Creating an Estate Plan Should Be a New Year’s Resolution – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

Many people think of estate planning as a way to save on taxes as their hard-earned assets are passed from one generation to the next. That is certainly a part of estate planning, but there are many other aspects of estate planning that focus on protecting the person and their family. They are detailed in the article “An estate planning checklist should be a top New Year’s resolution” from the Houston Business Journal.

Now is a good time to start the new year off right to put an estate plan in place. For those who have an estate plan, it is a good time to revisit living documents that need to be updated to reflect changes in a person’s life, family dynamics, changes in exemption limits and the recently passed SECURE Act.

Here are the top four items to make sure that your estate plan is ready for 2020.

Take a look at your financial situation. No matter how modest or massive your assets, just about everyone has an estate that is worth protecting. Most people have something they want to pass along to their children or grandchildren. An estate plan simply formalizes these wishes and minimizes the chances that the family will fight over how assets are distributed.

Many people meet with their team at least once a year to get a clear picture of their financial status. This allows the estate planning attorney to review any changes that may impact how the estate is structured, including tailoring gifting strategies to reduce the tax burden.

Put your wishes on paper, and your affairs in order. Without a will, there is no way for anyone to know what your wishes are and how you would want your assets passed to others. A will spells out who gets what and avoids having the estate administered by state laws. A living will is also needed to establish medical power of attorney and state wishes about life support and what medical care you may or may not want to receive. That can include everything from blood transfusions, palliative care, diagnostic tests or the use of a respirator. A financial POA is needed to give someone the legal authority to make decisions on your behalf, if you become incapacitated.

With these estate planning documents, you relieve family members of the burden of guessing what you might have wanted, especially during emergency situations when emotions are running high.

Asset estate and gift tax exemptions for 2020. The exemption for 2020 has increased to $1.58 million. This eliminates federal estate taxes on amounts under that limit that are gifted to family members during a person’s lifetime or left to them upon a person’s death. This is a significant increase from prior years. In 1997, the exemption was $600,000. It rose to $5.49 million in 2018, and as a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, was $11.4 million in 2019.

Understand the “claw back.” The exemption amount will increase every year until 2025. There was some uncertainty about what would happen if someone uses their $11.58 million exemption in 2020 and then dies in 2026, when the number could revert back to the $5 million range. Would the IRS say that the person used more of their exemption than they were entitled to? The agency recently issued final regulations that will protect individuals who take advantage of these exemption limits through 2025. Gifts will be sheltered by the increasing exemption limits when the gifts are actually made.

Continuing changes in the tax laws are examples of why an annual review of an estate plan is necessary. The one thing we can all be certain of is change, and keeping estate plans up to date makes sure that the family benefits from all available changes to the law.

Reference: Houston Business Journal (Jan. 1, 2020) “An estate planning checklist should be a top New Year’s resolution”

Sims & Campbell, LLC – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning Attorneys

Is There Estate Tax on the Property I Inherited? – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

The vast majority of those who inherit real estate don’t end up paying any taxes on the property. However, there are some instances where estate or inheritance taxes could be assessed on inherited real estate. Motley Fool’s recent article, “Do You Have to Pay Estate Tax on Real Estate You Inherit?” provides a rundown of how estate taxes work in the U.S. and what it means to you if you inherit or are gifted real estate assets.

An estate tax is a tax applied on property transfers at death. A gift tax is a tax levied on property transfers while both parties are alive. An inheritance tax is assessed on the individual who inherits the property. For real estate purposes, you should also know that this includes money and property, and real estate is valued based on the fair market value at the time of the decedent’s death.

Most Americans don’t have to worry about estate taxes because we’re allowed to exclude a certain amount of assets from our taxable estates, which is called the lifetime exemption. This amount is adjusted for inflation over time and is $11.58 million per person for 2020. Note that estate taxes aren’t paid by people who inherit the property but are paid directly by the estate before it is distributed to the heirs.

