asset protection

An Overview of Your Digital Assets

An Overview of Your Digital Assets

Digital property (or digital assets) can be understood as any information about you or created by you that exists in digital form, either online or on an electronic storage device, including the information necessary to access the digital asset. All of your digital property comprises what is known as your digital estate.

What Is Digital Property?

For the purposes of digital estate planning, digital property can be broken down into three main categories:

  • Personal digital property

  • Personal digital property with monetary value

  • Digital business property

Personal Digital Property

Personal digital property includes:

  • Computing hardware, such as computers, external hard drives or flash drives, tablets, smartphones, digital music players, e-readers, digital cameras, and other digital devices

  • Any information or data that is stored electronically, whether stored online, in the cloud, or on a physical device

  • Any online accounts, such as email and communications accounts, social media accounts, shopping accounts, photo and video sharing accounts, video gaming accounts, online storage accounts, and websites and blogs that you may manage

  • Domain names

  • Intellectual property, including copyrighted materials, trademarks, and any code you may have written and own

7 Reasons People Delay Estate Planning

7 Reasons People Delay Estate Planning

According to a survey conducted earlier in 2019, only 40% of American adults have a Will or Trust. That percentage drops dramatically for younger age groups. For example, only 19% of people ages 18-34 have a Will or Trust.

So what’s the big deal?

As Baby Boomers pass away, experts predict that over $68 trillion (with a ‘trill’) in wealth will be transferred over the next 25 years. And the estate planning of those Boomers will control where all that wealth goes.

Despite the hugeness of those numbers and the importance of estate planning, it is easy to procrastinate when it comes to actually setting your affairs in order. Here are the top 7 reasons (in no particular order) people give us to explain why they delay estate planning:

1. “I’m too young.”

First of all, you are never too young to have an estate plan. I wrote a series of articles specifically geared toward estate planning for Millennials. (Or you can substitute “Millennials” for “Gen Z” or whatever weird thing we are on now.)

Whenever young people say “I don’t have enough assets for an estate plan” or “I’m going to wait until I have a family,” what they are really saying is, “I don’t plan on going anywhere anytime soon.” Because young people don’t die, they live forever.

IRS Raises Estate and Gift Tax Limits for 2019

IRS Raises Estate and Gift Tax Limits for 2019

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently announced that the estate and gift tax exemption is increasing next year: up from $11.18 million per individual in 2018 to $11.4 million in 2019.

This means that if an individual dies in 2019, she can leave $11.4 million to heirs and pay no federal estate tax. Using a concept called estate tax portability, a married couple can shield double that amount, $22.8 million, from estate taxes.

The IRS also confirmed that the annual gift exclusion amount for 2019 remains at $15,000 per individual per year, unchanged from 2018. This means you can give $15,000 to as many people you want (me, for instance) each year without filing a gift tax return.

Now that we have these big announcements out of the way, let’s unpack what all this fun information actually means.

15 Best Personal Finance Blogs

15 Best Personal Finance Blogs

I once had a client who asked me to create a comprehensive estate plan, the whole package: trust, will, power of attorney, etc. It was exactly what she needed.

So I drafted the documents, she signed them. She died about a year later.

At this point, you may be thinking, “But good thing she had estate planning documents, though, right?” There was just one problem:

There was no money left in the estate for the heirs.

My client spent all this time and thought and money for a great estate plan that was ultimately (essentially) useless because she spent all her money.

Most people want an estate plan primarily to make it easier for their loved ones to get the property you leave them. But if you don’t have any property to leave, then the plan doesn’t do much.

The point is this: Estate planning is much broader than simply creating legal documents that pass on your “stuff.” It also involves creating a financial plan to make sure you have “stuff” to pass on.

Estate Tax Portability in a Nutshell

Estate Tax Portability in a Nutshell

In a world of computers that fit in your pocket and phones on your wrist, "portability" is all the rage. And for the last six years, it has been all the rage in estate planning circles as well — except "portability" in this context has nothing to do with how small something is.

What is estate tax portability?

As of January 1, 2018, the estate tax exemption for individuals is $11.2 million, adjusted for inflation. In other words, if your assets are worth $11.2 million or less at the time of your death (and you have not used any of your combined estate and gift tax exemption), your estate owes no estate tax. But upon the death of the first spouse, the surviving spouse can elect to use the deceased spouse's unused exemption amount (also known as "DSUE"), effectively doubling the estate tax exemption for married couples to $22.4 million. This election is known as estate tax portability.

