Category: Media Clips

Motley Fool Turns to McManus to Answer, “Who Should Be Executor?”

Daily Finance

Michele Lerner, a contributing writer to The Motley Fool, this week turned to McManus & Associates Founding Principal John O. McManus to answer the question, “Who Should You Ask to Be Executor of Your Estate?” From the article:

“A common adage in the industry is to name your enemy as your executor as a means of revenge,” says John O. McManus, an estate attorney and founding principal of McManus & Associates in New York City. “It’s a thankless job. If you appoint someone you love as executor, get your house in order. Otherwise, appoint someone you do not.”

Lerner points out that many people choose their closest relatives, but “before you decide, think hard about what you’re asking this person to do.”

She goes on to share that she talked to McManus about “what it means to be an executor and how to go about choosing one.” Below are the questions for which she shares answers from McManus & Associates:

Q: What are the responsibilities of an executor?
Q: Do you need to have a financial or legal background?
Q: How much time does it take to be an executor?
Q: Should you have more than one executor or is it best to have only one?
Q: Is it best to ask someone before you name them in your will as executor?
Q: Can someone turn down the job of executor?
Q: Can you get compensated for the time you put in as an executor?
Q: Can you be sued as an executor?
Q: Is there anything an executor can do to reduce family fights over personal property?

To find all of our answers to Lerner’s questions, check out the Daily Finance article here.

Professor of Law Points to McManus’ Guidance on Using Life Insurance in Your Estate Plan

Gerry W. Beyer

Gerry Beyer, Professor of Law at Texas Tech University School of Law, recently featured on his blog McManus & Associates’ latest educational conference call, “Top 10 Things to Know to Make the Most of Life Insurance in Estate Planning.” As pointed out by Beyer, using life insurance in your estate plan can provide significant protection for your loved ones.

To see the top 10 questions to ask yourself when estate planning with life insurance, read Beyer’s post. And check out more hot topics related to estate planning by visiting “Wills, Trusts, and Estates Prof Blog,” a member of the Law Professor Blogs Network sponsored by Wolters Kluwer.

McManus & Associates Expertise Featured by Wills, Trusts, and Estates Prof Blog

Gerry W. Beyer

Gerry W. Beyer

Gerry Beyer, Professor of Law at Texas Tech Univ. School of Law, writes “Wills, Trusts, and Estates Prof Blog,” a member of the Law Professor Blogs Network sponsored by Wolters Kluwer. Beyer recently took a closer look at the most recent educational conference call held by McManus & Associates and posted a brief, titled “10 Most Important Considerations for Domestic Asset Protection Dynasty Trusts.”

From the post:

Jurisdictions have different laws when it comes to determining the jurisdiction of trusts and trust property. Founding Principal of McManus & Associates, John O. McManus, has shared his expertise by listing the ten most important considerations for deciding where to site your trust. Listed below are the considerations.

To read Beyer’s post and find a wealth of information on estate planning, head on over to Wills, Trusts, and Estates Prof Blog at http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/trusts_estates_prof/. 

McManus in DailyFinance: “Stop Family Feuds Over Inheritances Before They Start”

Daily Finance

Michele Lerner, contributing writer for The Motley Fool, recently spoke with McManus & Associates Founding Principal John O. McManus to take a deeper dive on a recent chapter of the firm’s educational series, “‘These are a few of my favorite things’ – Top 10 Considerations when Planning for Tangible Personal Property”.

She this week published a very interesting article based on the conversation that’s definitely worth the read. Lerner’s story, “Stop Family Feuds Over Inheritances Before They Start,” shares colorful examples, telling stats and “5 Tips to Prevent Family Fights Over Heirlooms” from McManus.

From the write-up:

“More than 50 percent of the lawsuits we see are about items that have a total asset value of less than 10 percent of someone’s estate,” says John O. McManus, an estate attorney and founding principal of McManus & Associates in New York City. “The toughest part about family fights over a piece of jewelry or a painting is that it isn’t about the value of the item, it’s about what it means to loved ones.”

McManus goes on to say:

“Fighting over personal property is the match to the tinderbox of emotions…Sometimes feuds start because of lingering resentments over who worked the hardest to take care of Mom or Dad when they were sick or even over who got the biggest scoop of mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving every year.”

