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Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Beneficiary Form Check-Up

Beneficiary designation forms are a crucial piece of your estate planning. Designating  beneficiaries on accounts allows you to plan for distribution of your assets to specific individuals, or to your Trust, by allowing you to choose the people or entities you want to receive the asset when you die.  Retirement plans like 401(K) plans, IRAs, etc. pass by beneficiary designation, as do life insurance policies.  But even regular bank accounts and investment accounts often come with the option to designate a beneficiary.  These accounts may pass by “pay-on-death” (“POD”) or “transfer-on-death” (TOD) designations.

Read more . . .

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

What Happens to Your Social Security Number When You Die?

Even if you have an up-to-date estate plan, there are some logistical quirks to be aware of whenever someone passes away.  Clients frequently ask if they need to notify the Social Security Administration of the loved one’s passing.  The short answer is “no.” 

When a person dies, their death is verified by the Medical Examiner (in other states it may be a coroner or similar authority).  That verification is documented by the formal death certificate, which is processed by the state’s Department of Vital Statistics.

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Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Business Succession Planning is a Process, Not an Event

Starting and building a successful business can be a very rewarding vocation.  The satisfaction that comes from overcoming obstacles that establish the right business culture, with the right people, and a quality brand name cannot be fully appreciated unless you have done it. But even successful entrepreneurs often fail to consider their exit plan even as they build and grow their enterprise.

The fact is, if you own a business, some day you will no longer be part of your business.  You will exit your business in one of four ways:

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Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Considerations Regarding Disinheritance

On July 20, 2018, the Alaska Supreme Court issued an opinion in the Estate of James V. Seward that held that an unknown child, who was not identified as an heir in the decedent’s Last Will and Testament, can still make a claim of paternity in a probate case for the purpose of sharing in the Statutory Exempt Property Allowance of $10,000. The holding affects the estates of all Alaska residents with children – regardless of whether those residents are aware that they have children or not.  The basic facts are as follows:

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Tuesday, January 15, 2019

The Real Problem of Incapacity

Having the proper legal documents can avoid the time and expense of guardianship proceedings.  (See article “What is a Living Probate” in this issue).  But the reality of aging creates challenges that legal documents alone cannot easily solve.

Here is the problem.

Alaska law and your estate planning documents typically have a definition of “incapacity.”  The definition might say something like, “I will be deemed incapacitated when two independent licensed physicians determine that I can no longer manage my own financial affairs.” That seems simple enough.  But in most cases “incapacity” does not happen overnight.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2018

What is a "Living Probate?"

Most people believe that an estate plan consists of one legal document, the will, which is more completely known as a Last Will and Testament.  However, your Will doesn’t become effective until you pass away.  In fact, a will doesn’t have any legal effect whatsoever while you are alive.  This causes some estate planning lawyers to tell clients, “The problem isn’t what if you die, the problem is what happens if you don’t.”

Statistics tell us that most people will suffer some period of incapacity before they die.

Read more . . .

Friday, July 21, 2017

Tell the World When you are Doing Business as a Limited Liabilty Company

If you are doing business as a limited liability company (LLC) and have not clearly let people know that you are operating as an LLC, you could lose the liability protection that LLCs were intended to provide.

The Alaska Supreme Court recently ruled in the case of Daggett v. Feeney, Supreme Court Opinion 7179 (June 16, 2017), that a couple who operated a contracting business was personally liable for the debts of the company because they failed to disclose to the customer that the contractor was doing business as a limited liability company.  Here were the facts.

Read more . . .

Friday, January 6, 2017

Gifting: Wise Strategies for Wealth Transfer

As we turn the page on another year, it is a good time to review your estate plan and consider making financial gifts children and grandchildren. Making annual gifts has always been an effective way to reduce or avoid estate taxes when you pass away. Even if estate taxes are not an issue for you, making gifts to loved ones can have a huge impact on the lives of your descendants who are attending college or graduate school, trying to save for a down payment on a house, starting a business or building their own retirement savings plans.

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Thursday, October 6, 2016

What are the Duties of a Fiduciary?

Successor Trustees and Personal Representatives are sometimes called “fiduciaries” because the law imposes a high duty of loyalty toward beneficiaries, creditors, the IRS, or other interested parties to the trust or estate.  Simply put, a fiduciary is required to put the interest of others ahead of the interest of themselves as a fiduciary.  This can be a difficult task because often a fiduciary is also a beneficiary or creditor of the estate or trust and has inherent biases toward or against beneficiaries or creditors.

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Monday, August 22, 2016

Who is in Charge?

We all like to be in charge because it gives us a sense of control. This is particularly true when it comes to managing our finances and a personal health. None of us really think about giving up control or worse losing control.

Read more . . .

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

IRA Rules - Key Points About IRA Inheritance & Distribution

A few years ago, the US News and World Report estimated that Americans held over $8.5 trillion in their IRAs and 401K plans.  Most plan participants expect to use the money for their retirement needs, but a substantial portion of this money will actually pass to the named beneficiaries of account holders. 

Read more . . .

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