MI law controls who receives Aretha Franklin’s $80 million estate

Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, passed away on August 16, 2018. Her four sons filed court documents with the Oakland County Probate Court in Michigan. In those documents, they acknowledged that their mother did not have a will. It seems to be a trend with famous singer/songwriters to put off their estate planning until …

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Drafting and modifying your will – just leave it to the professionals

As a former probate attorney, I’ve seen some interesting things. One memory that sticks out is receiving a last will and testament with red splotches on it. I told myself it was from candy and that the deceased person must have had a sugar addiction like me. Nonetheless, I quickly scanned the original to my …

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A state estate tax – the other death tax you need to know about

Congress did everyone a favor last year and raised the estate tax exemption to the lofty heights of $11,180,000 per person. As a result, very, very few people will owe an estate tax on death under the current law. So, while a couple can die with as much as $22,360,000 and not owe any federal …

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Social Security: What to do when a family member dies

If you are a spouse, child or parent of someone who has died, you may qualify for Social Security benefits. To get spousal benefits, the deceased family member must have worked long enough under Social Security to qualify. A worker can earn up to four credits each year. In 2018, when a worker earns $5,280, …

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Designating a beneficiary – it can be a mine field

You met with your attorney recently to prepare your will, trust document and durable powers of attorney so you are confident your estate plan is in order. But life insurance, employer-provided retirement plans, individual retirement accounts and annuities are designed to pass at death not by your traditional estate-planning documents, but by a beneficiary designation. …

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Section 454: reporting U.S. savings bonds owned at death

Many individuals own U.S. Series EE or I savings bonds. These bonds are purchased at a discount from their face value and interest accrues on the bonds until they mature at their face value. While the individual is alive, he or she can make an election under Internal Revenue Code Section 454 to recognize interest …

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Reverse mortgages: the pros and cons

TV commercials and ads pushing reverse mortgages seem to be everywhere these days. How can you possibly question anything endorsed by Tom Selleck? So what is a reverse mortgage? Can you benefit from a reverse mortgage? Can a reverse mortgage be a good planning option for seniors? A reverse mortgage allows a homeowner to withdraw …

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Estate, gift and generation-skipping transfer tax changes

Here’s a look at how the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 is going to impact the estate, gift and generation-skipping transfer taxes. Estate and gift tax The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) increased the estate and gift tax exemption amount (the “unified credit”) for 2018 to $11,200,000 per person. A married couple …

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Deadline near to make (very) late portability elections

Earlier this summer, the IRS issued Rev. Proc. 2017-34 which granted a permanent automatic extension for the time to file an estate tax return in order to elect portability of the decedent’s unused exclusion amount (DSUE). It also created an additional temporary opportunity to make very late portability elections for decedents who died after December …

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Gift tax exclusion, estate and gift exemption rise in 2018

The IRS announced in Revenue Procedure 2017-58 that the gift tax exclusion will rise to $15,000 in 2018. The 2017 exclusion of $14,000 has been in place since 2013. Using the annual gift tax exclusion, in 2018 any person can gift up to $15,000 to another person without using any of his/her lifetime estate and …

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