To illustrate the all-too-common occurrence, Lerner shares several examples from John:

In one case, McManus says, a woman had her sister arrested for stealing less than $100 of clothing from their deceased mother’s apartment. In another case, brothers split in a lifelong feud over their father’s watch.

Lerner captures McManus’ key advice at the end of the article with “5 Tips to Prevent Family Fights Over Heirlooms”: Here’s what made the cut:

1. Make an inventory.

2. Share your list with family members.

3. Appraise your property.

4. Set up a jury system.

5. Write a personal property memo.

To get more details on each of these five tips, check out the full story here.

Fox Business: McManus shares advice on how to ensure a trust meets personal, financial needs

Fox Business logo

 

Top-rated Attorney John O. McManus recently spoke with Bankrate Reporter Judy Martel about how to ensure a trust is set up to meet your personal and financial needs. Published today and syndicated by Fox Business, Martel’s piece, “An Irrevocable Trust That Evolves with You,” covers the keys to choosing a trust that “meets your specific needs while building in the maximum amount of flexibility allowed so that, as your needs change and evolve, you retain some power over the trust.”

In the article, Martel shares counsel from McManus:

One of the first important considerations when setting up a trust is its location, says John McManus, founder of McManus & Associates in New Providence, N.J. Some states offer better creditor protection, allow for a trust to exist for a longer period of years before becoming taxable or do not impose state income tax on trust assets. A few states, he says — notably Alaska, Delaware, South Dakota and Nevada — provide additional power to the trust creator while still protecting assets from creditors and maintaining the trust’s tax-beneficial status. Although trusts can be set up in those states regardless of where you live, it is typically more expensive.

She also draws on knowledge shared by McManus, the founding principal of McManus & Associates, to help readers understand the structure of a trust:

At the top of the triangle is the trustee, the person who has legal title to the assets in the trust and the one responsible for managing the trust, making discretionary decisions and carrying out the terms of the trust agreement. The creator can be the trustee, but generally that’s not a good idea in most states because, depending on how the trust is written, the state laws and how much discretionary power the creator has, the trust can lose its tax-beneficial status or be subject to creditors, McManus says.

Beneficiaries, the second point of the triangle, are those who will receive the beneficial interest in the trust. They can be amended, added or dropped if the creator of the trust retains the right of appointment, McManus says. “Let’s say I have two layers of beneficiaries in my trust — first to my wife and sister and then to my children and my sister’s children,” McManus says. “After I create the trust, I want to cut out one of the beneficiaries, or one of them needs more money. I have the right to choose who will receive money and how much,” he says. Even better, he adds, “I don’t have to decide that right away. That allows people to put a lot of assets in that trust when they otherwise might not because who knows how my sister’s children will turn out or how my children will turn out?”

What standards help ensure that the beneficiary’s needs are met within reason and as defined by the trust agreement?

The amount of distribution is also up to the creator of the trust. It can be controlled by the use of ascertainable standards, which restrict the trustee to distributions for the benefit of health, education, maintenance and support, says McManus…They also protect the trust from being taxed if a child beneficiary is also named as trustee, McManus says.

To learn more about how to draft an irrevocable trust properly to save in estate taxes and give you “the comfort of knowing you’ve ensured a financial future for your beneficiaries,” read the whole story here.

Flickr/aresauburn™

Flickr/aresauburn™

McManus & Associates’ Advice on Irrevocable Trusts Featured by The Trust Advisor

TrustAdvisor logo

 

The Trust Advisor, dubbed as “America’s Leading Wealth Management e-Newsletter,” today published an article based on McManus & Associates’ latest client conference call in our educational series. The piece, titled “The Trusts Are Signed, Now It’s Time To Keep Them Running,” opens by pointing out that the fiscal cliff pushed billions of dollars into irrevocable trusts.

Author of the story Scott Martin observes that “most of the assets have already flown, leaving many advisors who rode the trust wave to ask what’s next.” Martin goes on to cite advice from top-AV rated Attorney and Founding Principal of McManus & Associates John O. McManus:

This is actually a big opportunity for those who can switch gears from helping people create trusts to the heavy lifting of keeping those vehicles properly, says top attorney John O. McManus.