The estate and gift taxes in the U.S. are part of a unified system. The IRS allows an annual exclusion amount that exempts many gifts from any potential transfer tax taxation. In 2020, it’s $15,000 per donor, per recipient. Although money (or assets) exceeding this amount in a given year is reported as a taxable gift, doesn’t mean you’ll need to pay tax on them. However, taxable gifts do accumulate from year to year and count toward your lifetime exclusion. If you passed away in 2020, your lifetime exclusion will be $11.58 million for estate tax purposes.

If you’d given $3 million in taxable gifts during your lifetime, you’ll only be able to exclude $8.58 million of your assets from estate taxation. You’d only be required to pay any gift taxes while you’re alive, if you use up your entire lifetime exemption. If you have given away $11 million prior to 2020 and you give away another $1 million, it would trigger a taxable gift to the extent that your new gift exceeds the $11.58 million threshold.

There are a few special rules to understand, such as the fact that you can give any amount to your spouse in most cases, without any gift or estate tax. Any amount given to charity is also free of gift tax and doesn’t count toward your lifetime exemption. Higher education expenses are free of gift and estate tax consequences provided the payment is made directly to the school. Medical expense payments are free of gift and estate tax consequences, if the payment is made directly to the health care provider.

Remember that some states also have their own estate and/or inheritance taxes that you might need to consider.

States that have an estate tax include Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. The states with an inheritance tax are Iowa, Kentucky, Nebraska, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Maryland has both an estate and an inheritance tax. However, there are very few situations when you would personally have to pay tax on inherited real estate.

Estate tax can be a complex issue, so speak with a qualified estate planning attorney.

Reference: Motley Fool (December 11, 2019) “Do You Have to Pay Estate Tax on Real Estate You Inherit?”

Sims & Campbell, LLC – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning Attorneys

What Does an Estate Planning Attorney Really Do? – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

Vents Magazine’s recent article, “Understanding What an Estate Planning Attorney Does,” explains that estate planning is a legal set of instructions for your family about how to distribute your wealth and property after you die. Estate planning attorneys make sure the distribution of property happens according to the decedent’s will.

An estate planning attorney can provide legal advice on how to prepare your will after you pass away or in the event that you experience mental incapacity. She will have all the information and education on all the legal processes, beginning with your will and moving on to other important estate planning documents. She will also help you to understand estate taxes.

An estate planning attorney will also help to make certain that all of your savings and property are safe and distributed through the proper legal processes.

Estate planning attorneys can also assist with the power of attorney and health care directives. These documents allow you to designate an individual to decide issues on your behalf, in the event that you become mentally incapable of making decisions for yourself. They can also help you with a guardian who will look after your estate.

It’s important that you select the right estate planning attorney to execute the legal process, as you’ve instructed in your estate plan. You should only retain an attorney with experience in this field of law because other legal counsel won’t be able to help you with these issues—or at least, they may say they can, only to find out later that they’re not experienced in this area.

You also want to feel comfortable with your estate planning attorney because you must disclose all your life details, plans and estate issues, so she can create an estate plan that’s customized to your circumstances.

If you choose the right attorney, it will save you money in the long run. She will help you save from all the estate taxes and make all the processes smooth and easy for you and your loved ones.

Reference: Vents Magazine (December 12, 2019) “Understanding What an Estate Planning Attorney Does”

Sims & Campbell, LLC – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning Attorneys

How is My Retirement Income Taxed? – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

Based on the state in which you retire, state income taxes could vary by thousands of dollars. However, as a recent Kiplinger article, “State Taxes on Retirees Differ by Types of Retirement Income,” tells us, it’s not just a state’s tax rate that matters. The type of income you get in retirement frequently has a bigger impact on your state taxes than your tax rate, because each state has its own method of taxing specific types of retirement income.

