Enjoy the Season of Giving Without Tax Implications

Web Admin - Monday, December 17, 2018
Schaumburg gift tax attorneyYou do not have to wait until you die to give a loved one enough money to pursue a big dream, such as starting a business or advancing their education. You can give that gift today without paying any extra federal taxes as long as you follow a few simple rules and have a sound estate plan. During the holiday season, it is important to understand how federal gift tax affects the high-value gifts given.

Why the Gift Tax Exists 

Gift taxes exist because of the federal estate tax. If your estate is large enough that federal estate taxes will be owed upon your death, the IRS wants to make sure it collects those taxes one way or another. The gift tax ensures that people cannot avoid the federal estate tax simply by giving away their assets prior to death.

Who Has to Pay Federal Gift Taxes? 

Gifts are always tax-free to the recipient. Federal gift tax rules only apply to the giver and only come into play if you exceed the annual gift limits. 

What Are the 2018 and 2019 Gift Limits?

The annual gift limit is $15,000 per individual recipient per calendar year for 2018 and 2019. You can give that amount to as many individuals as you wish without being required to pay gift tax. It does not matter if the individual is related to you or not.

In other words, a gift of $15,000 or less that is given to one person will not have any gift tax or estate tax implications. Separately, your spouse may also give $15,000 to anyone they want. 

Non-cash gifts are valued at their current fair market value. For example, if you originally paid $5,000 for a painting or 100 shares of stock, and the item is worth $15,000 at the time you transfer the gift, the IRS considers the value of the gift to be $15,000.

What Happens if I Exceed the Annual Gift Limits?

If the total value of your gifts to any one individual in one calendar year exceeds the annual limit, you must file a federal gift tax return using IRS Form 709. This is separate from your federal income tax return but is due at the same time. 

A separate Form 709 must be filed by each individual who gives an over-the-limit gift; spouses cannot file one joint Form 709 the way they file a joint income tax return.

However, just because you have to file a federal gift tax return does not mean you will actually have to pay any taxes at that time. You can choose to apply over-the-limit gift amounts to your federal estate tax exclusion. In essence, rather than paying the gift tax now, you defer the taxes until your death when the final estate tax return is filed.

If you opt to pay gift taxes at the time you file a gift tax return, the tax rate starts at 18% and goes as high as 40%. These rates are substantially lower than current estate tax rates, but again, the laws can change dramatically from year to year. 

Ultimately, most people will not owe any federal estate taxes upon their death, so it is often preferable to avoid paying gift taxes early.

What Happens at Death When My Estate is Settled?

A federal estate tax return must be filed only if the fair market value of your total assets at the time of your death plus the sum of all pre-death taxable gifts exceeds the IRS “basic exclusion” amount. The IRS basic exclusion amounts are $11.18 million for 2018 and $11.4 million for 2019. 

Of course, it is possible that the estate tax threshold could be reduced in future years. For example, if you had died in 2017, the estate tax exclusion was just $5.49 million. 

These complexities are a good reason to work with a highly skilled tax and estate planning attorney to develop a comprehensive estate plan.

Please note that the information in this article applies only to federal tax law. Consult your financial and legal advisors regarding applicable Illinois estate and gift tax laws.

Consult a Schaumburg Tax and Estate Planning Lawyer

Many people find great pleasure in giving generous gifts to their family members sooner rather than later. However, to avoid creating an unnecessary tax burden, talk to a knowledgeable Arlington Heights gift tax and estate plans attorney at Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC. Call 847-934-6000 to schedule an appointment; there is no charge for an initial consultation.

About the Author: Attorney Jay Andrew is a founding partner of Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC. He is a graduate of the University of Dayton School of Law and has been practicing in estate planning, probate, trust administration, real estate law, residential/ commercial leasing, contracts, and civil litigation. Since 2005, Jay has been a Chair of the Mock Trial Committee for the Annual Northwest Suburban Bar Association High School Mock Trial Invitation which serves over 240 local Illinois students each year.