Ghostbusters: Preventing Identity Theft After Death

Ghostbusters: Preventing Identity Theft After Death

Each year, approximately 2.5 million Americans have their identity stolen... after their deaths. These stolen identities are used to borrow money, purchase cell phones, fraudulently open credit cards, etc., all of which can dramatically impact the liability exposure of the decedent's estate. Criminals may even file tax returns under the name of the decedent and collect refunds (totaling $5.2 billion in 2011) that rightly belong to someone you.

Welcome to the world of "ghosting": the theft of a deceased individual's identity.

How does "ghosting" happen?

Your identity as a deceased individual is perhaps more vulnerable to theft than your identity as a living individual. Suppose you pass away today. It can take six months or more for credit-reporting agencies, financial institutions, and the Social Security Administration to register your death records and share information that lets other governmental agencies and financial institutions know you are deceased. During that time, you aren't regularly checking your credit score or other financial information because, you know, you're dead.

What is Asset Protection?

What is Asset Protection?

With increases in the federal estate tax exemption ($5,600,000 for single individuals or $11,200,000 for married couples in 2018) and repeal of the Oklahoma estate tax, estate-tax planning is becoming a non-issue for all but the largest estates in Oklahoma. Instead, a greater concern for most people is protecting their assets from lawsuit judgments.

Why is Asset Protection necessary?

One car wreck, for example, can have a devastating effect on your estate. What if someone is injured in the wreck and sues you? Will your insurance cover it? Your car insurance may include $300,000 in liability insurance; however, if the accident seriously injures or kills someone, a lawsuit judgment could be $1 million dollars or more. In that case, you could be personally responsible for damages above the $300,000 in liability insurance.

Reduce Taxes by Making a Charitable Distribution

Reduce Taxes by Making a Charitable Distribution

If you have not already taken your required minimum distribution (RMD) for 2017, you may want to consider making a qualified charitable distribution (QCD) through your IRA. Of course, before doing so, you want to know the answer to one important question: Would you benefit from making a QCD? If you fall into one of the following categories, the answer may be "yes":

1. You have a high adjusted gross income.

Some expenses are deductible only to the extent they exceed a certain percentage of adjusted gross income (AGI). For instance, miscellaneous itemized deductions must exceed 2% of AGI to be deductible; medical expenses and casualty losses must exceed 10%. QCDs can reduce AGI by taking the place of otherwise taxable RMDs, meaning it may be possible to lower your threshold for deducting certain expenses.

IRS Announces Estate and Gift Tax Limits

IRS Announces Estate and Gift Tax Limits

[After this post was published, Congress passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which changed estate tax exemptions starting in 2018. Read this article for more information.]

The IRS recently (officially) announced increases in the estate and gift tax exemption for 2018. The combined exemption will be $5.6 million per individual, up from $5.49 million in 2017. In other words, if you die in 2018, you can leave $5.6 million (or $11.2 million for married couples*) to heirs without paying a federal estate or gift tax.**

The annual gift exclusion amount also has increased to $15,000 in 2018—up from $14,000 in 2017. This means you can now give away $15,000 (and a husband and wife can each gift $15,000) to as many individuals as you want each year without paying any gift tax. For example, starting in 2018, a couple could make $15,000 gifts to each of their four grandchildren, for a total of $120,000. Gifts beyond the annual exclusion amount count towards (i.e., reduce) the $5.6 million combined estate/gift tax exemption.

Will an IRA affect my estate plan?

Will an IRA affect my estate plan?

Even if you set up a trust, you will continue to individually own your IRA and list individual beneficiaries for it. Your trust cannot be the owner of your IRA, and naming your trust as the beneficiary of your IRA accounts can be complex. However, your IRA can be an important part of your estate plan, so it is important to understand what options are available and what you can do to provide the maximum benefit to you and your loved ones and other heirs.

How can I make my trust a beneficiary of an IRA?

If you do want your trust to be the beneficiary of an IRA, it is important that the trust qualify for the “look-through” rule. This rule says that the IRS must be able to determine whether there is a designated beneficiary and who that beneficiary is. The four requirements that the trust must satisfy are as follows: