Follow Us on Facebook  

Follow Us on Twitter


Estate Planning Articles

From the archive of our Family Wealth Matters newsletter -- starting (in bold type) with some of our most popular articles

Free Subscription

Aging and Disability | Estate Planning and Marriage | Investing | Kids Safety Net Planning | Retirement Planning | Taxation


estate planning - general

Holiday Gatherings, New Year's Resolutions, and Family Talk that Matters  Purposeful discussions during the Holiday Season, with an emphasis on changes in your situation and your family's, can help set the stage for someone's meaningful planning in 2019.

Estate Planning Impacts of 2017 Tax Law  As predicted, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act included changes to the federal gift, estate, and generation-skipping transfer (GST) tax laws

Pour-Over Wills Enhance Safe Transfer of Assets  Partnering a pour-over will with a revocable trust can ensure that, when you die, any remaining personal estate assets become part of your trust

The Benefits of a Living Trust, Part 2: Protection from a Bad Marriage  Ensuring that your assets won’t end up being owned by an adult child’s ex-spouse is an overlooked benefit of a living trust

Trusts Made Simple  The legal and financial issues associated with trusts can at times feel overwhelming; to help distill some of those arcane concepts to an easily understood level, this article will provide a simple illustration for some of the concepts that we apply regularly during the estate planning process

Beneficiary Designations Trump Wills and Trusts  When you designate the beneficiary in a retirement account or life insurance policy, one little mistake can make all of your best-laid plans go awry

A Common Mistake in Life Insurance Beneficiary Designation: Easy to Make, Easy to Avoid  How bad advice to a financially distressed husband regarding his life insurance beneficiary designation robbed his wife and child of much-needed financial security.

The Perils of Joint Tenancy with Your Adult Children  While you may achieve your goal of avoiding probate, your child’s debts, lawsuits or divorce can jeopardize your ownership

Intentionally Defective Grantor Trusts  An IDGT allows you to give the appreciation while keeping the income

Choosing the Personal Representative of Your Estate  If you have a will instead of a trust, choosing the person or company to shepherd your estate through the probate process should be made only after careful consideration

CLAT: Help a Charity, Keep a Deduction, and Transfer an Asset to the Kids  A Charitable Lead Annuity Trust can help protect your wealth during a down economy

Holiday Cheer: Five Financial Gifts to Consider  Making a financial gift during the holiday season is more than a generous gesture to a loved one; it can also be a valuable planning strategy

The "Inheritance Talk"  When the subject turns to inheritance, while you might prefer a root canal to "the talk" about family money, have it anyway

Funding and Administering Your Trust  Information on transferring assets to your trust and trust operations

Gifting: As Simple as Writing a Check  One of the easiest ways to transfer assets is to take advantage of current gifting laws

Choosing a Successor Trustee  The basic qualities of a good successor trustee are integrity, good judgment and objectivity

Equitable Treatment: Preserving Harmony Among Your Heirs  To give your children the best chance of staying on good terms with each other, try to create an estate plan that strives not so much for equal treatment as for equitable treatment.

Avoiding Four Huge Mistakes in Estate Planning  No plan, an old plan, outdated designations and failure to prepare for long-term care are at the top of our “mistakes” leader board

The Benefits of a Living Trust, Part 1: Avoiding Probate, Stress and Lost Time and Money  An excellent motivation for setting up a trust is to spare your loved ones and other heirs the expense and aggravation of probate

The Benefits of a Living Trust, Part 3: Protection in Case of Incapacity  Another way a living trust can protect you is in the event you are no longer physically or mentally capable of handling your own affairs

Celebrity Deaths Offer Cautionary Tales for Separated Spouses  When fashion designer Kate Spade and chef/author/storyteller Anthony Bourdain committed suicide in June, they left behind grieving family and fans from around the world. They also left estranged spouses and complicated estates.

