You might have the best of intentions, but a poorly structured estate plan could end up requiring your heirs to use much of their inheritance to pay taxes on that very same inheritance.
Even the most successful families create disasters for their heirs. Unless you are a tax lawyer or estate planning attorney, chances are you don't know how to properly plan for the taxes that are due on the sale of assets. A report from Fox 61 News, "Tips to avoid an income tax and estate planning time bomb," discusses how important planning and timing are to helping your heirs avoid inheriting a tax bomb.
For example, parents may decide to deed a home to their son while they are alive to protect it from long-term care costs or to avoid probate. Because the child didn't pay the parents the fair market value of the place, it's considered a gift, and a gift tax return may be required depending on the value of the home. The more the property is worth at the time of its sale, the greater the gain and the larger the tax bill will be.
These parents unknowingly planted an income tax bill bomb for their children by gifting property during their lifetimes instead of allowing the children to inherit the property after their deaths.
However, if the parents had used a revocable trust to own the home, then the residence would be passed on after death. In this scenario, the heir would not owe any income tax, provided the property was sold for what it was worth at the date of death. This works regardless of how much the property is worth at the time of the parents' passing.
Young or old—it doesn't matter—if you don't have an estate plan, have one created now. Start with the basics, and if you need to, do the additional planning as it applies to your situation. Speak with an experienced estate planning attorney. In addition, remember these tips:
- Review and update your beneficiary designations.
- Review and update your insurance policies. Check the amount of coverage and make sure it still meets your family's current needs.
- Consider purchasing long-term care insurance to help pay for the costs of long-term care in case you and/or your spouse ever need it due to illness or injury.
Plus, at a bare minimum, everyone over the age of 18 needs a Power of Attorney for Heath Care, a Living Will, and HIPPA authorizations. Also, a Revocable Living Trust may be better than a will at incapacity because it avoids the court's control over your assets. And while you are at it, review and update the guardian designation for any minor children.
All of these issues can be resolved with an experienced estate planning attorney. Be sure to discuss all relevant aspects of your life, including anticipated changes in health, finances and those of family members.
Reference: Fox 61 News (January 4, 2016) "Tips to avoid an income tax and estate planning time bomb"