The Importance of Having a Well-Formulated Estate Plan

DuPage County estate planning lawyer, well-formulated estate plan, estate tax, federal estate tax, death tax, business estate planA well-formulated estate plan gives estate owners peace of mind knowing their assets and funds are going to the right place. One reason why it is important to develop an estate plan is to potentially reduce or eliminate federal estate taxes, also known as the “death tax.” Calculated at 40 percent, these taxes not only diminish funds from loved ones but they can also severely impact a private company.

According to an article in Forbes, an estate is only subject to federal estate tax if it is valued at more than $5.34 million. Moreover, there is a marital exemption. If you are married, you and your partner will not have to pay federal estate taxes unless your combined estate is valued at more than $10.6 million. Although these limits mean most Americans will not need to pay estate tax, those who do could see a substantial loss in wealth. If a business is owned, there are a number of other criteria, including death or retirement of the key asset holder, that can affect a business’s equity before estate tax comes into effect. Understanding these factors can put a person in a position to keep these taxes low.

In addition, Forbes contributor Steve Parrish notes that business owners may also face the challenge of not having “sufficient liquidity to carry the estate through to distribution to the beneficiaries.” Creditors may need paid off or lost revenue may need supplemented. However, this can be avoided by having an estate plan that is sufficient in funds. A well-formulated estate plan considers all factors “that can challenge the successful transfer of wealth, including the estate tax,” states Parrish.

If you need help developing a well-formulated estate plan in Illinois, please contact Stock, Carlson, Flynn & McGrath, LLC. Our DuPage County estate planning lawyers offer solutions to protect your rights and assets and can assist clients in Downers Grove, Hinsdale, Lombard, Naperville, and throughout DuPage County. To schedule a consultation, please contact our office at 630-665-2500.

Potential Tax Hit of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Estate

Philip Seymour Hoffman's will, will, estate plan, update your estate plan, Illinois estate planning lawyer, DuPage County attorneyThe recent death of 46 year-old Philip Seymour Hoffman was a loss felt by the entertainment industry and the talented actor’s large fan base. What might make Hoffman’s death even more tragic is the family he leaves behind, including his three young children and their mother, Mimi O’Donnell.

The actor, who died from a drug overdose, left behind an estate estimated at $35 million. A recent article in Daily Finance reveals that there are several issues with the estate that could prove costly for his heirs – and that could have been easily avoided.

When Hoffman died, he did leave a will. However, that Philip Seymour Hoffman’s will was drawn up in 2004. At the time it was written, he and his partner had one child together, a son. The will left part of the estate to his son, in the form of a trust, and the rest to O’Donnell. In the decade that passed, Hoffman never updated his will. The couple had two more children together but nothing in the will has been changed to reflect that. Neither one of the girls are mentioned in the will.

It’s important to update your estate plan whenever a major life event occurs, such as a birth of a child, a wedding, divorce or a death. Otherwise the legal battles that can ensue between heirs can be very costly, both financially and emotionally.

Another issue could cause the estate to take a heavy hit in taxes. Although Hoffman and O’Donnell had been in a relationship for a long time, they never married. Therefore, the funds left to O’Donnell won’t qualify for the unlimited marital deduction. This deduction allows one spouse to leave the other spouse an unlimited amount of financial assets without the surviving spouse having to pay estate tax on those assets. Because Hoffman and O’Donnell never married, O’Donnell will have to pay an estate tax of 40 percent of what she inherits. Had the two married, approximately $12 million would be going to O’Donnell instead of the IRS.

These oversights in estate planning that Hoffman made are also ones can affect much smaller estates. It’s important to make sure your estate planning is up-to-date and drawn up in the best interest of your heirs, whether your estate is worth $35 million or $3500. Contact a qualified Wheaton estate planning attorney to discuss how you can secure your family’s future.

Estate Planning Guidelines When you Have a Non-Citizen Spouse

resident alien, Illinois estate planning lawyer, estate planning, estate tax, Standard estate planning tax advice might not work for situations in which one or both spouses are resident aliens. The term resident alien is used by the U.S. government to describe non-citizens who are permanent U.S. residents, and it could be beneficial for those in this circumstance to get some guidance from an estate planning attorney.

Under federal tax law, resident aliens and American citizens are governed by the same estate tax rules. In cases where the taxable estate assets are above $5.34 million, the IRS will want 40% of those excess funds. With careful planning, the implications of the federal estate tax can be avoided or minimized.

U.S. citizens are eligible to take advantage of the unlimited marital deduction, which allows for as many tax-free transfers to your spouse during your lifetime as you would like. Unfortunately, non-citizen spouses can’t take advantage of this program. This can be a big hit when it comes to the estate tax, since the IRS will always want to go after 40% of the excess.

There are several solutions to this issue if you are already married to a non-citizen. First, your spouse can become a citizen. This can even occur after you have passed away provided that it is done before the due date for your federal estate tax return, allowing your spouse to reap the rewards of the unlimited marital deduction.

Second, you can reduce your taxable estate by making big gifts to your spouse while you are alive- married couples can transfer $145,000 to one another in 2014. Finally, you could set up a qualified domestic trust, deferring the federal estate tax on any assets inside until your spouse removes them or passes away.

As you can see, estate tax planning with a non-citizen spouse can be complicated, but there are opportunities for you to reduce the federal estate tax. Consult with an Illinois estate planning attorney today for more details.