He still preaches the importance of those families who have not yet transferred their estates into an irrevocable trust – as he notes, the assets should continue to appreciate – but those who already have are often at a loss.

“I always explain to my clients that the creation of a trust shouldn’t be viewed as a box to check,” he says. “Rather than setting up the trust and moving on, new planning ideas can be continually implemented that utilize the trust as a leading instrument to accomplish one’s financial mission.”

Check out the full write-up to see McManus’ checklist for managing an existing irrevocable trust.

Wall Street Journal Cites Tips on Family Meetings from John McManus

On May 11th, an article by Kelly Greene titled “When It’s Time to Huddle” appeared on page B8 in The Wall Street Journal. Greene’s story discusses an important issue that families across America are facing every day: complicated financial and legal planning for elderly relatives. In the piece, Greene relays key tips for tackling this challenge:

Be inclusive.

Don’t delay.

Hire a professional referee.

Set an agenda in advance.

Tap long-distance relatives.

Under “Don’t delay,” Greene captures advice from McManus & Associates Founding Principal John O. McManus that “families should hold meetings before any serious health problems develop.” From the article:

John McManus, an estate-planning lawyer in New Providence, N.J., says there is a “gaping hole” in family planning around preparing for parents’ aging. He considers instituting family meetings among his clients’ families, and in his own, one of his top professional and personal priorities, he says.

“Meetings are critical for getting ideas out on the table,” Mr. McManus says. “There is no one correct answer on how to deal with Mom or Dad’s health issue,” so it’s helpful to have time to think through the choices as a family.

For more tips, check out the full story. And for guidance on how to handle family meetings addressing the health of older loved ones, give McManus & Associates a call at (908) 898-0100.

“Top 10 Lessons I Learned from Mom” – McManus guest article for Fox News

 

In celebration of Mother’s Day, Fox News published an op-ed written by McManus & Associates Founding Principal John O. McManus. The piece, “A compass for the road of life: Top 10 lessons I learned from Mom,” shares reminiscences and lessons he learned from his mother. Give it a read below:

A compass for the road of life: Top 10 lessons I learned from Mom

By John O. McManus

Published May 10, 2013 | FoxNews.com

Mom. Just saying the word conjures a kaleidoscope of feelings, thoughts and memories. This woman did far more than change your diapers – she put years of time and effort to prepare you for a life marked by happiness, success and, when necessary, consolation. These ladies are weaving the fabric of society, and on May 12th, our nation comes together to celebrate the most important job that exists — being a mother.

My mother taught me more life lessons than I can count — and sometimes even put into words. But there are a core set of invaluable takeaways as her child that I strive to pass along to my own children and the hundreds of households I’ve worked with over the past two decades as an estate planning lawyer and family wealth counselor. Here are “The Top 10 Things I’ve Learned from Mom”:

1.      You only have one chance to make a good first impression – be friendly and dress up. Mom was Miss NYC in her youth, and also a performer, particularly a professional singer.  Mom taught us that everyday was a new audition, every relationship an uninitiated audience ready to be entertained.

2.      Compliment people all the time – it makes them feel good and you, too. When we were kids, and even today, Mom always makes a point to compliment others. Whether the waiter at dinner, our teacher, or the person at the front desk of the hotel, they always smiled, but I know that Mom’s joy grew in greater proportion to the compliment given.

3.      As a parent, focus on each child – in the end, you are only as happy as your least happy child. We all needed Mom more than our other siblings at various points in our lives. Until we all were happy mom was not happy, which meant more food for the hungriest, more care for the most ill.

4.      Live a life forging ahead. “There will be time for rest later” Mom would say as we drove from school to basketball then to church. Mom taught us to push through fatigue — in the end endurance is the key to success.

5.      Talk about your family history – a lot. Don’t be afraid to tell the same story twice. No one else is writing books about your family’s tales and triumphs. Mom strove to leave an indelible impression on her children. She showed us why our roots are unique and gave us pride in our family name. Today Mom brags to her grandchildren how great their parents are. In this way, Mom reinforces reasons to admire Mom and Dad, strengthening respect for the family legacy.

