Articles Tagged with albany estate planning lawyer


This blog previously discussed the Supreme Court case of Clark v. Rameker and the legal implications of money remaining in an IRA at death, that is in turn left to the heirs of an estate. Putting aside the potential tax implications, if any, with passing on an account with an easily ascertainable value, passing on an IRA can strip the IRA of its legal protections, such keeping it from the reach of judgment creditors. It should be noted that this discussion does not include leaving money in an IRA to a spouse, which the law allows special treatment for, by allowing the spouse to roll it over into a regular IRA account upon the death of the owner of the IRA and treat it as if it were his/her own IRA.

With respect to all other types of heirs, with an inherited IRA, the owner can withdraw from the IRA prior to reaching the age of 59 and one half years old. If the IRA is not inherited the owner would normally face a ten percent penalty if did this. In addition, the owner of an inherited IRA must withdraw the entire balance within five years of the original owner’s passing or take annual minimum distributions, allowing the bulk of the money to sit in the account and grow tax free. The money is only taxed to the recipient upon withdrawal. Most importantly, the owner cannot add funds to the IRA account. To maintain certain protections, such as keeping the money in the IRA out of the hands of judgment creditors and to minimize the tax liability, it may be wise for the testator to leave the money in the IRA to an IRA trust or conduit trust.


In 2011 Congress revamped the estate and gift tax laws and legislated that the federal estate and gift tax exclusion amount was $5 million. This amount is annually adjusted for inflation; the 2015 maximum is $5.43 million. Any estate values less than this amount are excluded from estate and gift tax liability. So, for example, if a husband passes away and leaves $4 million to his wife, the wife has an additional $1.43 million that she carried over to her own estate, as well as the standard $5 million that she is entitled to for her own estate if she also passed away in 2015 before any federal estate tax liability is incurred. Consequently, under the simple example provided, the wife is entitled to $6.86 million in exemptions before incurring any federal estate tax liability. If the surviving spouse remarries, he/she still retains the right to the portability of the unused estate tax. The portability is only effected if the second spouse of the surviving spouse also pre-deceases the original surviving spouse then the portability from the first spouse is extinguished. The idea and principles of estate tax portability do not apply to generation skipping transfer taxes, which is when a grandparent leaves money to his or her grandchildren.


On June 24, 2015 a trial Court in California invalidated a California law as unconstitutional, which created a default surrogate decision maker when that individual is mentally incapacitated and does not have a family member, or anyone else for that matter, to make key decisions for them.  The law and the issues addressed are not limited to California.  Even though by definition, the law deals with individuals with no proxy decision maker, that does not mean someone did not exist in the past or could not step up to become one.  Proxy decision makers pass away themselves, they move or simply just fade away and no longer attend to their responsibilities.  New York law deals with these issues in a rather collaborative way.  In 2010, New York enacted the New York Family Health Care Decisions Act, which creates a decision ladder for medical professionals who need to know with whom to check with for certain critical decisions.  It was designed to avoid the parade of horribles that the California law dealt with.  Certainly, no one wants a loved one or relative, even a distant relative, to have to rely on these provisions; they are used as a last resort.


In the absence of a health care proxy, The New York Family Health Care Decisions Act begins to shape decisions, for all intents and purposes, at the time of the determination of incapacity.  

A recent Forbes article reported that while most family business owners do have estate plans, many do not update their estate plans regularly. Many circumstances can change over just the course of a few years, which makes a regular review of any estate plan necessary in order to capture planning opportunities and evaluate risk. For small business owners, it is also a good way to review their family business succession plan, which can help ensure the continuity of their business assets, manage tax liability, and avoid dilemmas that typically occur in closely held family enterprises.

Business Succession and Estate Planning

For many family business owners their business not only represents their greatest source of wealth, it represents a heritage and opportunity for the next generation. As such, family business owners have a strong motivation and obligation to plan for the transfer of their business assets. By not implementing a business succession plan, the value created over so many years will be at risk. Depending on the size of the business and other sources of wealth, failing to plan over the long term can create a greater potential for estate tax liability and put the family business at risk in the event of an unplanned transition. For these reasons, family business owners should create and continuously monitor a business succession strategy as part of their estate planning process.

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