You don’t have to live in ‘S-Town.’ Five ways to bulletproof your estate plan

The hit podcast S-Town, which was downloaded more than 10 million times in its first four days, highlighted the importance of having a will.

While thats a good first step for anyone, estate planning is more than just wills. It is an entire strategy to protect you and your spouse in retirement and leave a legacy for your heirs.

It doesnt have to be overly complicated, said Barry Kozak, an estate lawyer with October Three Consulting in Chicago.

When Kozak teaches elder law at the John Marshall Law School and the Loyola University Chicago, he tells his students that in estate planning, there are many happy families out there, we are just not going to hear about them.

Kozak offers five simple steps you can take to make life easier on your loved ones.

Charitable giving: It’s not just about taxes

For decades, clients planning a major gift would often focus with their advisers on maximizing the tax benefits (income and estate tax) of the donation. By contrast, today’s prospective donor may need to weigh the impact of a major gift on future financial security.

If a retired client has a 30-year planning horizon, how will a major gift or a long-term charitable commitment affect his ability to meet decades-long financial targets? The focus is changing as the worries of funding for long post-retirement years have overshadowed tax and estate planning.

A result of this change in focus should be more comprehensive financial forecasting to guide a client on how to structure large donations. More complex gift structures may be in order. A client may be willing to commit certain dollars now and in the future, but she might wish to make other commitments contingent on her future financial condition. The giver may pay part of a charitable pledge currently, another part over time and the balance upon some future event, all to permit the client to remain secure financially.

Here’s an example: A donor wishes to commit $500,000 to a charity. This may consist of an outright gift of $100,000 now and the funding of a $400,000 charitable remainder trust. If the donor’s financial status is secure in future years, she might donate some or all of the annuity payment she receives from the CRT to the charity. If in 10 years she is still meeting her financial targets, she could donate her remaining annuity interest in the CRT to the charity, thereby accelerating the entire gift.

Such discussions are more likely to involve the charitable gift officer and the financial adviser — rather than the client’s estate attorney, as may have been more common in the past.

Here’s another example: A donor would like to make a large visible commitment to a charity in which she is a board member. To address cash flow concerns, the donor funds part of the donation now and the balance with a life insurance policy. That way she feels more confident that if she dies prematurely her spouse will not be burdened by a large bequest. Further, since the bequest provides no estate tax benefit, she prefers the current income tax deduction for the amount she gives the charity each year to pay her premium.

Giving a remainder interest in a residence can permit a client to assure the intended charity will receive a valuable bequest even while she retains the economic benefit of continuing to live in that residence for life.

Sometimes, clients planning a large charitable gift will factor long-term care considerations into the plan. Long-term care insurance coverage may be purchased as part of the charitable planning to assure the donor a safety net.

Communique: Free Seminars About Elder Law, Estate Planning, Asset Protection | Joan Keston

Attorney Joan Keston practices Elder Law with offices in Wilmington and Southport She was a legal consultant and business attorney until she had to manage her husband becoming ill her parents aging. She learned some lessons the hard way and switched her focus to Elder Law. Joan offers free seminars called Life Care Planning, an Integrative Approach to Elder Law, Estate Planning, and Asset Protection. Listen above to hear Joan talk about misunderstandings, Power of Attorney, and scams directed at the elderly.

Joan is holding 2 free seminars in April: April 25th at 4:30pm at Landfall Executive Suites, and April 27th at 2:30pm at St. James Community Center in Southport.

Free estate planning seminar

A free estate planning seminar, presented by Mercy Foundation North, is scheduled for 11:30 am to 1 pm Friday, April 14 at the Columba Room, Coyne Center, St. Elizabeth Community Hospital, 2550 Sister Mary Columba Drive in Red Bluff

Learn how you can create estate plans to help your family. Learn about probate and why and how you can avoid it and what transfer on death accounts are.

Are your beneficiary designations current? Is a living trust the right option for you? Did you know you can make a gift to charity and earn monthly income for yourself or a loved one?

Learn how you can earn tax benefits from your estate planning. Is it time to create a plan for you and your family?

Presenters will include Attorney Cheryl Forbes, who specializes in estate planning, and Bill Altavilla, planned civing specialist with Mercy Foundation North.

RSVP by April 12 to Kristen Gray at 529-8016 or write to Seating will be limited.

Legal Editor (Estate Planning)


Nolo is the nation’s leading provider of do-it-yourself legal solutions for consumers and small businesses. We produce websites, books, online apps, and software. Since the company was acquired by Internet Brands in 2011, the Nolo brand has expanded to include legal websites in many topic areas.

We are looking for a lawyer with experience in estate planning to write and edit legal content for the public. We seek candidates with significant experience in forming and administrating wills and trusts, and in handling probate.

This role offers a nontraditional career in law and the opportunity for work-life balance. The editor will write and edit content for Nolo’s websites, update books and articles, and work on SaaS forms.

For Estate Planning, Don’t Overlook Late Portability Elections

Overlooking the need to elect portability is a common mistake–and one that can lead to the loss of valuable estate tax savings down the road.

Because of the generous federal estate tax exemption, most upper middle class clients understandably fail to realize the need for making a portability election in order to preserve the portability option for the future. Fortunately, the IRS has provided relief for certain clients who have failed to make a timely portability election (typically without the need for an expensive private letter ruling)–but for many clients, advisors need to remain vigilant in ensuring that the need for making a portability election is even on the client’s radar following the death of a spouse.

3 proposed bills may affect estate planning in Texas

Dear Mr. Premack: The Texas Legislature is in session again. Are there any pending bills that would affect the way I have done my estate planning? What should I be expecting when it comes to changes in the law? – TN

The 85th regular session of the Texas Legislature opened on January 10th and concludes on May 29th. Many bills have been filed, and many more are expected as the next few weeks pass. The legislature addresses a huge variety of issues. Since you have asked about estate planning – which could include Wills, Trusts, Probate, Powers of Attorney, Medical Directive and various taxes – well look at bills or proposals that may affect those areas.