Celebrity Deaths Reveal Contrasts in Estate Planning  Robin Williams' use of trusts to hold his real estate and provide for his three adult children offers a stark contrast to Philip Seymour Hoffman, who died leaving a large tax obligation and no direct provision for his three young kids

Could a Bank Refuse Your Power of Attorney?  Practical steps and advance planning can help reduce the likelihood that a bank or other institution will reject your general power of attorney

“Decanting” a Trust  In decanting a trust, the assets of an existing irrevocable trust are transferred to new irrevocable trust with more favorable terms

Estate Planning and Parenting  Fairness in distributing your assets and clarity in communicating your intentions are vital in minimizing sibling jealousy and resentment after you are gone

Estate Plans Aren’t Just About Avoiding Taxes and Probate  Sometimes the real motivation for preparing an estate plan is one that you would prefer to be left unsaid

Friends as Fiduciaries? Better Think Twice  Selecting the personal representative or trustee of your estate, or agreeing to serve in one of those fiduciary roles for someone else, should be made only after careful deliberation and straightforward conversation

A George Clooney Movie Offers a Useful Look at Family Trusts  The scenario that the main character faces, as both a beneficiary and a trustee of a substantial estate, mirrors real-life dilemmas and tough decisions faced by trustees every day

Grantor Retained Annuity Trusts  A GRAT allows you to freeze the value of your assets, avoid estate tax, and give your kids the benefit

Has Your Estate Plan Aged as Gracefully as You?  If more than a few years have passed since you created your will or trust, changes in circumstances might dictate a change in plan

Important Documents: Which Ones Should Your Loved Ones Be Able to Access?  It isn't enough to create an estate plan and other end-of-life instructions; it’s important that you make your personal representative, successors trustee and/or selected heirs aware that those documents exist and where they can find them

Inherited IRAs Not Protected in Bankruptcy  The U.S. Supreme Court ruling applies only to IRAs and not to other types of retirement accounts

Maintaining a Healthy Estate Plan  If you have been putting off updating your estate plan, you are unknowingly playing a risky game that very realistically could result in your loved ones facing financial loss, hurt feelings, and additional stress

Mirowski v. Commissioner  A taxpayer victory provides a roadmap for defending a family LLC against IRS challenges

QTIP Trust: Smart Planning for Blended Families  A properly designed QTIP trust allows one to provide a lifetime income to the new spouse as well as leave the principal to one's own children (not the spouse's children) when the new spouse dies

Revocable Living Trusts: The Value Goes Far Beyond Estate Taxation  Even if the federal estate tax were eliminated, a living trust would continue to be the centerpiece of many estate plans

Rock Icon’s Health Scare a Catalyst for Estate Plan  David Bowie took his 2004 heart attack as a wakeup call for providing for his wife and children

The "Sandwich Generation": Are You a Member? A growing number of middle-age Americans are experiencing the squeeze of simultaneously providing for the older generation and the younger one

Seniors Without Children: The Importance of Planning Decisions  It isn't enough to name just one person to handle your affairs, especially if he or she is an older friend or relative

Should You Name a Trust Protector?  A trust protector provides an additional safety net to make sure your wishes in creating the trust are fulfilled

Tax Court Ruling Affirms Use of Discounts in Valuing Fractional Business Interests  Opinion is hailed as a "landmark" decision for small business owners and wealthy families

Vacation Homes and Estate Planning: How to Leave the Property to Your Kids  If you own a vacation home, have you considered how to pass it on to your kids so that everybody still enjoys spending time together there?

