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Las Vegas Estate Planning Law Blog

The other "talk" to have with your kids: what's in the will

If you ask any Las Vegas resident what is the one essential piece to have in place as part of an estate plan, chances are most will give you the same answer. We're speaking, of course, of a will. It's such a fundamental document that many may think they can simply "set it and forget it" -- that once they've written up their will, matters will take care of themselves.

If only this were true. There are any number of additional measures Las Vegas residents can take, in addition to preparing a will, that will help serve as the foundation for a strong estate plan. We've talked about a number of these on our blog before. But if there's only one thing done besides drawing up a will, it should be having a conversation with one's heirs about the contents of that will.

Nevada asset protection trusts can protect future generations

We often discuss here on our Las Vegas estate planning law blog the advantages of including a trust in one's estate plan. In fact, in a recent post about actor Robin Williams' estate plan, we mentioned that trusts in general allow trustees flexibility in determining how their wishes will be carried out, as well as safeguarding them from probate. This week we'd like to take a closer look at one type of trust with which local residents may want to become familiar -- the Nevada Asset Protection Trust.

Perhaps the main distinguishing feature of this trust is that it allows the individual setting it up to also be a beneficiary of the trust. It's also an irrevocable trust, intended as a tool for residents who want to protect their assets over the long term. While it cannot be revoked, it also offers virtually airtight protection for the assets within.

Estate planning can be tailored to the needs of any family

Because families can all look different, estate plans can also be different to best fit the needs and circumstances of different families. Some families are blended, some marriages come later in life and some blended families have legally adopted members. Different familial arrangements can present challenges that families will want to account for in an estate plan.

Different circumstances, such as how long the couple has been married and the relationships between parents, children, step children and step parents, may impact estate planning decisions. Fairness may be a primary concern for many couples engaged in estate planning. First, it is important to ensure that the estate plan adequately provides for the surviving spouse in the likely event that one passes before the other. Additional concerns may arise in situations concerning adult children and spouses married later in life who do not share children. A trustee may be useful to help reduce disputes in circumstances when there are children from different marriages.

Actor's children benefit from his thoughtful estate planning

Las Vegas residents have likely heard by now that the Oscar-winning comedian and actor Robin Williams died of an apparent suicide earlier this month. Williams, in his early 60s, was married with three children who range in age from 22 to 31.

We've discussed on our Las Vegas estate planning law blog previously about celebrities who have passed with estate plans inadequate to effectively manage their high-value estates. Even a will exposes one's heirs to the probate process. Williams, however, set up trusts for his children several years ago, along with some interesting conditions regarding how his children would receive the money.

What is probate and how do I manage the process?

We often write on our Las Vegas estate planning law blog about probate. Usually we do so in the context of discussing how to avoid probate through careful estate planning. But for those whose loved ones' estates must go through probate, let's take a few moments to look at just what probate is and what happens during the process. This is just for general information, and is not intended as specific legal advice.

Probate is simply the name for the process in which a court oversees the distribution of a deceased individual's assets. The court will take stock of the property left behind, figure out who is entitled to it and make sure state law is followed in terms of who gets what. There will also be taxes and perhaps lingering debts to pay. If there is a valid will naming an executor, the court will make that appointment formal, otherwise the court will identify someone to serve as the executor.

A will is important, but comes with limitations

James Gandolfini was larger than life in his starring role as Tony Soprano on HBO's "The Sopranos" for many years. His death just over a year ago left many Las Vegas fans of the hit show stunned and reeling from the loss of such a talent. Unfortunately, in the time since his death, we've seen how a lack of careful estate planning can leave one's heirs reeling as well.

It's not that Gandolfini didn't take any estate planning measures during his adult life. He did leave a will which outlined his wishes regarding distribution of property among his surviving family members. He did not, however, provide adequate instructions for property he owned in Italy.

Updating estate plans to include heirs

We often talk on our Las Vegas estate planning law blog about the importance of keeping one's will and other estate planning documents up to date. Changes in one's family life, employment or financial status may all require revisions to a plan in order to ensure that one's assets are distributed in accordance with one's wishes. But there is another side to keeping plans and documents current, and that is talking about the changes with one's family and heirs.

Particularly among families of wealth, a recent study has found that communication along these lines is lacking. While over 80 percent of individuals surveyed did have wills that they kept current, almost half of them hadn't had a conversation with their heirs about what their inheritance would consist of. The reasons for this varied, but nearly two in three said they didn't want their children to count on inherited wealth or feel entitled to it (a phenomenon our blog has discussed in previous posts).

A closer look at the gift tax in estate planning

In our last blog post, we discussed how the federal estate tax took a significant bite out of Philip Seymour Hoffman's estate after the actor's untimely death. As we reviewed why this happened and how Las Vegas residents can avoid a similar situation, we briefly mentioned utilizing the gift tax exemption as a strategy to reduce tax liability. The gift tax exemption is an important element of tax and estate planning law which merits some additional examination in its own right.

According to the IRS website, the gift tax is a tax paid by someone who makes a gift of any kind of property or money to another individual. A "gift" in this context means a transfer where the giver does not receive full consideration in exchange. Generally speaking, and perhaps surprising to Las Vegas residents, any such gift is taxable. But there are some important exclusions from the gift tax.

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.

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