inconspicuously re-gifting the item into the vehicle of an unsuspecting sibling, only to be discovered a few days later and after a multi-state drive home.  Merry Christmas brother!

In honor of the spirit of re-gifting, in this month’s update, I first summarize 2023 tax amounts relevant to estate planning decisions, and then summarize two re-gifting case studies.

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Employee Benefits Estate Planning

It’s open enrollment season, which means that our law firm, like your company, has recently received notice of its 2023 health insurance coverage options.  Having reviewed our firm’s coverage costs, well, let’s hope that 2023 brings good health, and few medical appointments, for my family as well as for yours.

As occasioned by this upbeat topic, in this month’s update I answer a few common estate planning questions that frequently arise in the context of naming beneficiaries on employee benefits. The specific beneficiary designation for Health Savings Accounts (“HSAs”), life insurance policies, and retirement accounts will vary based upon family and state residency circumstances, but a few general principles apply.

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Patagonia and Purpose-Driven Planning

Hopefully this will influence a new form of capitalism that doesn’t end up with a few rich people and a bunch of poor people.”  So remarked Yvon Chouinard, the founder of outdoor clothing company Patagonia, as he announced his remarkably unique estate plan.  Rather than take a more conventional approach of either selling his Patagonia shares, or perhaps gifting the Patagonia shares to his two adult daughters, Chouinard recently gifted his entire $3.0 billion ownership stake to two entities: a specially designed “business purpose trust,” and to a 501(c)(4) social welfare organization.  In this month’s update, I provide a brief overview of the Patagonia plan, and consider what lessons we can draw from the Patagonia plan.

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Charitable Planning as a Triple Threat to the Tax Code

In basketball, a player is known to be in a “triple threat” position when he or she is holding the basketball and in an athletic position with the ball, ready to (i) pass to a teammate, (ii) dribble drive to the basket to score, or (iii) immediately shoot a jump shot.  In my past years of playing basketball, I possessed neither a good jump shot nor the quickness necessary to dribble drive to the basket.  In my case, the triple threat position was simply the means to pass the ball to a more capable teammate.

In tax planning, a charitable gift of assets might pose a “triple threat” to the tax code through one or more of three separate benefits.  These three tax-related benefits are as follows:

  • An immediate income tax charitable deduction;
  • Avoidance of future capital gains or future ordinary income tax liability; and
  • Avoidance of future estate tax liability.

In this month’s update, I briefly summarize how a donor can implement a charitable strategy to make use of one or more of these three benefits.

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Buy One, Get One Free: Using Separate Revocable Trusts for Married Clients

Buy One, Get One Free.  Who doesn’t like a good deal?  Whether two-for-one amusement park tickets, sports tickets or my favorite, BOGO children’s meals, we appreciate “two for the price of one” deals. In this month’s update, I share why we recommend that married residents of the State of Minnesota create two trusts—in some respects, two trusts for the price of one.

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Veritage Law Group

I am pleased to announce that our law firm is now “Veritage Law Group.”  Veritage is a combination of two words – “Veritas,”  which is Latin for “truth,” and “Heritage.”  This new name conveys our firm’s mission: to implement an estate plan unique to a client’s faith beliefs, family relationships and community commitments –the components that comprise one’s true heritage.

While our law firm’s name and logo have changed, we have not changed our scope and delivery of legal services.  We will continue to focus in the areas of estate planning and trust and estate administration.  Within our firm, here are the areas of focus that each of our professionals have developed:

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Customized Trust Planning

We love our kids equally by treating each of them uniquely.” One of the numerous estate planning implications of the COVID-19 pandemic is the significant increase in mental health challenges and drug and alcohol addiction issues experienced by the adult children of our clients. The WHO reported a 25% increase in anxiety and mental health disorders since the onset of the pandemic. Similarly, one in five adults report a surge in heavy alcohol use since March of 2020. By reason of student loan debts, significant inflation, and other factors, many of our clients are providing significant financial support to adult children. As in other areas of life and law, there is not one trust solution to be applied to a myriad of different challenges. Instead, a client’s post-death “testamentary trust” plan should address each child’s unique challenges. In this month’s update, I describe four types of testamentary trusts that can be customized for each beneficiary’s unique situation.

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This blog is intended to provide the reader with assistance in understanding various estate planning and trust estate planning concepts. In an effort to keep things as digestible as possible, I have tried to keep each blog post as short as possible.  As a result, an astute reader would see that I often fail to address various exceptions to rules or principals, or how various principles relate to one another.  There are a number of moving parts associated with various planning structures summarized on this blog.  In order to achieve your estate planning objectives, it is important that you receive the assistance of an experienced estate planning attorney.  Otherwise, your family may be in a worse position for your having attempted these strategies on your own.  Until we form an attorney-client relationship, you should be aware that your visiting this blog has not formed an attorney-client relationship, and none of this information can be taken as legal advice.  To contact my office about scheduling an appointment, contact us at 612-465-0080.