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Property You Should Not Include in Your Will

There are many types of property that should not be included in your will, property that you may not realize is, or should automatically be earmarked for distribution upon your death. Jointly held property: A house or a bank account that is in joint names with another person will pass to the survivor automatically upon your death. Such joint property has what is called a right of survivorship, that is, it passes to the survivor. Nothing you say in your will can change that. Property held in a living trust: A living trust is specifically set up to facilitate the transfer of property upon the grantor’s death and to avoid probate. Therefore, the beneficiaries of a living trust automatically receive the property held by the trust upon the grantor’s death. You can always change the terms of a revocable trust during your lifetime by amending the trust documents, but you

Estate Planning for the Blended Family

Preparing a will and estate plan for a blended family can be complicated, and strain family relations. These days, many families include children, stepchildren, former spouses and in-laws. The number of remarriages has been steadily rising over the past few decades. By some accounts, in 2013, 40 percent of marriages included at least one spouse who had previously been married, and in 20 percent of remarriages, both spouses had previously been married. Such situations require estate planning with clearly understood goals. The biggest issue in blended families is typically, “where will my money go when I die?” In many cases, remarried couples want to ensure that the surviving spouse will be appropriately cared for upon the death of their partner—with the children from their previous marriages becoming the ultimate beneficiaries of the assets their parents brought to the marriage.  The challenge comes from designing a plan that will keep all

NYS Estate Tax Changes: The Good News, and the Bad News

As of April 1st New York state doubled its estate tax exemption – the amount you can leave your heirs without paying state estate tax – and it is set to rise gradually through 2019 to eventually match the federal exemption, projected by then to be $5.9 million.  That will make estate tax planning much easier for many people, but there are still big traps in the new law to watch out for. One such trap in New York is a new “cliff,” so called because if it is triggered you fall into NY’s estate tax abyss. Until April 1, 2014 the amount an individual could leave to their heirs (other than a spouse) without owing NYS estate tax was $1 million.  Your estate would then pay NYS estate tax (to a 16% top rate) on the value of your assets which exceed $1 million.  As of April 1, 2014 the

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