The Basics of Estate Tax Planning

One of the questions most frequently asked of estate planning attorneys near The Woodlands is how a person can minimize estate taxes for the benefit of the heirs. Estate taxes are primarily a concern for individuals who plan to leave sizable legacies to their beneficiaries, but everyone can benefit from consulting an estate planning attorney to discuss how state and federal estate taxes might affect their loved ones. Skillful estate planning attorneys can recommend smart strategies that minimize estate tax ( E.g ., a living trust).

Texas Estate Taxes Estate Tax Planning

Prior to 2005, Texas had a “pick up tax.” Although the pick up tax was a separate estate tax, it did not increase or decrease the total estate tax bill. Rather, the pick up tax allowed the Texas Comptroller’s Office to take a portion of the federal estate tax bill. On January 1, 2005, the pick up tax was phased out under the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act (EGTRRA). This is a federal law that eliminated pick up taxes from all states, not just Texas. Some states later passed state laws to collect separate estate taxes. Texas repealed its inheritance tax , which means that state-level estate taxes are not collected if the property was transferred after the effective date of September 1, 2015. Estate taxes accrued prior to this date must still be paid.

Federal Estate Taxes

Federal estate tax laws are subject to change. An estate planning attorney can provide the most current information to clients who are concerned about minimizing inheritance taxes. Generally, individuals only need to worry about inheritance taxes if they plan to leave millions to their heirs. For 2016, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) established estate and gift tax exemptions of $5.45 million per individual. This was an increase from 2015, during which the exemption was $5.43 million. This means that you could leave up to $5.45 million to a beneficiary without incurring inheritance taxes. Larger inheritances are subject to federal estate tax. The highest estate tax rate is 40%, but this is subject to change.

7 Instances When You Need an Estate Attorney [Infographic]

A proliferation of online legal forms have made many people assume that they can do things like prepare a will without the assistance of an estate planning attorney. However, hiring an estate planning attorney is the only way to ensure that your assets are divided among your heirs as you wish. The complexity of estate law, which varies from state to state, makes boilerplate forms useless, and further, estate planning involves much more than simply writing a will. Learn about different circumstances in which you could benefit from hiring an estate attorney in this infographic from Andrew J. Bolton, Esq. Contact us when you need an estate attorney in Conroe, TX , and help other families avoid estate issues by sharing this information.

7 Instances When You Need an Estate Attorney [Infographic]

The Types of Decisions Made by Guardians

You may already be familiar with the concept of a legal guardian as it applies to the care of minor children. But did you know that a guardianship can benefit people of all ages? If you take care of an elderly parent or other incapacitated family member, consider talking to a lawyer in Houston about the potential to be legally appointed to make decisions with a guardianship appointment .

There are two primary types of guardianships available. One is over the ward’s estate, and the other is over the ward’s person. A guardianship over an incapacitated person’s “person” allows an individual to make decisions regarding medical care, education, and residency. A guardianship over a person’s estate allows the individual to make financial decisions. These include buying or selling property, paying bills, and allocating money in a way that is in the best interests of the incapacitated person. In some cases, a guardianship is sought because another individual has power of attorney, but is not making decisions that benefit the incapacitated person. A legal guardian’s authority supersedes the authority of the agent with the power of attorney.

guardianship

The Basics of Probate

In a probate court, a decedent’s will is either authenticated or it is declared invalid. The probate process involves the distribution of the estate to the decedent’s beneficiaries and creditors. There is a “pecking order” as to who gets what from the estate. These actions are facilitated by the executor of the will and by a probate lawyer serving The Woodlands. You can learn more about the probate process by watching this brief video.

This legal professional explains that the probate process may sometimes take longer than a few months if the will is contested or there are multiple claims against the estate. Because of the complexities of estate matters, it’s advisable to seek the guidance of a probate lawyer. A probate lawyer’s advice can prove invaluable, especially in cases in which the will is contested.