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Don’t Forget the Tax Man

If you are in a fiduciary relationship as an executor of an estate or a trustee of a trust, then you have to think about the wishes and needs of others. A fiduciary must make decisions that are in keeping with the law, the wishes of the deceased and the needs of the beneficiary. But you have to be careful not to forget other obligations, including taxes.

Many estates don’t pass the threshold for the federal estate tax, so you might think taxes aren’t a common concern for those in such positions. Just because you don’t have to worry about paying estate taxes doesn’t mean you don’t have to file any paperwork, though, and almost any estate will have to concern itself with at least one more income tax return.

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Seek Assistance Contesting Questionable Wills

Last week, we talked about what you might do if a loved one dies without a will and how various factors could impact your actions. What if your loved one did leave a will, but you don’t think that will is valid? In such cases, you might have to legally contest the will in probate.

While there are many reasons someone might contest a will, some legal arguments for will invalidation are going to stand above others. Perhaps one of the easiest ways to argue that a will is not valid is to produce a valid will that was signed after the will that was originally presented. This means that the will you produce was created by the deceased person when they were of sound mind and that they signed it in the presence of witnesses in keeping with state laws.

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What do You do if Your Loved One Died Without a Will?

If you believe you are a legal heir to someone’s estate, but that person has died without estate planning documents such as a will, you might not know what steps to take to claim your inheritance. The requirements for receiving assets or money that are left to you in such an estate depend on the laws of the state, whether there are other potential heirs and whether any assets are linked to beneficiary designations.

When someone dies without leaving a will or other estate documents, then the person is considered to have died intestate. Basically, that’s just a term for “without a will,” and intestacy estates are probated under the general laws of the state in question. Intestacy laws usually ensure that primary heirs, such as surviving spouses or children of the deceased, receive an inheritance under the estate. Depending on the situation, other family members such as step-children, grandchildren and siblings might also inherit something from an intestate process — especially if no other closer heirs are found.

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What is a Fiduciary Relationship?

A fiduciary relationship exists when one person in a relationship has a legal obligation associated with the management of another person’s assets or money. An accountant, for example, has a fiduciary responsibility to his or her clients. The law expects that an accountant will not purposely make poor decisions regarding a client’s assets and will work with due diligence and professional skill to protect or grow those assets as desired by the client.

If you are involved in a person’s estate, then you might be involved in a fiduciary relationship. If you have been asked to be the executor of a person’s will, then you have a fiduciary responsibility to the estate. While genuinely innocent mistakes do happen, the law expects you to make an honest attempt to use the resources at your disposal to handle the estate. That means following the estate plan and will to distribute assets as the decedent desired.

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Are Your Estate Plans Good for Your Family?

May 15 is listed as International Day of Families, so we think there’s no better time than this month to talk about how your estate plans — or lack thereof — can impact your loved ones. This May is a great time to ask yourself if your estate plans are good for your family, and will they help hold your heirs and beneficiaries together if a tragedy should occur?

In answering that question, it’s a good idea to confront some common estate planning myths. For example, estate planning is not just an activity the wealthy should consider. Estate planning, including creating a will, is important for anyone. A will can help your loved ones find closure in knowing that your final wishes were addressed, but it also provides you peace of mind. You can address how assets will be distributed, but you can also address wishes for your legacy or your children.

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Understanding Irrevocable and Revocable Trusts

Revocable and irrevocable trusts are two type of legal estate vehicles that are often used to protect, manage and pass on assets. The reasons you might use a trust include protecting assets against creditors or ensuring your wishes are maintained with regard to use of assets even when you are no longer able to make such wishes known.

A revocable trust is one that you can create and then revoke or change during your life. Sometimes these are referred to as living trusts because you can manage them while you are still living. Usually, the person who creates the trust acts as the first trustee for the trust – that means you would maintain access to and control over the assets transferred into the trust in keeping with the rules of the trust that you set up.

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