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Elder Law Estate Planning Legal Topics

One of the Most Important Decisions We Ever Make: Choosing an Executor

One of the most important estate planning decisions you can make, or help your clients make, is choosing an executor for your will. As succinctly put in an ABA article (.pdf): “The most important thing is that you pick someone who is financially responsible, stable, and trustworthy.”

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Estate Planning Legal Topics Profiles

Profile in Practice: Peter S. Myers

As part of CEB’s commitment to bringing together California’s legal community, our blog will post a short interview with one of your fellow attorneys.

This week, we profile attorney and CEB author Peter S. Myers:

CEB: What is your practice area and how did you choose it?

Peter: I specialize in estate planning, trust and probate law.  It is a fairly broad area, with many subspecialties.  I tend to like cases that are difficult and challenging, which can involve a number of different situations in the context of this practice area, including: moving control and ownership of a closely-held business (or a large estate) from one generation to the next; trust and estate disputes (a very interesting area of law, with interpersonal dynamics that nearly always read like a good novel); and elder law, in which clients often have limited means and you have to be very efficient in reaching solutions or the economics of lawyering will just destroy the family’s wealth.

I got into this area in the late 1990’s.  Having practiced in a number of areas foundationally (including civil litigation and securities law), estate planning, trust and probate law is an area where you can apply much of what you learned in the prior decades of your career.

Categories
Estate Planning Legal Topics Profiles

Profile in Practice: Catherine (Kitty) Raye-Wong

As part of CEB’s commitment to bringing together California’s legal community, our blog will post a short interview with one of your fellow attorneys.

This week, we profile attorney Catherine (Kitty) Raye-Wong:

CEB: What is your practice area and how did you choose it?

Kitty: As a certified specialist by the California Board of Legal Specialization of the State Bar of California in estate planning, trust and probate law, I focus in the areas of estate planning, trusts and their administration, probate, conservatorships and guardianships.  I also serve San Mateo County as court appointed independent counsel for various matters. I chose my area of law very early on while working during the day as a legal secretary, then probate/trust paralegal, attending college at night continually from the age of 17.  As one of the primary caregivers for my aging grandmother, I learned early on the value of having a properly completed estate plan; she encouraged me to follow my path, even though she passed away my last night of law school.

CEB: What do you like best and least about practicing law?

Kitty: I enjoy the interaction with clients and the intellectual stimulation of the crossover issues between people, property, and tax issues.  It seems everything touches our area of law.  The least likable aspect of practicing law is sometimes my schedule gets a bit inflexible with deadlines and a very, very busy practice.

Categories
Estate Planning Legal Topics Tax Law

Once and Future Estate Tax Still Not Restored

Five months into the new year there has been no Congressional action to restore the estate tax. Under current law, there is no estate tax or generation-skipping transfer (GST) tax for decedents dying in 2010, but the taxes come roaring back in 2011 with a maximum rate of 55 percent and an estate tax applicable exclusion amount of $1 million. The income tax basis of the decedent’s property is not stepped up to date-of-death value for decedents dying in 2010. Instead, the executor may allocate $1.3 million in basis increase to the property (plus $3 million for property passing to a surviving spouse). The gift tax continues to apply at a reduced rate of 35 percent to lifetime taxable gifts in excess of $1 million, but there is no GST tax on taxable gifts in 2010. As noted in The Estate Tax Repeal Mess: Are We Having Fun Yet? in the February issue of the Estate Planning & California Probate Reporter,

There is, of course, a possibility that Congress will act to change the laws applicable in 2010, and most (but not all) experts believe it is constitutional for Congress to do this retroactively to the beginning of the year. But there is little indication that Congress is in any hurry to do so.

Confronted by such a mess and the difficulty of explaining it to clients, it becomes tempting to simply ignore the situation until the law becomes more certain. Nevertheless, a review of client plans will reveal that there are situations in which relatively modest plan amendments can at least avoid making a bad situation worse.

Categories
Estate Planning Legal Topics Tax Law

Health Care Reform Includes Surprise Tax Increase for High Earners

On March 23, 2010, President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Pub L 111–148, 124 Stat 119). As expected, the health care reform legislation, as amended by the Health Care and Education Affordability Reconciliation Act of 2010 (Pub L 111–152, 124 Stat 1029), includes an additional Medicare tax beginning in 2013 on individuals making over $200,000 per year ($250,000 for joint filers), bringing the Medicare tax rate to 3.8 percent for those individuals. In a surprising development, for the first time in the history of the Medicare program, the new 3.8 percent Medicare tax will apply to the net investment income of those individuals.