6.      Family starts with taking care of each other. My dad is so appreciative of my Mom’s support, care and encouragement that enabled him to have a fulfilling career with the same company for 60 years. My Mom also looked after her mother until she was 95 — whenever we moved, Nana moved too…we were never more than five minutes away. My grandmother was lucky to have my mother and vice-versa; they were best friends.

7.      Regret often stems from failing to take a risk. Pursue your passions, step outside of your comfort zone — many of your limits are self-imposed, and you can transcend them to reach your goals. Mom would say, “If you take a risk and win, it was worthwhile. If you take a risk and lose, you’ve learned a lesson.” The only true failure comes from lack of trying.

8.      Work hard, very hard – but not too hard. Mom grew up with her father’s assiduous work ethic; he built a national business from a single truck. Mom taught us that diligent work was essential, but never before family. While she never begrudged my dad for working late or missing dinner during the week, Mom held weekends, family vacation and children’s special events as absolute necessities.

9.      Sing out loud! Mom had a singing career through her 20s. Whether in the car, or at church singing always brings her much happiness. Mom would say, when it comes to doing what gives you joy, don’t hum…sing out loud! Don’t just sing alone, but among others. Let them see your passion, but also recognize the unique passions of others singing their own song.

10.  Keep the faith. My mother has been a churchgoer her whole life. Whenever the struggles hit, Mom always counted on her faith and the power of prayer. Going to church on Sundays gives her the greatest joy. Speaking with the churchgoers afterwards is equally rich to Mom. Refer back to your belief basics and think positively to create the life that you want.

Moms across the map have lovingly devoted themselves to imparting lessons that provide a compass on the road of life. The legacy of family values you hold close today started generations ago. On Sunday, as you take the time to stop and say thanks to the woman you call “Mom,” recognize not only what she’s taught you, but also that she’s prepared you to add to the legacy.

John O. McManus is a top AV-rated trust and estate planning attorney and founding principal of Tri-State Area-based McManus & Associates.

McManus Interview Inspires New Jersey Newsroom Column: “Who Inherits Dad’s Subscription to Giants’ Football Games?”

New Jersey Newsroom Columnist Warren Boroson (“Boroson on Money”) has a new, interesting piece on how to avoid fighting over family heirlooms and personal property after the death of a loved one. The column hinges on McManus & Associates’ recent conference call on the topic, which you can listen to here. Following the call, Boroson spoke with the firm’s Founding Principal and top AV-rated Attorney John O. McManus to gather more details. The result, “Who Inherits Dad’s Subscription to Giants’ Football Games?” is worth checking out.

Here’s a peek:

Who gets dad’s subscription to New York Giants football games – worth a ton of money? Who gets the little silhouettes someone made of all the family members? Who gets grandma’s expensive jewelry? Who gets Fido and the Chairman Meow and other family pets? What about liquor collections, gun collections, rare books, and other “non-titled property”?

A will may not specify who gets such property, with the result that the heirs may wind up fighting over trivial stuff – and expensive stuff. And the resentment may last the rest of their lives. A little planning, says lawyer John O. McManus of McManus & Associates in New Providence, can prevent a lot of hard feelings and family feuds. “Things, personal effects, closely-held assets and land can cause significant fighting among loved ones and oftentimes attorneys give hardly any attention to such items in the creation of legal documents,” McManus warns.

To read the whole thing, head over to New Jersey Newsroom: http://www.newjerseynewsroom.com/economy/who-inherits-dads-subscription-to-giants-football-games

Reuters Publishes Article by John McManus in Practical Tax Strategies

The below article written by John O. McManus appeared in “Practical Tax Strategies,” published by Thomson Reuters, in the April 2013 issue (Volume 90, Number 4,  pg. 172- 174).

VACATION PROPERTY: PRESERVING THE FAMILY RETREAT

There are advantages and disadvantages to using a second residence as a funding source for a trust.

JOHN O. MCMANUS, J.D., is the founding principal of the trusts and estates law firm McManus & Associates in New York, NY.

Amidst ongoing uncertainty over America’s economic future and about which financial strategies will be effective in the long-run, many Americans are focused on ensuring that one of their most treasured assets— the mountain house, lake house or beach house—is able to be appreciated for years to come. The family retreat often holds rich memories, serves as a spot for loved ones to still gather, and is a place that the owner hopes children and grandchildren will continue to enjoy. After working hard, finding success, building net worth, and employing the gift of a second residence for the benefit of family, how can one protect both the asset and his or her intentions for it over the long-term?

