4 Estate Planning Steps You Must Take After the Death of a Spouse

When a spouse passes away, thinking about “the estate” might be the last thing on your mind. And while it’s necessary to give yourself ample time to process the loss of your partner, it’s also imperative you talk with your estate planning attorney sooner rather than later — or you might be facing some pretty unpleasant consequences.

There are many immediate tasks at hand after the loss of a spouse such as notifying their friends, family, and colleagues, making funeral arrangements, and managing all the accompanying grief that arises.

It’s dangerous to take estate-related matters into your own hands

This is often too difficult a time to pay attention to the paperwork and legal details that need to be attended to. Surviving spouses may have the urge to settle outstanding issues themselves, but small mistakes made during these exhausting times can come back to cause serious problems down the road.

Here are a couple of the most common ways improper handling of deceased spouses’ estates can lead to major issues:

 ●Acting slightly out of accordance with the law — even by mistake — can make you vulnerable to the appearance of having conducted criminal behavior.

●You could put your own personal estate and assets at risk by performing your duties as an executor incorrectly.

Estate planning attorneys remove the guesswork for you

That’s why it’s a crucial time to lean on the support of your estate planning attorney. It’s our job to use our extensive training and experience to make sure your family’s estate is well cared for. Let us take the initiative to ensure the smooth transition of his or her wealth and resources.

Here are the essential basics we will cover, along with time-sensitive developments that could affect your and your spouse’s estate:

1. Tieing up licenses, addresses, and accounts

This includes notifying the post office, IRS, and social security office as well as handling his or her email and social media accounts. It’s also a good idea to contact his or her employer about benefits and pensions. We will work with you to take stock of outstanding credit and debts, although you may not necessarily want to pay any debts until you’ve had a chance to speak with us. Health insurance is also a crucial area to cover, as canceling policies can be time-consuming. These tasks can be completed without the help of your estate planning attorney, but we are available to assist you with any questions you may have during these processes.

2. Learning your exact role in your spouse’s estate plan 

Once we formally meet to begin the process of executing the directives and transfers delineated in your spouse’s estate, we must go over the wills and trusts contained within it and clarify your specific legal and fiduciary role in carrying out his or her wishes. We will also assess the need for probate and if needed begin that judicial process at the appropriate time.

3. Investigating the possibility of a late election under Revenue Procedure 2017-34

Portability is the term used to describe a surviving spouse’s ability to take on the deceased spouse’s unused estate tax exemption and transfer it to your own plan. If you haven’t elected portability since it came into effect in 2011, there may still be time to take advantage of it thanks to a new IRS regulation called Revenue Procedure 2017-34. This rule allows surviving spouses to file for late portability election, which can, in turn, save significant taxes and create new opportunities for additional planning. Even if your spouse passed away several years ago, you might be able to take advantage of the new regulation – give us a call today to find out whether you’re eligible.

4. Beginning any necessary collaboration with other pertinent advisors

If the deceased spouse worked with other professionals like a tax or financial planner, we will get in touch with them to make sure the whole advisory team remains on the same page throughout the process.

The period immediately following the loss of a spouse is one of the most difficult challenges life puts in our paths. Concern yourself with the personal aspects of grieving and healing, and know that you aren’t alone when it comes to the complicated and often confusing task of sorting out his or her estate – far from it. Contact us right away and let us help you handle the legal and financial needs of the moment.

Posted in Tax

Your 2018 Taxes – Get Started Now

While the end of the year is not quite here yet (but rapidly approaching), now is an opportune time to take a moment and start your year-end tax planning for 2018. This is particularly necessary this tax year because of the changes to the tax law that became effective in 2018. As a result of the significant changes in the law, your taxes may look different this year, so you should allow for some extra time in the preparation. Getting started early is even more essential if you are a business owner, have moved to another state, or plan to make charitable contributions before the year ends.

Things to Consider

Now is the best opportunity to make use of tax strategies to take advantage of tax-deferred growth opportunities, charitable-giving opportunities, as well as tax-advantaged investments among others. During this tax planning process, you will also want to make sure you maximize deductions and credits ahead of the busy tax season. As you consider your year-end options, make sure to sit down with your attorney or other advisors to review your investments to ensure they still align with your goals, the economic landscape, and the current tax law. This conversation can help you identify where adjustments may be necessary for the future.

What You Need

Know that the “traditional” year-end planning we’ve recommended for years still applies to your 2018 taxes. Make sure you are harvesting losses to offset your gains, are contributing the appropriate amount to your Individual Retirement Account (IRA) and/or Health Savings (HSA) accounts, and have taken the necessary required minimum distribution from your IRA (if this applies to you). Other things to consider is fully funding employer-sponsored retirement plan contributions such as 401(k, 403(b) or 457 plans before the end of the year. The same rings true for college savings plans, such as 529 plans. You may even want to consider converting a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA.

Beyond these important points, also make sure to start gathering the necessary documentation you may need for any deductions that you are claiming. These may include copies of statements or receipts regarding your property taxes, medical expenses, dental expenses, child care expenses, education expenses, moving expenses, and heating/cooling expenses. For business owners, the new 199A deduction for business income will have additional paperwork requirements. It’s best to work with your bookkeeper and accountant at gathering those records now, rather than waiting until the hectic tax season.

Seek Professional Advice

With changes to the U.S. tax code now in effect, it is especially important to make the right decisions when it comes to your year-end financial moves. A skilled tax attorney or financial advisor can help explain your options under the law and provide you with guidance so that you can make the best decisions for you, your family, and your future. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us.

Posted in Tax