What Kind of Person Should Be Your Trustee?  Regardless of whom you choose, the basic qualities of a good trustee are the same: integrity, good judgment, and objectivity

Your Estate Plan: Does “Fair” Mean “Equal”?  Determining how to fairly divide an estate between two or more children can be a difficult decision for any parent; don’t assume that fairness and equal treatment are synonymous

Your Estate Plan: Getting Started  Information on estate planning tools and documents

retirement planning

Reverse Mortgages: Beware of the Risks  For most people, a reverse mortgage should be their last resort, not their first option

Reverse Mortgages: Understanding the Benefits, Risks and Requirements  A reverse mortgage can be a beneficial way to withdraw some of the equity in your residence – provided you do your homework and understand the costs and obligations before you commit to the loan

Does Your Estate Plan Allow for Your Working Longer?  Whatever your age and work situation, it’s not too early – or late – to develop a viable work and retirement strategy

Good Resolutions for 2013: Spend Less, Save More and Pay Down Debt  Turning the calendar is a perfect time to take stock of your finances and resolve to make them the best they can be

Maximizing Your Social Security Benefits  The longer you can wait to start receiving benefits, the greater your monthly benefit will be

When to Retire: Are You and Your Spouse on the Same Page?  Communication between spouses is important at any point in a marriage, and talking about when they plan to retire is no exception


Probate and Trust Administration

Personal Representative Handbook  The purpose of this handbook is to assist you in carrying out your duties as the Personal Representative (or Executor) of the estate of an Arizona decedent

Successor Trustee Handbook  The purpose of this handbook is to assist you, as a successor trustee in Arizona, in carrying out your duties in the administration of a trust

Avoiding Personal Liability in Acting as a Trustee or Personal Representative  Good record-keeping, following the instructions of the trust or will, and communicating effectively with interested parties are key steps in carrying out your fiduciary duties

Personal Liability for Personal Representatives In a dispute involving the sale of a decedent's home, signing the real estate contract without including their title exposed two Arizona personal representatives to personal liability for the buyer's claims

Irrevocable Trusts in Arizona: Trustee Reporting and Notification Requirements  If you have an irrevocable trust, or if you are a beneficiary of someone else’s irrevocable trust, you should be aware of some important provisions contained in the Arizona Trust Code

What Happens to a Person’s Debts After Their Death?  How much debt you have is probably not the first thing you want to discuss with your estate planning attorney, but it needs to be on the list

Guidelines for the Individual Trustee  Information for the individual trustee on duties and obligations in administering a trust


IRS Audit Triggers for Your Federal Income Tax Return  Unreported income and oversized deductions are among the red flags for the IRS in selecting tax returns for examination

Arizona Tax Credits: Control Where Your Tax Dollars Go  If you support an eligible Arizona charity or school, the wise use of state tax credits may be an attractive way to minimize your pain as a taxpayer and help a worthy cause - at little or no net cost to you

IRS Mounts New Challenges to Family Limited Partnerships  Language in the current tax code supports discounts for lack of control and marketability, but the law doesn’t lay down the degree of acceptable discounts

"Step-Up in Basis" Makes Inheritance Better than a Gift  For heirs, receiving assets via inheritance helps them avoid capital gains taxes when they sell the assets they received

Kids Safety Net Planning

Estate Planning Tips for Single Parents  For a single parent, it is vital that you make good decisions about who will raise your kids if you die or are otherwise unable to take care of them

Estate Planning for Grandparents  The tax laws provide many opportunities for grandparents to provide for their grandkids' financial, educational and other needs

Does Your Teenager Need a Will?  Creating a will can put a young person in the mindset of someone who is going to have a successful financial life and has thoughtfully taken on adult responsibilities

Selecting the Guardian for a Minor Child  Who would you like to be the guardians of your young children if you pass away?

6 Planning Tips for Your Special Needs Child  Parents – and, in many cases, grandparents – of a special needs child must contend with the intricacies of government programs, eligibility standards, guardianships, and related legal documents

Special Planning for Special Needs Children  Creating a Special Needs Trust can help provide for a child's care – but maximizing the benefit may require communication and coordination

Special Needs Trusts: A Valuable Tool in Caring for Loved Ones  For parents or grandparents of a child who has special needs - related to their physical or mental health, developmental disability, or other challenges - providing the financial resources they will require as children and adults is a major priority.

aging and disability

“Filial Support”: Can You Be Billed for Your Parent’s Nursing Home Care?  Under little-known laws of many states, an adult child can held financially liable for their parents’ nursing home bills