Thanks to the fiscal cliff deal, the opportunity to take advantage of the $5 million gift tax exemption to transfer real estate, businesses, private equity ownership, stock portfolios, and cash out of one’s name and into trust for the benefit of loved ones has been extended for the foreseeable future. Strictly from a financial standpoint, is real estate the best asset to transfer?

When considering one’s second residence as a funding source for a trust, there are advantages and disadvantages that should be weighed. In some instances, the optimal discounted value may not be attainable, but since real estate is often discounted organically (the value decreases with age) due to market forces, if the property is not renovated, it may present the best financial and emotional option. Those seeking to transfer real estate in a tax-efficient manner should think through several strategies.

Joint tenants with rights of survivorship

Joint tenants with rights of survivorship is the typical ownership between husband and wife, and it affords valuable protections. Property is automatically inherited by and passes by operation of law to a surviving spouse, avoiding the probate process. When one spouse passes away, tax benefits also can be achieved by filing estate tax returns.

Joint tenancy also helps to protect the property from a creditor of one spouse. A home can quickly become an asset at risk if there is a financial reversal of one spouse. Creditors taking over an asset will often want to sell it to a third party, but no buyer wants to own a property in joint names with an independent party. If the purchaser of the property were to pass away, the independent party would inherit their interest, leaving no real value.

Limited liability companies

Limited liability companies (LLCs) offer anonymity and tax planning advantages. Having an LLC as the owner on a property deed can protect one’s identity in many states, but a notable exception is in Arizona where greater than 20% owners must be registered. Additionally, if there is an accident on the property and it extends beyond property and casualty insurance coverage, only the assets in the LLC would be at risk.

Ownership of a second residence can be transferred to an LLC or into two LLCs; one spouse owns the LLC or two LLCs can be set up with each spouse owning one. Having the property in only one spouse’s name means the LLC is considered a disregarded entity and avoids the need to file tax returns every year.

Revocable living trust

A revocable living trust, or a family trust, is established while one is still living. One can make changes at any time, as well as reclaim the property transferred into it. The trust also outlines how the trust property should be managed while the grantor is still alive and how it should be distributed upon the grantor’s death, providing for a succession of authority to manage the residence in trust.

For the many Americans that have property in other states, putting a residence into a revocable trust allows them to minimize probate and eliminate it with respect to the state where they have only a residence (the probate process takes place in the state where the resident lives and where the property is located). Florida, for example, has no income tax, but the state is heavy on probate fees. A revocable living trust is not intended to take a property outside of the taxable estate. For example, it is essential that owners who work in, but live outside of, New York consider putting properties located in New York into trust—giving up control of the property in name—to avoid the income tax on non-New York residents. If an individual works in New York more than 183 days and owns a property in the state—irrespective of if he or she uses it—it is presumed a residence and the state of New York calls the individual a resident, requiring him or her to pay New York income tax.

Qualified personal residence trust

A qualified personal residence trust (QPRT) puts a personal residence in trust for the benefit of one’s spouse and children (or for a charity) and offers great discounts. The trust is created and controlled by the homeowner-grantor, although the property title is transferred to the QPRT. The way the QPRT is structured allows the value of the asset in trust to shrink. This was especially useful when the estate and gift tax exemption amount was $1 million because one cannot give away assets over the maximum exemption amount without paying gift tax. For the balance of 2013, the exemption is $5 million per person and will be adjusted for inflation in future years.

For some clients, this higher exemption amount has removed the need to put the asset in a QPRT to get the discount and shrink the asset for gift tax purposes. Some people say money is cheap with interest rates so low and like the idea of keeping a mortgage on a property. With a QPRT, having a mortgage is not advised, but there is opportunity to gain future appreciation, not just today’s discount. Putting the family retreat into a QPRT allows one to enjoy the right to live in it and maintain control. There is a “mortality risk” with this type of trust, however; if one dies before the trust terms end (10 to 15 years on average), the asset gets clawed back into the estate and is subject to taxation.