Treatment of Same-Sex Spouses and Civil Union Partners Under Illinois Probate Law

Web Admin - Wednesday, November 21, 2018
Rolling Meadows same sex couple estate planning lawyerThe state of Illinois has recognized civil unions of same-sex couples since 2011 and same-sex marriage since 2014. But it was not until 2015, when the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges, that all states were required to allow and recognize same-sex marriages. These changes over the past decade have had a major impact on estate planning for same-sex couples.

Differences Between Illinois’ Civil Union Act and Marriage Fairness Act

The 2011 Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act (750 ILCS 75) declares that a party to a civil union “is entitled to the same legal obligations, responsibilities, protections, and benefits” that the law of Illinois affords to spouses. This law did not, however, mention children of civil union partners or other family members.

The 2014 Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act (750 ILCS 80) more forcefully declares that its purpose is to provide same-sex and different-sex couples and their children “equal access to the status, benefits, protections, rights, and responsibilities of civil marriage.” It goes on to say that parties to a marriage and their children “shall have all the same benefits, protections, and responsibilities under law.”   

Conversion of a Civil Union to a Marriage in Illinois

Civil unions were not automatically converted to marriages when the 2014 law was passed. Rather, the Civil Union Act was modified in 2014 to allow the voluntary conversion of a civil union to a marriage at no cost. Through May 2015, a couple could have their civil union redesignated as a marriage just by applying to a county clerk. The effective date of the marriage would be the same as the effective date of the earlier civil union. 

As of June 2015, parties to a preexisting civil union must apply for a marriage certificate and have the marriage solemnized and registered as a marriage. The effective date of that marriage would be the date the marriage was solemnized.

Impact of a Civil Union vs. Marriage on Estate Planning

Spousal inheritance rights are the same in Illinois, whether you are legally in a same-sex civil union, same-sex marriage, or different-sex marriage. Still, if you entered into a civil union, you may want to convert that to a marriage, just to ensure that your relationship is recognized as a legal marriage nationwide and internationally. For example, when partners are citizens of different countries, an actual marriage certificate will generally be needed in order for the spousal relationship to be recognized for immigration purposes. In addition, the same-sex marriage law specifically references “children” and “family” of the couple.

Also, if you entered into a civil union at some point, and the relationship broke up, you should be sure that the civil union was legally dissolved; the process is the same as for the dissolution of a marriage in Illinois. If the civil union was not legally dissolved, or converted to a marriage followed by a divorce, one partner could still claim the right to inherit from the other.

Inheritance and Related Rights of Same-Sex Married Couples Recognized Nationally

Same-sex couples gained numerous inheritance-related benefits as a result of nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, such as:

- The couple no longer has to worry about moving from a state where same-sex marriage was recognized to a state where it was not.

- If one spouse dies without a written will or trust, the other will now automatically inherit under the laws of their state of residence.

- When one spouse dies, the other can claim the marital deduction for federal gift and estate tax purposes.

- When one spouse dies, leaving the other as beneficiary of a qualified retirement account, the surviving spouse can roll over those assets into their personal retirement account, allowing for optimal asset protection and income tax planning. 

- As a living individual in 2018, you can make inter vivos gifts of up to $15,000 per person per year with no tax implications. However, you can gift as much as you want to your spouse. 

- Spouses can make medical decisions for one another without requiring a power of attorney for health care.

Consult a Palatine Same-Sex Marriage Estate Planning Lawyer

Whether you are married to a same-sex or different-sex spouse, particularly if you have children, you should really have an estate plan, including basic documents such as advanced healthcare directives and powers of attorney. Talk to an experienced Schaumburg estate planning attorney at Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC. We can help you develop a will, trust, and other legal plans that will provide emotional and financial security for you and your family for the long-term. Contact us at 847-934-6000 for a free consultation.

About the Author: Attorney Jay Andrew is a founding partner of Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC. He is a graduate of the University of Dayton School of Law and has been practicing in estate planning, probate, trust administration, real estate law, residential/ commercial leasing, contracts, and civil litigation. Since 2005, Jay has been a Chair of the Mock Trial Committee for the Annual Northwest Suburban Bar Association High School Mock Trial Invitation which serves over 240 local Illinois students each year.


