After you die, your loved ones must make several important decisions, most of which have specific time frames and limitations. It is important that upon death, the named Executor under your will, or if there is no will, the person in charge, consults an attorney and an accountant to proceed with the proper settlement of the estate.
WDC & Associates, LLP has professionals with experience in post death planning and the following related processes that may need to occur:
Funding of Trusts
When one spouse of a married couple dies, there are many tax benefits to be derived from the funding of the “A-B” (Survivor’s and Exemption) and sometimes “C” (Marital) Trusts under the Living Trust. This work is of critical importance to your beneficiaries and loved ones to save countless Estate Tax and Income Tax dollars down the road. The funding of these trusts may also help further protect the surviving spouse from lawsuits or government claims and help assure that the beneficiaries of the first spouse to die will properly receive their intended inheritance when the surviving spouse dies.
Federal Estate Tax Return
If you are married with an estate valued over $10 million or single with an estate over $5 million, a Federal Estate Tax Return may be required to be filed and taxes (if any) paid within nine months of the date of death. In those cases, a State Estate Tax Return may also be required if you own assets outside of California. When we prepare these returns, we don’t just plug in your information and compute the taxes due, we employ legal strategies to help reduce your family’s tax obligation. We have efficiently and effectively prepared these returns for over one thousand of our clients over the years.
Trust Termination — Distributions to Beneficiaries — Changing Titles
Quite often, it is a simple and inexpensive matter to properly terminate a Trust and make proper distribution of the Trust assets. Your Trustee will want to come in for a free initial consultation to determine, what, if anything, he or she will need our help with. Most importantly, real estate transfers should not be made to your beneficiaries without the assistance of a Law Firm, otherwise your Proposition 13 (low property tax base) status may be jeopardized. Your plan may also call for your beneficiaries to receive their inheritance through a “Personal Asset Trust℠”, which will need to be established properly in order to maximize its intended asset protection benefits.
If you do not have a Living Trust, you may avoid lengthy Probate proceedings at the death of the first spouse through the use of a simplified Spousal Property Petition. Additionally, if no Property Agreement was entered into by a married couple, the community property character of assets may be confirmed by the Court, thereby permitting the surviving spouse certain substantial capital gain (income tax) benefits as well.
We are experienced at assisting with Probate procedures when someone fails to do proper Living Trust planning or doesn’t keep it up to date. (Probate should not normally be necessary if you have a Living Trust fully funded with your assets.) We often can complete Probate within a year or less from the date of death.
Trust Modification or Reformation
Sometimes, changes may be necessary, appropriate or desirable to an irrevocable trust (including a Living Trust after the maker or first spouse dies). We may utilize a special agreement between the trustee and beneficiaries or court procedure to accomplish these important objectives.
Trust & Estate Litigation or Contests
In the event the Trustee, Executor or beneficiaries of an estate or Trust must commence or defend against a legal action to properly interpret or enforce provisions of a Will or Trust, we may provide assistance in handling these court matters or refer you to another outside specialist.
Estate Planning for Beneficiaries
Once an inheritance is received, your beneficiaries will want to protect their assets from lifetime threats (divorce, lawsuits, creditors) as well as from testamentary problems (probate, estate taxes). We are here to assist your “next generation” of loved ones with their estate planning needs, as well.