How can one hedge his or her bets? Divide the second residence into two deeds and two QPRTs with different spouses and terms, and only half of the asset will be sucked back into the estate if one spouse dies. This is particularly useful when there is great age disparity and different life expectancies for each spouse, because one person can have a longer term on one of the QPRTs.

It should be noted that if the second residence is removed from the QPRT, it must be replaced with an asset of equal value. If one is 60 years old, has a $2 million house and creates a 20-year QPRT, the discount today is approximately $700,000; the grantor, however, must live for the next 20 years. Saving $700,000 in value could save $350,000 to $400,000 in estate tax and significantly more as the property appreciates. In order to sell, however, the asset must be replaced with one of equal value or a separate trust must be created for the shortfall on the proceeds. For example, selling a $2 million house that has increased in value to $3 million and then buying a $2.5 million house would leave an excess of $500,000 that must go into a separate trust.

Lifetime credit shelter trust

A lifetime credit shelter trust (LCST) is an irrevocable trust for the benefit of one’s spouse, children, and grandchildren. Unlike with a QPRT, LCSTs do not allow discounts beyond market discounts, but there is much more flexibility than with the QPRT. There is no trust term that the grantor must outlive, and if one decides to sell real property that is in a LCST, it does not have to be replaced with real property (if the residence in a QPRT is sold during the term of the trust, the funds need to be used to purchase another residence, or there are negative tax consequences).

If one gives the family retreat away via trust to a spouse, he or she still has access to the property. It is, however, necessary for the donor of the trust to create a lease with his or her spouse and children for an amount of their fractional use of the property that correlates with expenses for things like maintenance. There is a built-in depreciation in using this strategy, because real estate is currently valued low.

After the parents pass away, lifetime trusts offer asset protection for children in their marriages. In the event of a divorce, the child’s spouse is not entitled to any of the assets in trust. Otherwise, the home may be at risk when given to one’s child in common with siblings who may have to give a disproportionate amount of other assets to the divorcing child’s spouse in order to keep the family retreat. The exemption from generation-skipping transfer tax is also worth the effort with LCSTs, because the trust will pass tax-free to grandchildren upon the death of the children. To protect from creditors, divorce situations, and plaintiffs’ lawyers, the asset should remain in trust for children, either with a trust for each child as trustee or with a pod trust, which assures a governing board to help manage the asset, avoiding the perils of revolution and insurrection within the family. If children have different goals for the property, it may be necessary for one child to buy out the other—or, if all of the children are in agreement, they can sell the home and invest the proceeds in a different asset.

Other strategies and concerns

What strategies should be considered if there is a worry about who will pay the bills to fund the expenses of a second residence? Renting a residence out allows for an income stream to pay for such costs. Funding a trust with life insurance also allows the policy payout to provide liquidity to cover expenses. Having the family home preserved in trust for generations provides a plan to minimize the burden of expenses and maintenance on the children to achieve the goal of creating generations of happy family members at the retreat.

A family mission statement for a vacation residence also has a positive impact on family dynamics. It helps to manage expectations, such as who gets to enjoy the home when. Often a family member will leave guests at the retreat a letter telling them where all household items can be found. The family mission takes this notion to the next level.

Finally, it is critical to confirm that all deeds have been retitled, tax forms filed, and lease agreements executed. These steps are extremely important, because if they are not completed, the IRS will not acknowledge the formality of the trust, and the tax exemption that the trust structure was intended to provide would be lost. Not only must the trust be created, but the deeds must be transferred into the trust immediately afterwards. One’s property and casualty insurance carrier should also be notified when ownership of the property is transferred to the trust. Giving away a home into trust often creates diverging insurable interests due to ownership of valuables like artwork and furniture in the home. Carriers need to understand one’s insurance structure and should be informed when there are two separate carriers for the home and assets within it. Executing a lease agreement ensures protection of ownership in the house once it has been given away and guards against trustees deciding they want to sell it.

 Conclusion

 Using real estate as a funding source when considering the opportunity to leverage the flexibility to transfer assets extended by the fiscal cliff deal could be not only the logical choice, but the sentimental one. By putting the family retreat into trust, one can create greater assurances that this cherished gathering place, or even a successor home, will remain in the family for many generations to enjoy.