Many people mistakenly believe estate planning is only for the wealthy, those with elaborate schemes for passing money to their heirs, or for people who are acutely ill and contemplating their death. In truth, there is no estate too large or too small that would not benefit from a comprehensive estate plan. Estate planning is beneficial to everyone regardless of income, net worth or health.
How Estate Planning Works
Estate planning is not a single document or a thick file outlining your personal wishes for your care or investments. Proper estate planning involves a compassionate and highly trained individual who will take time to get to know you through an organized planning process. Together you will create a strategy that will be carefully crafted to the highest legal standards. With years of financial and legal experience, your estate planning attorney will translate your wishes and goals for the future into sophisticated legal documents. TrustCounsel attorneys don’t just draft documents for you, they are highly trained professionals who get to know you as an individual and dedicate themselves to developing a plan for you that will protect your family, preserve your assets and save taxes.
Attorneys to Draft Wills, Trusts, Succession Plans
TrustCounsel’s estate planning attorneys work closely with clients so that they understand the differences between wills and trusts, become aware of their financial risks, and coordinate asset protection for themselves and their heirs. Estate planning is for everyone interested in making a positive difference in the lives of others after they’re gone, whether it’s a spouse, children or other relatives, a life partner or business partners. Digital estate planning, protecting electronic access and online assets, is becoming popular and there are few laws governing this new area. TrustCounsel now includes provisions for dealing with digital assets in DPOA's and Living Trusts. Estate plans and succession plans created with a TrustCounsel attorney will be designed specifically for your needs. TrustCounsel offers:
- North Carolina Estate Planning
- Tennessee Estate Planning
- Florida Estate Planning
- New York Estate Planning
Our lawyers review various trusts used in estate plans:
Life insurance is a special asset in that it serves diverse functions in a tax-favored environment. Life insurance proceeds are received income tax-free and, if properly owned by an Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust (ILIT), life insurance proceeds can also be received free of estate tax.
An Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust is one of the most popular wealth planning devices. It is a trust designed to own life insurance policies. You gift funds to the trust periodically and the trustee uses the funds to pay premiums on the life insurance policy. Additional benefits of ILITs:
- Make current gifts to family
- Accumulate assets outside the client's taxable estate
- Protect assets from creditor claims
- Avoid income tax on the accumulation of funds
- Avoid estate tax upon the distribution of funds to the family
- Create a source of liquidity to cover estate taxes or expenses
Replace assets that may have been given to charity
Grantor Retained Annuity Trust
A Grantor Retained Annuity Trust ('GRAT') is a type of trust specifically authorized by regulations interpreting the Internal Revenue Code. This type of irrevocable trust permits you to make a lifetime gift of assets to an irrevocable trust in exchange for a fixed payment stream for a specified term of years.
At the end of the term of years, the balance of the trust property (the 'remainder interest') is transferred to the beneficiaries of your choice, typically children or grandchildren. The Grantor Retained Annuity Trust reduces estate taxes by removing assets from those that are counted in your estate for estate tax purposes.
The gift for federal gift tax purposes is based upon IRS published interest rates at the time of the transfer. This rate does not take into consideration any future appreciation in the value of the property and therefore you can reduce the value of the gift to as low as zero. The Grantor Retained Annuity Trust is particularly suited for assets that are expected to grow rapidly in value and property subject to discounts, such as interests in closely held businesses or limited liability companies.
During the term of years of the trust you must be paid a fixed amount annually or more frequently (for example, quarterly). The term of years and the amount of the payment are fixed at the time you create the trust (determined by you with the assistance of your legal and financial advisors).
During the term of years of the trust you can be the sole trustee or a co-trustee of the trust with complete control over all decisions of the trust and the assets in the trust.
Because the Grantor Retained Annuity Trust is a 'grantor trust' under the income tax laws, during the initial term of years you are treated as the owner of the property for income tax purposes. Therefore, all items of income, gain, loss and deduction with respect to the Grantor Retained Annuity Trust are treated on your personal income tax return.
If the grantor passes away during the term of years, the property in Grantor Retained Annuity Trust will be counted in their estate for estate tax purposes, but they will be no worse off than had they not created the trust.