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Las Vegas Estate Planning Law Blog

Over 40 percent of actor's fortune consumed by estate tax

It has been less than half a year since the death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman from a drug overdose. Las Vegas film fans will remember the shocking news of this Oscar-winning performer's unexpected passing. And as with many relatively young people (Hoffman was in his mid-40s) who die suddenly, Hoffman's estate plan offers some lessons to Las Vegas residents considering tax ramifications in estate planning.

Hoffman was never married to his partner with whom he had three children, yet he insisted that his entire $35 million estate be left to her because he wanted to avoid the perceived "trust fund baby" syndrome in his children (a phenomenon our Las Vegas estate planning law blog discussed back in early June). Because they were not married, however, roughly $15 million will go to the IRS, leaving the mother of Hoffman's children with around $20 million.

As Lou Reed's will goes through probate, details go public

The idea of a last will and testament is something ingrained in the minds of Las Vegas residents and people all over this country. After death, the will is read and assets are distributed accordingly. Sounds pretty simple, right? The fact is that this idealistic scenario glosses over a lot of those details that make real life so much more complex.

Take, for example, the recent death of the famous musician Lou Reed. Reed left what some might consider a pretty thorough estate plan in the form of a will -- just under 35 pages long at that. The will essentially divided up his assets between his wife and sister. No small feat when one considers that we are talking here about an estate worth a minimum of $30 million and continuing to grow, thanks to revenue from Reed's publishing, copyright and other business deals.

Probate judge rules heirs out $400,000 due to IRA form error

Las Vegas residents often encounter a simple message here on our blog and elsewhere. The message is that it's important to keep estate planning documents up-to-date. Maybe this point is just so obvious that some fail to register the serious consequences that can occur during the distribution of assets if, for example, a beneficiary form has been filled out incorrectly or not updated.

In one case, a man had been fighting cancer for years. He had remarried late in life, two months before his death in 2008, in fact. But he wanted his children (now adults themselves) to be the beneficiaries of his retirement accounts. So he updated his will to specify the distribution.

Judge rules on will contest between prominent, wealthy families

Recently a major legal dispute over an inheritance came to a close. Las Vegas residents interested in estate planning and related issues may be interested in the details available about newspaper and magazine mogul Robert B. Cohen and the will contest pursued by his granddaughter Samantha. Samantha is the daughter of Cohen's daughter Claudia and Ronald Perelman, billionaire investor and chairman of Revlon cosmetics.

Cohen suffered from a degenerative disease prior to his death in 2012 which made things like speaking and walking more and more difficult for him. At some point before his death, he modified his will to leave the family business to his son James, cutting daughter Claudia out of it. Samantha would go on to sue after her mother Claudia's death, claiming that her mother was deprived of her share of a $700 million estate, and Samantha herself in turn lost out on her inheritance, because of James' alleged undue influence on their father to change his will.

Minimizing the risk of will contests, family disputes

We often write on our Las Vegas estate planning law blog about how to ensure that Las Vegas residents' wishes will be carried out after their deaths. Many estate planning tools and options are designed to make sure instructions will be followed and that assets will be distributed according to a solid plan. But what happens when someone else's wishes interfere - specifically, when a will contest or other family dispute breaks out?

Fortunately, there some preemptive steps one can take to minimize the risk of this. Discussing one's plans with family members and heirs before writing out a will is an important element; children might have emotional attachments to certain personal property, for example, that can be taken into account. Las Vegas residents who have married multiple times should also be sure they are updating their estate plans to ensure that the correct, current beneficiaries are named in any retirement accounts or life insurance policies.

An unconventional way for some to minimize estate tax liability

Last month, our Las Vegas estate planning law blog discussed some tax tips for residents in 2014. While it's important to understand the basic tax ramifications in estate planning, there are some fairly unique strategies available for those with high-value estates and assets.

These individuals are perennially faced with the dilemma of trying to save for retirement and ensure an inheritance for their heirs, while every year the IRS claims a greater share through the federal estate tax. In some situations, financing a life insurance policy may offer an approach worth considering.

Trust planning may have averted litigation over NBA team

Las Vegas basketball fans, like fans across the country, are likely all too well aware of the recent scandal involving Donald Sterling. Covert audio recordings of Sterling surfaced recently in which he made a number of racist, offensive comments. His follow-up public statements did little to quell the furor that erupted, rather fanning the flames and leading to his lifetime ban from the NBA.

Which posed a technical problem: how to get an NBA team away from an owner who does not want to sell? The answer lay in a clause in the Sterling family trust. The clause, which co-trustees Sterling and his wife Shelly signed when they set up the trust, stipulated that either of them could be removed if he or she became incapable of making "reasonable and normal" business decisions.

Incentives within trusts provide unique options, benefits

An interesting exchange recently took place between two media personalities with whom Las Vegas residents will likely be familiar: CNN news host Anderson Cooper and radio talk show host Howard Stern. Cooper, the son of famous designer and railroad heiress Gloria Vanderbilt - estimated to be worth some $200 million - told Stern that he does not believe in inheriting money.

Cooper went on to call windfall inheritances an "initiative sucker" and a "curse." He tried to get Stern to name one person who was the beneficiary of a large inheritance and then went on to do something recognizable on their own. Stern, however, may have put Cooper on the spot by responding that Cooper's own mother, Gloria Vanderbilt, did just that. Cooper admitted this was true, but thought his mother's case was probably unique.

Estate tax tips for Las Vegas residents in 2014

Las Vegas residents have likely paid taxes all of their working lives. Some may be used to seeking custom-tailored tax advice from a professional at tax time every year in order to make sure they are taking advantage of every deduction and getting the best deal possible. Others may find that their annual filings are a simpler matter that they can manage on their own.

The estate tax is one matter with which some will find professional advice worthwhile, however. The federal estate tax rate in 2014 can reach as high as 40 percent in some cases. Residents of Nevada, like any other state, will want to take steps during estate planning to ensure that their heirs do not lose such a substantial portion of their inheritance to the IRS.

Casey Kasem's daughter wins conservatorship after disappearance

Who will get the house; how much will each child inherit; what assets or property will be donated to charity? Las Vegas residents are well familiar with typical estate planning questions like these. However, estate planning tools can be used to ensure one's wishes will be respected in a number of other scenarios, and they can be enforced by law if necessary.

Take the example of Casey Kasem, the famous radio personality who made headlines recently when his whereabouts was unknown to his children. Kasem left his broadcasting career in 2009 and is known to be afflicted with Parkinson's disease, and possibly a form of dementia associated with the disease. He had given his daughter Julie and her husband power of attorney to make decisions regarding his health care if he were ever to become unable to do so himself.

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