Why Top 15% Income Households Need to Start Estate Planning Now

Web Admin - Wednesday, October 24, 2018
Schaumburg estate planning lawyer wealth protectionYou do not have to be Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk to need an estate plan. You do not even need to be earning $1.4 million a year, which is the average annual income of the top 1% of Illinois households. However, if you are fortunate enough to be in the top 15%, you will likely amass enough assets to need an estate plan. For perspective, a 2017 household income over $140,000 per year puts you in the top 15% of U.S. households; over $170K puts you in the top 10%, over $225K in the top 5%, and over $431K in the top 1%. If you fall into these ranges, here are three reasons why you should start an estate plan: 

1. You may think it is too early to be worrying about an estate plan. It is not. 

If you belong to the Baby Boomer generation, you are now age 54 to 72. Gen Xers are age 39 to 53. You may be in great health today, but you cannot predict what will happen tomorrow. You do not want to leave your family in chaos, trying to figure out what to do in the event of a sudden illness or death. Peace of mind is a gift you give yourself and them when you make the time to create an estate plan.

2. You may think your estate is not big enough to require “planning.” It may be bigger than you realize.

Have you totaled up your assets lately? Your home, vehicles, whole life insurance, retirement accounts, other investments, and personal property may add up to more than you realize. You may think that you will use up your entire retirement savings during your lifetime, but many people will not. If you have invested wisely, you may be able to live off the earnings and hardly touch the principal. Also, your primary home, vacation home, or other assets (artwork, jewelry, gold coins) may appreciate in value more than you expect. With an estate plan, you can make sure your assets are distributed according to your wishes.

3. You may think that a simple will that divides your estate equally among your children is enough. But have you allowed for the unexpected?

An experienced estate planner will point out the types of unexpected events that can occur and the important contingencies that you should cover in your plan, such as: 

- What if one of your heirs becomes disabled or cannot be trusted with money due to an addiction? You may want to place your money in a trust with scheduled distributions, with a trustee who has the authority to distribute more or less money if circumstances warrant.

- What if someone does not want the asset you want to give them? For example, you may want to make sure your lake cottage stays in the family, with each child owning an equal share. But what if one of them moves far away or cannot afford the maintenance costs? Also, when it passes to the next generation, what happens if one child has three offspring and another has just one? Is it fair for one grandchild to have a 50% say in future decisions while the other three grandchildren split the remaining 50%? An experienced estate attorney will anticipate and know how to solve for such problems. 

- What if you outlive your presumed heirs? Do you have siblings or other relatives you would like to provide for?

- What if your final estate is likely to be substantially larger than you think your heirs need? Are there any charitable causes you would like to support, perhaps only if your final estate exceeds a certain amount?

Consult a Kenilworth Estate Planning Lawyer

These are just three of the reasons that an income earner who is in the top 15% should be starting their estate plan now. For more information, contact the experienced Inverness estate planning attorneys at Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC. We will help you develop a savvy estate plan that will provide emotional and financial security for you and your family. Contact us at 847-934-6000.

About the Author: Attorney Jay Andrew is a founding partner of Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC. He is a graduate of the University of Dayton School of Law and has been practicing in estate planning, probate, trust administration, real estate law, residential/ commercial leasing, contracts, and civil litigation. Since 2005, Jay has been a Chair of the Mock Trial Committee for the Annual Northwest Suburban Bar Association High School Mock Trial Invitation which serves over 240 local Illinois students each year.


How the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act Affects Estate Tax

Web Admin - Wednesday, January 24, 2018
Barrington estate planning lawyer estate taxThe Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 represents the largest reform to the United States tax code in the past 30 years, and its changes will be felt in nearly every aspect of people’s lives for many years to come. While tax attorneys and financial advisors are still working to determine how this bill will affect individuals and businesses, one area in which the act’s changes are clear is that of estate tax. For people with significant assets, it is important to understand how these changes will affect their estate plan.

Estate Tax Exemptions

The federal estate tax applies to the assets which are transferred to someone’s heirs after their death. However, everyone is entitled to an exemption, and only the value of the estate above this exemption is subject to estate taxes. Prior to the passage of the tax reform bill, this exemption was $5 million, plus an inflation adjustment which varied from year to year (for 2018, the inflation adjustment was $600,000, allowing an estate to claim a total exemption of $5.6 million). 

