Article for LifeHealthPro from McManus & Associates: “The Road Ahead for Estate Planning”

Penned by John O. McManus, founding principal of McManus & Associates, the article “The Road Ahead for Estate Planning” is today featured by LifeHealthPro. LifeHealthPro is a go-to resource for advisors, insurance wholesalers, CPAs and estate planning attorneys.

In the piece, John discusses the several surprising outcomes regarding estate planning that emerged as part of the fiscal cliff deal and outlines the new tax rates and exemption amounts. He also recommends several “tactics to try.” From the article:

Here are a few of the trust and non-trust estate planning strategies that married and single persons should explore in 2013:

  1. Foundations: With increased taxes, gifts to charity have a greater tax-deductible value. Gifts to foundations allow full deduction in the year of the gift, whereas transfers out of foundation can be as small as 5 percent on an annual basis, allowing assets in the foundation to continue to grow.
  2. Charitable trust: These enable one to make gifts to charity and receive immediate deductions. One can continue to receive income from the charitable gift for a period of time. Gifts can also be made where the charity gets a distribution each year and the loved ones receive the remainder.
  3. Family mission planning: The family mission and preparing heirs for inheritances are critical to ensuring a successful transfer of wealth and family values, to helping minimize conflict and maximize harmony and to supporting charitable endeavors.
  4. Life insurance trusts: Funding a trust with a life insurance policy is a smart way to get a windfall of cash when someone passes away to pay off estate taxes. It’s also an avenue for getting a big asset off of one’s balance sheet, keeping a large amount of cash safe and protected. Make sure the trust is named as the beneficiary and policy owner (e.g., John Doe Irrevocable Trust). If a house is put into a trust and the house is insured, make sure to get the insurance policy changed to reflect the ownership by the trust. The trust should be the primary insured on the policy, and the individual can be the secondary.

And cautioning readers to be mindful of what’s ahead that could impact estate planning, he shares this observation:

Several valuable opportunities emerged as part of the fiscal cliff negotiations that pleasantly surprised the estate planning community. We are not completely out of the woods, however, with the debt ceiling debates just around the corner. When it comes to safeguarding wealth and family values, it’s important now to look ahead without losing sight of what’s in the rearview mirror.

Read the whole thing at http://www.lifehealthpro.com/2013/02/22/the-road-ahead-for-estate-planning. Also keep an eye out for John’s piece in Monday’s Life Insurance Insider e-newsletter. Next week will be a special estate planning edition.

Courtesy of LifeHealthPro

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CPA Practice Advisor: “Estate planning after the fiscal cliff: Top 10 Steps”

CPA Practice Advisor today published an article utilizing the guidance that McManus & Associates recently offered to clients via a conference call on next steps in light of the fiscal cliff deal. A quote from the firm’s founding Principal John O. McManus in the piece, titled “Estate planning after the fiscal cliff: Top 10 Steps”:

Many Americans will experience significant income tax increases as a result of the ‘fiscal cliff’ deal, but there is good news with respect to the estate tax. The newly established permanent estate tax gives wealth planners certainty that has been lacking for more than a decade – but what if Connecticut’s law encourages other states to also create a gift tax even lower than the federal exemption amount? The fact that they could do it retroactively is a real concern.

The story goes on to say:

The firm has offered the following tips:

Post-Fiscal Cliff Estate Planning: Top 10 Questions Answered in Light of the Deal

1.  The new tax rates and exemption amounts are set. What can you expect to pay for estates over $5.25MM?

a. Federal estate tax rate moves up from 35% to 40% with the exemption amount now at $5.25MM, which will be adjusted annually for inflation.
b. The Lifetime Gift Exemption amount (the total that can be given during one’s lifetime, separate from the much smaller Annual Exemption gifts) has been unified with the Estate Tax Exemption amount at $5.25MM.
c. For income tax purposes, individuals earning in excess of $400K and couples filing jointly earning in excess of $450K will be taxed at 39.6%, which does not include the new 3.8% tax on investment income, capital gains and dividends that was enacted to fund Obamacare.
d. Anyone earning less than $400K will continue at the ‘Bush era’ tax rates. However, the payroll tax for Social Security has been restored from 4% to 6% so paychecks will be smaller.
e. Two limits on tax exemptions and deductions will be reinstated: Personal Exemption Phase-out will be set at $250K, and the Itemized Deduction Limitation kicks in at $300K.

