Monthly Archives: August 2013

All Legal Same-Sex Marriages Will Be Recognized for Federal Tax Purposes

Wedding rings on a wooden floor

Today, the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the IRS ruled that same-sex couples, legally married in jurisdictions that recognize their marriages, will be treated as married for federal tax purposes regardless of whether they live in a state recognizing the marriage as valid.

As stated in a press release published by the Department: “Ruling Provides Certainty, Benefits and Protections Under Federal Tax Law for Same-Sex Married Couples.”

Click here to read the full press release.

 

 

Image © graja – Fotolia.com

Advertisements

What happens to a deceased person’s property if no one comes to claim it?

hundred dollars heap

Identifying a deceased person’s financial accounts is one of the more difficult tasks in administering an estate.  What happens to bank accounts when someone dies? What if you miss an account and no one ever comes to claim it?

The law governing this situation in Georgia is called “Escheat”, aka the “Disposition of Unclaimed Property Act.”  Under  Georgia law, if the bank loses contact with the account holder (often when the owner dies and his estate does not seek the account assets) the bank (the “holder”) would have five years (the “holding period”) to attempt to make contact with the owner.  If after five years the funds are still unclaimed, the bank must remit them to the State of Georgia.  The holder must also provide annual reports of the funds’ status to the State of Georgia during the holding period.  Notably, the bank will continue to withdraw fees from the account, as illustrated in this article forwarded to me by my colleague J. Cleveland Hill:

Not even death stops banks from collecting fees.

After the holding period, the funds go to the State of Georgia.  If an heir or beneficiary later discovers the funds,  they can be reclaimed from the State.   You can search for Georgia unclaimed property here:

Georgia Unclaimed Property Search.

There are some lessons to be learned here.  For those engaged in estate planning, it is incredibly helpful to leave an inventory of assets, accounts, life insurance policies, digital accounts and login information, etc. with your estate planning documents so that your beneficiaries can locate all of your funds and keep them from becoming unclaimed property.  For those in the process of administering  a decedent’s estate, it may be prudent to do an unclaimed property search to make sure you have located all of the decedent’s assets.  Note also that the State of Georgia will return unclaimed property free of charge, so be wary if you are approached by an individual or company seeking to do so for a costly fee.

 

CAVEAT:  This web site and the information contained herein have been prepared for educational purposes only.  The information on this blog does not constitute legal advice, which would be dependent upon the specific circumstances of a particular case.  In addition, because the law can vary from state to state some information on this site may not be applicable to you.

Image © Andrey Kuzmin – Fotolia.com

Estate Planning means Planning for Life: where estate planning and elder law meet

Be Prepared

I hear so many people say “I don’t need to do any estate planning because I’m not extremely wealthy.”  What many do not realize is what estate planning really means, and why it is important for everyone.

Estate planning goes beyond planning for the distribution of assets at death.  An important part of any estate planning consultation involves planning for incapacity:  who will handle your finances if something happens to you and you are no longer able?  who will make health care decisions, or decide where you should live, whether it’s at home, in an assisted living facility, or in a nursing home? what are your desires on these matters?  what kind of medical care do you wish to receive at the end of your life? and how can we protect you from being taken advantage of – financially or otherwise – when you become less able to care for yourself or make responsible decisions?

I linked to an article the other day stating that by 2050, one in five Americans will be over the age of 65.  But these issues do not just affect the aging population – I have seen numerous scenarios where younger individuals suffered incapacity because of an accident or health crisis and would have been significantly better off if they had their estate planning documents in place. It is imperative that people engage in planning ahead of time to make sure their care will be provided for if necessary.  “Estate planning” means planning for life, and everyone should do it.

Image © kreizihorse – Fotolia.com

When Do I Need to Update My Will?

Testament

When I began publishing this blog, an important goal was to educate the community on those issues my clients often raise, and this is definitely one of those:  When do I need to update my will?

This list is not all-inclusive, but includes some of the more common events that would require a review and possible revision of your estate planning documents (i.e. wills, trusts, financial power of attorney document(s) and/or health care directives):

1.   Birth of a child

2.   Marriage or Divorce

3.   Death of a beneficiary

4.   Significant change in personal wealth or purchase of a life insurance policy

5.   Change in applicable law (tax, trust, will, medical decision-making, etc)

6.   Moving from out-of-state

7.   Significant health issues of the testator (that is, the person who made the will) or a beneficiary, especially if it involves assisted living or skilled nursing care

8.   Desire to change your beneficiary(ies), executor (the person you name to carry out the terms of your will), or trustee (the person you name to carry out the terms of your trust)

9.  Change in a beneficiary(ies)’ status (e.g. divorce, debt, disability, and/or substance abuse problems of a beneficiary)

10.  Several (3 – 5) years have passed since you last reviewed your documents

Any time you review or change your will/trust, you should also review the beneficiary designations on accounts that pass outside your will. This might include life insurance policies, retirement accounts, joint accounts and TOD/POD (Transfer on Death/Payable on Death) accounts.

Finally, as noted, we recommend you review your documents every few years to be sure they still reflect your current wishes.

CAVEAT:  This web site and the information contained herein have been prepared for educational purposes only.  The information on this blog does not constitute legal advice, which would be dependent upon the specific circumstances of a particular case.  In addition, because the law can vary from state to state some information on this site may not be applicable to you.

Image © Lucian Milasan – Fotolia.com