Let’s look at the taxes on Social Security benefits. The federal government can tax up to 85% of Social Security benefits, but most states don’t tax Social Security benefits. There are seven states—Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington and Wyoming—that don’t tax Social Security benefits because they don’t have any income tax. New Hampshire and Tennessee only tax interest and dividends. Social Security benefits are exempt from tax in DC and 28 states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

That leaves 13 states where part of Social Security benefits may be taxable. New Mexico, Utah, and West Virginia currently tax Social Security benefits to the same extent they are taxed on federal returns, but West Virginia plans to phase out its tax on Social Security benefits in 2020. Taxation of Social Security benefits in the rest of the states—Colorado, Connecticut, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Rhode Island, and Vermont—is based on your income and, in many instances, on your filing status. Some of these states may also exempt Social Security for taxpayers under certain income thresholds.

As far as retirement plan payouts, state taxation of payouts from retirement plans, such as pensions, IRAs, and 401(k)s, can be more complicated. States without an income tax or that just tax interest and dividends don’t tax retirement plan payouts. However, with the other states, it’s all over the board. Mississippi and Pennsylvania are the most generous—they typically don’t tax any retirement income. However, California, D.C., Nebraska, and Vermont offer few or no tax breaks for retirement plan payouts. In some cases, the type of retirement plan involved makes a difference.

Reference: Kiplinger (October 28, 2019) “State Taxes on Retirees Differ by Types of Retirement Income”

Sims & Campbell, LLC – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning Attorneys

What’s the Best Way to Take My Required Minimum Distribution? – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

CNBC’s recent article, “These tips can help retirees make required minimum distributions easy and tax penalty free,” gives the steps to follow, so we don’t leave money on the table.

RMDs or required minimum distributions, are the minimum amount people age 70½ and older must withdraw from their retirement funds. If you’ve inherited a retirement account, you may also have to make a withdrawal. The amount you need to withdraw varies from year to year and is based on specific calculations, including what your account values were as of December 31 the prior year and your age.

The time to get started on your RMD for this year is right now, because the paperwork may take some time. You have until April 1, if you just turned 70½ this year. Let’s look at a few tips:

Get your paperwork organized. In order to know how much you have to withdraw, you have to have an accurate picture of what you own. Create a list of accounts and take an inventory first, so you know where all your retirement accounts are located.

Know what you can take from what account. If you have multiple IRAs, you can take your total RMD from any one of those accounts because of the aggregation rule. However, with multiple IRAs, you still must calculate the amount you take out based on the value of all of them. It’s that same with multiple 403(b) retirement accounts. The rule doesn’t apply to 401(k) plans. If you have multiple 401(k) accounts, you must take money from each one, and you can’t take an RMD from an IRA to satisfy a 401(k), or vice versa.

Understand the rules, if you’re still working. If you’re 70½ and still employed, you could get a break from taking your RMD in certain circumstances. Generally, 401(k) plans have a still-working rule, which stipulates that you don’t have to take the RMD until you retire. However, you can only delay the RMDs, if the plan is attached to the company where you’re currently employed. Other accounts from a previous employer are excluded, so you must still take distributions from those.

Keep an eye on any inherited accounts. If you’ve inherited a retirement account, you may have to take an RMD by the end of this year. That generally doesn’t apply if you inherited the money from your spouse, because spouses can do a rollover and keep postponing the distributions. However, if you’re a non-spouse beneficiary, you probably must take a distribution by the end of 2019. If you inherited the account in 2018, you’ll need to take your first RMD in 2019.

RMDs from a Roth IRA will likely be tax-free. However, if you’ve inherited one of these accounts and you didn’t take that money out, you’ll have to pay a 50% penalty on the funds you should’ve withdrawn.

Consider giving to charity. A good way to avoid paying taxes on your RMD, is to give the money to charity. A qualified charitable distribution lets you make donations to a charity directly from your IRA, instead of taking the RMD yourself. Therefore, if your RMD is $5,000, and you typically give $5,000 to charity each year, you can donate that money directly and not pay tax on it.