2. What are the estate-tax “traps” to be wary of?

a. The exemption amounts for state estate taxes are much lower than the federal exemption amount. While no federal estate tax will be paid on an estate up to $5.25MM, a large state estate tax liability could be due in certain states.
b. For anyone owning Real Property in a state that is outside of one’s primary residence, one’s heirs will have to endure the arduous and often expensive process of out of state probate, or ancillary probate in addition to probate in one’s state of primary residence. Employing a Revocable Living Trust can eliminate the need to undertake probate in multiple states.

3. Lifetime gifts in excess of $2MM in CT are subject to tax; is this a warning for similar gift limitations in other states?

a. When the federal lifetime gift exemption amount jumped to $5MM, the state of Connecticut passed legislation to tax any gifts made over $2MM.
b. With the precedent set and with states looking for additional income, it is possible that others states will follow. Additionally, such laws can be made retroactive.

4. With the new permanency in the estate tax exemption, which taxpayers should make gifts over $5.25MM and pay gift tax (a strategy widely used for many prior generations)?

a. With some certainty that estate tax will not evaporate and the $5.25MM exemption amount will remain unchanged, individuals will now employ taxable gifts again.
b. Taxpayers whose net worth continues to grow in excess of $5.25MM will look to transfer assets and pay the gift tax.
c. Gifts made during one’s lifetime will enjoy a more favorable tax treatment, will suffer less shrinkage due to taxes, will avoid state estate taxes and will enjoy future growth free of any state and gift tax.

5. For estates below $5.25MM, who should employ trusts in their wills?

a. Trusts provide a greater level of asset protection, so one can be assured that, in the event of reversals in life including divorce (the single largest creditor attack on wealthy families), trust assets will be protected and can continue to grow tax-free and provide for heirs.
b. Flexibility in trusts even allows access to trust assets via a power to appoint and to remove trustees. Trusts protect the value and future growth of any discounted assets and can employ generation skipping tax free.
c. Trusts also allow for the minimization of state estate taxes.

6. What is meant by “spousal portability” and “unification” of the exemption amounts? Does this eliminate the need for certain planning?

a. Portability allows the surviving spouse to utilize any remaining portion of their deceased spouse’s Federal Estate Tax exemption amount. To elect portability, the executor handling the estate of the spouse who died must file an estate tax return (Internal Revenue Service Form 706), even if no tax is due. This return is due nine months after death.
b. Unification: The federal exemption amount for estate tax and lifetime gifting has been unified. That means both exemption amounts will be set at $5.25MM this year and adjust annually for inflation.
c. For tax efficiency purposes, married couples now enjoy the ability to pass to loved ones $10.5MM free of estate tax.

7. The Generation Skipping Tax Exemption amount is also set at $5.25MM; who should take advantage of it?

a. Assets in trust not used by loved ones can skip to the next generation tax-free. Such a skip would normally constitute a generation-skipping tax event, which imposes a 40% tax.
b. The GST exemption employed in trust can avoid taxes for transferees for 100 years or more, including all the growth in the portfolio.
c. The most widespread use of the GST exemption is for wealthy individuals whose children already enjoy enough assets, will be earning enough assets, or will inherit enough assets to assure the greatest likelihood the trust assets will not be spent during the children’s lifetimes.

8. Looking forward to March 2013 and the “debt ceiling” debates, what detrimental effect could such negotiations have on state estate taxes?

a. Regarding revenue to individual states, the high federal estate tax exemption amount will ultimately reduce the states’ future estate tax revenue due to lifetime gifts.
b. Previously, there was a state “pick-up” estate tax that allowed states to collect estate tax from the federal government without additionally charging the estate of the decedent. This was accomplished by giving taxpayers a dollar-for-dollar credit for any state estate taxes paid. The credit expired, which caused most pick-up taxes to automatically expire.
c.  It is possible that states will construct new methods to make up for budget shortfalls, particularly if the debt ceiling debates carry on.

9. What are the trust and non-trust estate planning strategies that married and single persons should undertake in 2013?

a. Foundations: With increased taxes, gifts to charity have a greater tax-deductible value. Gifts to foundations allow full deduction in the year of the gift, whereas transfers out of foundation can be as small as 5% on an annual basis, allowing assets in the foundation to continue to grow.
b. Charitable trust: These enable one to make gifts to charity and receive immediate deductions. One can continue to receive income from the charitable gift for a period of time. Gifts can also be made where the charity gets a distribution each year and the loved ones receive the remainder.
c. Family mission planning: The family mission and preparing heirs for inheritances will be a critical to ensure that conflict is minimized and harmony maximized, to ensure motivation to grow the assets and to support charitable endeavors.