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act doubled the amount of the exemption, meaning that for an individual who dies in 2018, their estate can claim an exemption of $11.2 million. In addition, spouses are able to use a portability election to claim any unused portion of their spouse’s exemption. This means that married couples will effectively have a $22.4 million estate tax exemption.

Notably, this increased estate tax exemption is scheduled to sunset in 2025. People with significant assets can take advantage of this exemption before it ends and minimize their potential estate taxes by transferring their assets to their heirs prior to their death. As of 2018, gifts of up to $15,000 from an individual or $30,000 from a married couple can be given to individuals each year without being subject to federal gift taxes. A person’s lifetime estate tax exemption of $11.2 million can be applied to gifts above this threshold. 

Contact a Schaumburg Estate Planning Attorney

The increased estate tax exemption is just one small aspect of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, and there are a wide variety of other provisions that will affect people’s finances and their plans for distributing their assets to their heirs after their death. If you have any questions about how the tax reform bill will affect your estate plan, the skilled attorneys at Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC can help you understand the changes to the law and the steps you should take to provide for your family’s financial security after you are gone. Contact our Inverness estate planning lawyers today at 847-934-6000 to schedule a personalized consultation.

About the Author: Attorney Jay Andrew is a founding partner of Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC. He is a graduate of the University of Dayton School of Law and has been practicing in estate planning, probate, trust administration, real estate law, residential/ commercial leasing, contracts, and civil litigation. Since 2005, Jay has been a Chair of the Mock Trial Committee for the Annual Northwest Suburban Bar Association High School Mock Trial Invitation which serves over 240 local Illinois students each year.


A Will and Trusts Lesson from Some of the Greatest Music Legends

Web Admin - Wednesday, April 26, 2017
Illinois wills and trusts attorneysIf there is any one group of people who should have an estate plan in place, it is celebrities. Of course, like most people, celebrities become distracted with life or refuse to face the possibility of their own mortality. Should they continue to do so and pass away, their estate becomes at risk. Take, for example, the issues faced by the families of Bob Marley and Jimi Hendrix. Both were major music icons, both died without a will in place, and both left behind a frustrating mess.

Jimi Hendrix’s Estate

When Jimi Hendrix died in 1970, the entirety of his estate went to his father, Al Hendrix. When Al died in 2002, the estate then went to Al’s step-daughter, Janie Hendrix. Jimi’s brother, Leon, received nothing from the estate. Since then, the family has been in a long, grueling, and contentious family feud.

Some of the beneficiaries had asserted that Janie and Jimi had never had a close relationship and that she had no rights to the estate. There were also concerns over how she had managed the estate. At the end (2004), a judge determined that Janie had mismanaged the estate and breached her duty as a trustee. Even still, Leon received nothing more than the gold record that had been gifted to him by his father years before his death.

Bob Marley’s Estate

Bob Marley never saw himself as a “rich” man. In fact, he claimed not to have much in the way of assets during a 1979 interview with “60 Minutes.” What he failed to understand was that his legend would live on. Without rights to his image, trademark, and personality, the market would become a free-for-all. In some cases, the issue of selling merchandise would go beyond the capital money; it would be a matter of disgrace for those that loved and knew the legend best.

To stop the unabashed and insensitive manufacturing and sale of their loved one’s image, the family had to purchase rights to his image and trademark. Had Marley had the insight to understand the implications of passing away without a will, he might have better protected his family and his legacy.

Using a Will to Protect Your Legacy and Estate

Whether you have a sprawling estate worth millions, a legacy that needs to be preserved or only loved ones that you want to take care of once you are gone, draft a will. Schedule a consultation with the Long Grove wills and trusts lawyers at Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC and get started today. Call 847-934-6000.

About the Author: Attorney Jay Andrew is a founding partner of Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC. He is a graduate of the University of Dayton School of Law and has been practicing in estate planning, probate, trust administration, real estate law, residential/ commercial leasing, contracts, and civil litigation. Since 2005, Jay has been a Chair of the Mock Trial Committee for the Annual Northwest Suburban Bar Association High School Mock Trial Invitation which serves over 240 local Illinois students each year.


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