5 Estate Planning Traps Recession Created and How to Solve Them

5 Estate Planning Traps Recession Created and How to Solve Them

By: Martin M. Shenkman, CPA, MBA, JD

  • Revise your will. Asset values have changed dramatically. If you had left the family business to your daughter and your house and portfolio to your son, they may now be worth widely different amounts then when you set up your will.
  • Update your power of attorney. A power gives a person you name, your agent, legal tax and other powers. You probably need to revisit the power to make gifts. You may have previously encouraged gifts, but now you may not feel you can afford them. Change the language. On the other hand, you may have had no gift provision before but now have children, nieces and other family members or loved ones you're helping because of the economy. Be sure if you're disabled your agent can handle it.
  • Life insurance. You may have had insurance to pay estate tax. Now, the combination of economic decline and the increase in the federal estate exclusion (how much you can bequeath tax free) to $3.5 million may obviate the need for insurance. Perhaps you can sell the policy and generate some needed cash, not to mention savings on future premiums. Many people find themselves in the opposite position. They no longer have enough life insurance because their savings have been so depleted. Consider for example a 10 year term policy to help your family if you die before your savings recover.
  • Review business buyout arrangements. Many closely held businesses use buyout formulas or amounts. Have you revised yours to reflect new economic realties? If you haven't do it soon. For example, if you valued your business at $1M before the recession and it is now worth $400,000, what if one of your partners quits and triggers a buyout. You might owe them based on the old $1M value!
  • Revisit Incentive Trusts. Lots of people set up trusts for kids and others that were intended to match in distributions what the kid earned to incentivize the kid to work. The goal was to avoid the trust fund Hollywood babies that are so often depicted on those entertainment magazines at the supermarket checkouts. But if your kid or other heir lost their job because of the economy, not because they are being lazy, a poorly drafted incentive trust could cut them out when the both need and deserve the help the most. Review the trusts that have these provisions and ask your lawyer what you can do to make them operate fairly.

Our Consumer Webcasts and Blogs

Subscribe to our email list to receive information on consumer webcasts and blogs, for practical legal information in simple English, delivered to your inbox. For more professional driven information, please visit Shenkman Law to subscribe.

Ad Space