10. What critical gift tax consequences must be avoided for gifts made in 2012? When does the statute of limitations clock begin?

a. The final step to ensure the completion of any gift you have made to a trust is the timely filing of a gift tax return. Avoid professionals who do not have expertise in making significant gifts into trust.
b. Filing of a complete return starts the 3-year clock with the federal government. Once the statute of limitations has run, the IRS can no longer audit the return.
c. If a return is prepared but does not meet the specific adequate disclosure requirement, the statute of limitation does not begin to run.

To listen to the full recording of the conference call upon which the CPA Practice Advisor article is based click here.

The piece closes with another quote from McManus:

Several valuable opportunities emerged as part of the ‘fiscal cliff’ negotiations that pleasantly surprised the estate planning community, but we’re not completely out of the woods – the ‘debt ceiling’ debates, for example, are just around the corner. Keeping track of how the ever-evolving legal landscape impacts wealth preservation is a full-time job, but one that we’re here to help with.

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Conference Call: Post-Fiscal Cliff Estate Planning – Top 10 Next Steps in Light of the Deal

In the early morning hours of January 1, the United States Senate passed legislation to avoid the ‘fiscal cliff.’ Nearly 20 hours later the House followed suit. Several surprising outcomes regarding estate planning emerged as part of this deal, which according to the Wall Street Journal, is “chock full of goodies” for nearly every interest group. The Estate Planning community was surprised to enjoy the benefit.

John O . McManus, top AV-rated estate planning attorney and founding principal of McManus & Associates, today held a conference call with clients about the new laws and ways to remain protected moving into 2013.

LISTEN HERE: “Post-Fiscal Cliff Estate Planning – Top 10 Next Steps in Light of the Deal”

Below please find the 10 questions that are addressed during the discussion:

1. The new tax rates and exemption amounts are set. What can you expect to pay for estates over $5.25MM?
2. What are the estate-tax “traps” to be wary of?
3. The Connecticut gifting limit of $2MM; is this a warning for future lifetime gifting limits in other states?
4. With the new permanency in the estate tax exemption, what taxpayers should make gifts over $5.25 MM and pay gift tax? (A strategy widely used for many prior generations)
5. For estates below $5.25 MM, who should employ trusts in their wills?
6. What is meant by “spousal portability” and “unification” of the exemption amounts? Does this eliminate the need for certain planning?
7. The Generation Skipping Tax Exemption Amount is also set at $5.25MM; who should take advantage of it?
8. Looking forward to March ’13 and the “debt ceiling” debates, what detrimental effect could such negotiations have on state estate taxes?
9. What are the trust and non-trust estate planning strategies that married and single persons should undertake in 2013?
10. What critical Gift Tax consequences must be avoided for gifts made in 2012? When does the statute of limitations clock begin?

McManus & Associates is here to help you make sure you’re covered. We welcome your call at 908-898-0100.

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Bloomberg BNA: Two New Stories Cite Firm’s Founding Principal

 

 

McManus & Associates Founding Principal and top-AV rated Attorney John O. McManus recently spoke with Diane Freda, reporter for Bloomberg BNA’s Daily Tax Report®. The publication is a leading source of legal, regulatory, and business information for professionals covering issues in taxation, pensions, and accounting.

BNAFreda’s December 27th story “IRS Shuts Down Online EIN Applications, Complicating Year-End Gift Transactions” cites John’s thoughts on the IRS’s “planned outage” of online applications for employer identification numbers, from December 27th through January 2nd. It was the publication’s most-read article of the day.

Her second piece, “Fiscal Cliff Unified Estate, Gift Tax Exemptions Seen as Windfall by Advisers,” was published on January 2nd and includes John’s reaction to the passage of provisions in fiscal cliff legislation ensuring estate and gift tax exemptions remain at $5 million for the upcoming year and near future.

To learn more about fiscal cliff unified estate and gift tax exemptions, give our office a call at (908) 898-0100.

