Top-rated estate planning attorney and founding principal of McManus & Associates John O. McManus last month chatted with Paula Aven Gladych, writer for BenefitsPro, about why even people who aren’t in the top 1 percent of earnings need to undertake estate planning. Individuals who earn between $250,000 and $1 million won’t have to worry about paying federal estate taxes, since the exemption is $5.25 million, but “they still have to worry about state exemptions, which are all over the map.” As pointed out in Gladych’s article, “Even middle-income earners should have an estate plan.”
From the piece, which is based on McManus’s interview with Gladych:
“People are not going to give a large amount of their assets away during their lifetime. If a client has $1.5 million during their lifetime, they may need every dollar of that to live from. If they become terminal, a quality financial advisor and attorney will say, ‘let’s move money off the balance sheet now.’ The fact is, by moving it you’ll avoid the imposition of state tax when you pass away. The problem in the past is people are not doing it because they only give away $750,000 to $1 million on the federal level,” McManus said. “The concern is that states will smarten up and impose a gift limitation equal to the death tax limitation.”
Why should middle-income earners consider putting money away in a trust? Read the rest of the story to find out.
More recently, Paula Aven Gladych interviewed McManus again for a piece, titled “Legacy, estate planning as important as retirement.” As captured by Gladych, “planning for the future isn’t just about retirement accounts or what you want to do with all of your free time. According to financial experts, people also need to plan for what comes after their retirement—end-of-life planning.”
McManus’s advice is captured in the story as follows:
Individuals need to make sure their documents are current. They need to review them every so often to make sure that what people think they will receive when they die is what they will actually receive, said John McManus, founding principal at McManus & Associates, an estates and trusts law firm in New York.
That means reviewing documents and walking through their provisions, deciding how they want to dispose of their assets and naming representatives who will make sure their assets are distributed as they intended.
There is a catch 22, however. Many people don’t realize that beneficiary designations on life insurance policies and retirement accounts trump whatever is written in a final will and testament.
Many parents place one of their children on their accounts as a joint account holder so they can help pay bills. What most people don’t realize is that when the parent passes away, no matter what is listed in the will, the person who is listed on the joint account will inherit that money. This can cause many problems among other beneficiaries who believe they are entitled to their share of that money, McManus said.
Each state has its own exemption when it comes to estate taxes. Some states, like New York, will allow individuals to pass down the first $1 million to heirs tax free. Anything above that $1 million will be taxed. McManus counsels his clients to gift that money while they are still alive to avoid hefty taxation later.
Check out more important estate planning tips in the story here.