Weighing the Risks of Surgery for the Elderly  If you have been authorized to make healthcare decisions for another person, you should be alert to the added surgical risks that accompany getting older

Caregiver Compensation: Being Fair to Relatives Who Provide Care  Paying reasonable compensation to family caregivers is good for the person receiving the care and avoids unnecessary legal and financial squabbles

Avoid Confusion in Crisis Through Proper Estate Planning  Baby Boomers often find themselves making medical and financial decisions for their aging parents; these decisions often fall to one child, with other siblings out of the loop

Daily Money Managers: A Useful Resource for Many Seniors (But Be Careful)  Because the daily money manager field is largely unregulated, it is critical that you do your homework before entrusting your checking account to a third party

Elder Abuse: Protecting Your Elderly Parents from Caregiver Fraud  When it comes to an elderly loved one who lives alone, protection and prevention from an exploitative caregiver are key to avoiding elder abuse

Gambling Addiction Hits Seniors Hard  Protecting your assets is challenging enough under normal conditions; it’s even harder when your behavior is the source of your financial distress

Long-Term Care Insurance: Avoid These Common Mistakes  Purchasing long-term care insurance can be a risky mission for do-it-yourself shoppers

New Challenges, Strategies in Buying Long-Term Care Insurance  Fewer insurers are selling long-term care coverage to individuals, and the companies still in the market are making it tougher to qualify

New Nursing Home Regulations Offer Improvements for Patients, Families  In issuing the new standards, federal regulators seek to achieve a shift to more “person-centered” nursing home care 

Qualifying for Long-Term Care Assistance  Some families have reduced the value of their estates – and satisfied Medicare’s “means test” – by use of a personal services agreement between an aging parent and their care-giving adult children

Qualifying for Long-Term Care: The Value of an Irrevocable Trust  As the Baby Boom generation continues to age into their retirement years, we are receiving a growing number of inquiries on how to qualify for long-term care assistance from the government, as an alternative to self-funded nursing home care or purchasing long-term care insurance.

Transitioning Responsibility for Your Aging Parents’ Finances  Convincing senior parents to turn over management of their bank accounts can be more challenging than taking away their car keys

estate planning and marriage

Financial Help for the Non-Financial Spouse  Good communication while both spouses are alive and well can spare the non-financial spouse a great deal of heartache when the spouse who controls the purse strings can no longer do the job

5 Estate Planning Tips for Blended Families  Open and thoughtful discussions and sound planning can result in a happily blended family that remains a family after the parents have passed away

Divorce, Common Law Marriage and Inheritance  A court ruling in the contested estate of the late Gary Coleman illustrates the importance of updating estate planning documents to reflect changes in marital status

Should a Prenuptial Agreement Be Part of Your Estate Plan? A prenuptial agreement can be used to avoid painful legal and emotional disagreements in the future, both for yourself and your loved ones

Money Talks: The Importance of Financial Communication Between Spouses  A financially open relationship is a key ingredient for a happy, successful marriage … and lightens the burden on a spouse who suddenly inherits the role of financial manager

Divorce Includes Separation of Estate Plans  Addressing estate planning issues as part of the divorce negotiation can free both parties from future headaches as they move on to the next chapters of their lives

Same-Sex Marriage and Estate Planning  The recent Supreme Court ruling that provides equal marriage rights for same-sex couples will have an impact on a wide variety of legal, financial and other issues, including estate planning

Understanding Prenuptial Agreements  There are two types of nuptial agreements: prenuptial (before the marriage ceremony) and postnuptial (after)

Other Useful Topics

Equifax Data Breach: Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft  Equifax and the federal government offer useful resources for blocking the misuse of potentially stolen personal information

Phone Scams: How to Protect Yourself  The IRS and Federal Trade Commission can't protect you, but they provide online resources for reporting an attempted scam

Protect Your Accounts — and Yourself — from Identity Theft  Knowing your risk factors and exercising some common-sense precautions in managing your passwords, devices and social media accounts can help protect you from identity theft