Reference: CNBC (November 29, 2019) “These tips can help retirees make required minimum distributions easy and tax penalty free”

Sims & Campbell, LLC – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning Attorneys

What 2020 Tax Changes May Bring for Wealthy Families – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

What happens in the political landscape in 2020 could have an impact on wealthy individuals, in a positive and a negative way. The biggest impact may be changes in estate and income taxes. With income taxes, the tax brackets are indexed, so they will go higher in 2020. There are also new IRS thresholds, so people will need to be aware of these changes.

The article “What Wealthy Clients Need to Know About 2020 Tax Changes” from Financial Advisor offers a look at what’s coming next year.

The tax rates were generally lowered, and thresholds increased. The top bracket for married couples in 2017 was 39.6% for couples whose taxable income was higher than $470,700. In 2020, that same bracket is 37%, with a new income threshold of $622,051.

There are more holiday gifts from the IRS. The estate exemption increases to $11.58 million in 2020, although the annual exclusion for gifts stays at $15,000. The maximums for retirement account contributions have also been increased.

The mandated penalty for not having health insurance is gone. Therefore, anyone who has the income to self-insure without having a policy that is ACA-qualified won’t have to pay a penalty. However, that varies by state: California enforces a tax penalty for people who do not have health insurance.

A major consideration for 2020 is the higher standard deduction. This may mean more strategic planning for which years people should itemize. Some experts are advising that taxpayers bunch their deductions, so they can itemize. One strategy is to do this every other year.

Many nonprofits are advising their donors to plan their charitable giving to take place every other year for the same reason.

With the stock market continuing to hit record highs, it may also make sense for people to transfer highly appreciated securities to donor advised funds.

Another potentially big series of changes that is still pending is the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act of 2019. The legislation is still pending, but it is likely that some form of the bill will become law, and there will be further changes regarding retirement accounts and taxes. The bill passed the House in the spring, but it still pending in the Senate.

Reference: Financial Advisor (December 2, 2019) “What Wealthy Clients Need to Know About 2020 Tax Changes”

Sims & Campbell, LLC – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning Attorneys

Can You Explain the Concept of Step-Up Basis? – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

If you inherit assets—especially real property—you need to understand the step-up in basis rules. These rules can save you a lot of money on capital gains and depreciation recapture taxes.

Motley Fool’s recent article on this subject asks “What is a Step-Up in Basis?” The article explains that step-up in basis has significant implications for inherited property. When an asset is inherited because the original owner has passed away, in many cases, it’s worth more than when it was first purchased. To avoid a huge capital gains tax bill when the inherited property is sold, the cost basis of the asset is modified to its value at the time of its owner’s death. This is called a step-up in basis. Note that this only applies to property transferred after death. If a property was gifted or transferred before the original owner dies, the original cost basis would transfer to the recipient.

This is a gigantic tax benefit for estate planning, regardless of whether you go ahead and sell the inherited asset immediately or hold on to it for a time. While a step-up in basis can let heirs avoid capital gains taxes, it doesn’t allow heirs to avoid estate taxes that apply to big inheritances.

The estate tax this year is imposed on property in excess of $11.4 million per individual and $22.8 million per married couple. Therefore, if you and your spouse leave a $25 million estate to your heirs, $2.2 million of this will still be taxable, even though your heirs’ cost basis in assets they inherited will be stepped up for capital gains tax purposes.

There are many strategies that a qualified estate planning attorney can advise you on to avoid estate taxes, but step-up in basis doesn’t exclude the value of inherited property from a taxable estate all by itself.

There are two significant ramifications of stepped-up cost basis regarding inherited real estate assets. First, like with other assets, you don’t have to pay capital gains on any appreciation that occurred before you inherited the property. Selling an investment property after years of holding it, can mean a massive capital gains tax bill. Therefore, a stepped-up cost basis can be a very valuable benefit. A step-up in basis can also give you a larger depreciation tax benefit. The cost basis of residential real estate can be depreciated (deducted) over 27½ years: a higher number divided by 27½ years is a greater annual depreciation deduction than a smaller number would produce.