Reproduced with permission from Daily Tax Report, 248 DTR G-4 (Dec. 28, 2012). Copyright 2012 by The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. (800-372-1033) http://www.bna.com

Reproduced with permission from Daily Tax Report, 02 DTR G-8 (Jan. 3, 2013). Copyright 2013 by The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. (800-372-1033) http://www.bna.com

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Conference Call: Post-election Planning and the ‘Fiscal Cliff’

Now that the elections are over, Congress and the White House have the significant task of directing the country away from the impending “fiscal cliff.” Critical to these negotiations will be tax rates, exemption amounts and political ideologies.

During a conference call with clients, McManus & Associates Founding Principal John O. McManus identifies potential issues and ways to remain protected moving into 2013.

LISTEN HERE: “Post-election planning and the ‘Fiscal Cliff'”

Here’s what the discussion covers:

  1. What risks do the “Fiscal Cliff” negotiations present for estate and gift tax exemptions?
  2. Can compromise be achieved?
  3. What if no compromise is achieved by Dec 31, 2012?
  4. How does the composition of the House and Senate effect these discussions?
  5. What are some of the speculations for the compromise regarding gift tax/estate tax?
  6. How likely is it that a compromise, achieved later in the year, will be made retroactive to January 1, 2013?
  7. How does the emotional power of the argument to abolish the ‘death tax’ play into the debates?
  8. What new taxes will be levied? For example: 3.8% Medicare tax on capital gains, dividends and the top tax brackets.
  9. Estate tax on the ballot. How did it fair this election?
  10. Have you fully funded the trusts that we have set up for you and are all titles correctly named?

Please contact our office at (908) 898-0100 if we can help with any questions.

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New Jersey Newsroom: “A tax tip that can save you thousands”

Warren Boroson

Warren Boroson – author of more than 20 books, including “J.K. Lasser’s How to Pick Stocks Like Warren Buffett,” and whose articles have appeared in publications like Reader’s Digest and New York Times Magazine – recently turned to McManus & Associates Founding Principal and top AV-rated Attorney John O. McManus to talk strategies for the looming Fiscal Cliff and rising taxes that 2013 will likely bring.

Boroson’s article “A tax tip that can save you thousands,” published by New Jersey Newsroom, is based on John’s foresight and guidance. Here’s an excerpt:

The gift tax exemption will likely be reduced next year, so something that well-to-do people should consider doing, McManus suggests, is setting up a trust to put assets into, to protect those assets from Uncle Sam. These trusts will give you “flexibility, control, and access.”

To learn more about what you can expect in terms of gift-tax rates and tax benefits “when the battle about the so-called Fiscal Cliff is over,” check out Boroson’s full column to read John’s expert insight: http://www.newjerseynewsroom.com/economy/a-tax-tip-that-can-save-you-thousands

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NBC News: “Seniors face retirement ‘perfect storm’ in 2013”

John O. McManus, founding principal of McManus & Associates, recently spoke with CNBC Reporter Mark Koba about whether 2013 is a bad year to retire, with the predicted fiscal cliff and, even if it’s resolved, the larger numbers of workers leaving their jobs for retirement. According to Koba, an estimated 7 million Americans will reach the age of 65 by the start of 2013.

John’s thoughts are found throughout Koba’s article:

As it stands now, the top tax rate on capital gains will jump to 23.8 percent from 15 percent and the top tax rate on dividends nearly triples to 43.4 percent from 15 percent. And any fiscal deal will likely include higher tax rates so seniors had better count on that when they plan for their retirement, said John O. McManus, CEO of McManus & Associates, a trust estates law firm.

“Many seniors may want to postpone retirement in 2013 because they just don’t know what their tax rates will be,” McManus said. “If the markets don’t perform well and tax rates go higher, seniors will have a lot less money to spend. There’s a lot of uncertainty about where this will all end.”

But McManus said even planning for tax increases won’t be easy.

“If someone retires in January but a deal isn’t reached until March, will tax rates be re-retroactive? That’s a big risk for someone thinking about retirement,” said McManus.

And after looking at the thoughts of various experts, Koba gets it right: “While 2013 presents unique problems, analysts say that in the end, planning for retirement never comes at an easy time, fiscal cliff or not.”

A quote from John closes out the piece:

“It’s not to say that 2014 will be a better year to retire,” said McManus. “There are always a lot of things people can’t control, like the markets and global issues. I’m just saying that if you think about retiring in 2013 you need to take care and take caution.”

Read the whole article here.

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