Estate transfers are pretty complicated, so work with a qualified estate planning attorney.

Reference: Motley Fool (November 21, 2019) “What is a Step-Up in Basis?”

Sims & Campbell, LLC – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning Attorneys

What Happens to Estate Tax Benefits After 2025? – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

You may recall that the 2017 Republican tax reform legislation roughly doubled the estate and gift tax exemption.

This means starting in 2019, people are permitted to pass on, tax-free, $11.4 million from their estate and gifts they give before their death. Couples can pass on twice that amount, or $22.8 million.

These higher levels expire in 2026, but those who make large gifts while the exemption is higher and die after it goes back down, won’t see the estate tax benefit eroded, the IRS announced recently via new regulations.

“As a result, individuals planning to make large gifts between 2018 and 2025 can do so, without concern that they will lose the tax benefit of the higher exclusion level once it decreases after 2025,” the agency said in a press release.

Yahoo Finance’s recent article, “IRS Says Millionaires Can Keep Estate Tax Benefits After 2025,” says that the exemption increase was a big priority for Republicans in the 2017 tax overhaul.

This exemption decreased the number of individuals who’d be subject to the 40% estate tax by about two-thirds.

The exemption was $5.5 million prior to the law change.

However, Democrats are looking to reverse those changes, if they sweep the House, Senate and White House in the 2020 national elections.

Nearly every Democratic presidential candidate would like to see the estate tax apply to a greater number of wealthy families.

Senator Bernie Sanders has called for the estate tax, to begin when fortunes are worth at least $3.5 million. He has also proposed rates as high as 77%.

Reference: Yahoo Finance (November 22, 2019) “IRS Says Millionaires Can Keep Estate Tax Benefits After 2025”

Sims & Campbell, LLC – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning Attorneys

Will We Have to Pay Gift Taxes if We Give a Rental Property to Our Son? – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

Older couples frequently invest in real estate. Many manage rental properties as an income stream.

Let’s say that a couple jointly bought a rental property worth $120,000 this year with their adult son. The son started his own limited liability company (LLC) and is a single owner. The parents plan to transfer the property to him, so he can use the rental income from the business for college expenses.

A common question is whether there will be any tax implication for the parents, if they move the property to their son’s LLC. The Washington Post’s recent article, “How to avoid gift taxes when shifting ownership of rental property to offspring,” answers that question by first assuming that the parents and the son purchased the rental property together in their own names. The son recently set up the LLC to use as the holding company for this rental property and other real estate properties he may own.

As far as gift tax implications, the couple have the ability to give their son $30,000 this year without having to file any federal gift tax forms or having any effect on their federal income taxes. Each person has the ability to gift another individual up to $15,000 a year without any IRS issues or the filing of forms. If each parent gave their son $30,000 this year and $30,000 next year, then that would effectively transfer their share of the property to him.

We’ll also assume that when they purchased the property, the parents paid closing costs and may have had other expenses while they’ve owned the property. Those expenses would play a part when calculating the tax basis of the property.

Assuming that the parents and their son each paid $60,000 for the property, when the son transfers the property from all the owners’ names into the LLC, the parents may have a taxable event for IRS purposes. That’s because the parents are effectively giving away ownership of their share of the property to their son. He’ll now own the property on his own. If the son signs a promissory note to the parents for $60,000 at the time of the transfer to the LLC, he’ll have an obligation to repay them the money for their share over the next six months. They could forgive $30,000 of the debt immediately and then they could forgive the other $30,000 in the new year. Their son would probably owe a little interest, but he could probably pay that from the income he receives from the rent.

This is just one solution to the transfer. There are many others, and some are much more complicated. Speak with an experienced estate planning attorney to review these issues and explore some other ideas that could work to everyone’s benefit.

Reference: The Washington Post (November 11, 2019) “How to avoid gift taxes when shifting ownership of rental property to offspring”

Sims & Campbell, LLC – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning Attorneys

Will My Heirs Need to Be Ready to Pay Estate Taxes? – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

Estate taxes all depend on how on much a person is planning to give to heirs.

Motley Fool’s recent article asks “If I Leave My Retirement Savings to My Heirs, Will They Pay Estate Tax?” The article tells us that retirement accounts like 401(k)s, 403(b)s, traditional and Roth IRAs and others are a part of your taxable estate.

However, unless the total assets of your estate plus any taxable gifts you’ve already given are more than the lifetime exclusion amount, your estate won’t owe estate taxes.

For 2019, this is $11,400,000, and in 2020, the exclusion will be raised to $11,580,000. If you total all of your assets’ value, only the amount in excess of the exclusion will be taxable. Therefore, if you have a $12,000,000 estate and die in 2020, only $420,000 of your assets would be subject to estate taxes.

Let’s look at another example: if your assets, including your retirement savings, total up to $5 million, your heirs won’t be required to pay any estate tax whatsoever.

However, while they may not have to pay estate taxes, remember that withdrawals from most retirement accounts (except Roth IRA accounts) will be deemed to be taxable income. Thus, estate tax or no estate tax, if your heirs are in a pretty high tax bracket, inheriting your retirement savings may increase their tax liability.

Don’t neglect to check with an estate planning attorney about your state’s estate and inheritance taxes. There are a handful of states that have their own estate taxes, and their thresholds may be lower than the IRS’s.

There are now six states with an inheritance tax: Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Nebraska, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Each state sets its own inheritance tax exemption, and inheritance tax rates. However, these rates are subject to change at any time with changes to the laws in those states.

Reference: Motley Fool (November 8, 2019) “If I Leave My Retirement Savings to My Heirs, Will They Pay Estate Tax?”

Sims & Campbell, LLC – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning Attorneys

For Immediate Release

Contact: Jane Frankel Sims

410-828-7775

Contact: Frank Campbell

410-263-1667

Sims & Campbell Estates and Trusts

Frankel Sims Law and Holden & Campbell
Merge to Form Sims & Campbell

Firm will offer comprehensive Trusts & Estates services through offices in Towson and Annapolis

TOWSON, Md. (April 26,2019)  Frankel Sims Law and Holden & Campbell have jointly announced the merger of their firms to create a boutique Trusts & Estates law firm providing comprehensive services in the fields of Estate Planning, Estate Administration, Trust Administration and Charitable Giving. The combined firm will be named Sims & Campbell and have offices in Towson, Md. and Annapolis, Md.  Jane Frankel Sims and Frank Campbell will lead and hold equal ownership stakes in the firm.

Sims & Campbell will have 9 attorneys and 15 legal professionals that handle every facet of estate and wealth transfer planning, including wills, revocable living trusts, irrevocable trusts, estate and gift tax advice, and charitable giving strategies.  The firm will focus solely on Trusts & Estates but will serve a wide range of clients, from young families with modest resources to ultra-high net worth individuals.  This allows clients to remain with the firm as their level of wealth and the complexity of related estate and tax implications change over time. 

“By joining forces, we have expanded our footprint to conveniently serve clients in Maryland, D.C. and Virginia” said Jane Frankel Sims.  We are seeing some of the greatest wealth transfer in our country’s history, and we want to continue to be on the leading edge of helping our clients maintain and enhance their family’s wealth.  In addition, we aim to serve our clients for years to come, and the new firm structure will allow Sims & Campbell to thrive even after Frank and I have retired.”    

“Jane and I have always admired each other’s firms and recognized the need to provide even greater depth and breadth of focused expertise to help families amass and protect their wealth from generation to generation,” said Frank Campbell.  “Now we have even greater capabilities to make a real difference for our clients.” 

The Sims & Campbell Towson office is located at 500 York Road, on the corner of York Road and Pennsylvania Avenue in the heart of Towson.  The Annapolis office is currently located at 716 Melvin Avenue, and is moving to 181 Truman Parkway in August, 2019.  For more information, visit www.simscampbell.law.