This is obviously an important topic, so I want to give it the attention it deserves. I have seen many wills in my career. Some were very short, but covered all the necessary information, while others were very long but were lacking key details. In either case, administering the estates that were the subject of those wills would have been much more complicated if the original of the will had been lost. Yes, I’ve dealt with my share of those situations too.
For more information on this vital subject, please read my Estate Planning Law Report for April, 2020. It’s posted in the news & events section of deconcinimcdonald.com.
First, the title of the SECURE Act is a ridiculously contrived acronym: the full title is the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act of 2019.
What’s more, just about all of the commentary that I have seen about it focuses on the shortening of the time that people who inherit IRAs have to withdraw the funds. Sure, that may be important in some situations, but I’ll bet that, given the freedom to do whatever they want, most people who inherit IRAs are going to withdraw all the money in ten years (the new, shorter time period for most situations) or less anyway.
The more impactful change made by the SECURE Act, in my opinion, is the extension of the required beginning date for withdrawals by the account owner (the dreaded required minimum distributions, or RMDs) from age 70½ to age 72.
For a fuller, but by no means comprehensive, discussion of this complex measure that has implications for retirement planning, estate planning, and tax planning, please check out my Tax Law Special Report for February, now available for your reading pleasure in the News & Events section of my firm’s web site, deconcinimcdonald.com.
In my latest Estate Planning Law Report, I discuss the new law that makes it possible to have an enforceable electronic will. I also make the case that although that law is now in place, it may be a while before you can actually take advantage of it. And I caution that the new law does not mean that an electronic copy of your existing will can now replace the physical, paper, original document.
Please read all about it in the news and events section of deconcinimcdonald.com and let me know what you think.
I have written about this before, and predicted that a U.S. Senator’s proposal for taxing unrealized gains (that’s what “mark-to-market” means) would never be adequately explained. After reading about his latest pronouncement on the subject, I still think that’s the case.
I’m not sure how his new proposal is all that different from the last one. The new proposal does at least concede that taxing unrealized gains on certain kinds of assets is just not going to work, hence the limitation of the proposed tax to “tradeable assets” (whatever that means).
DO YOU REALLY WANT TO MAKE YOUR CHILDRENS’ AND GRANDCHILDRENS’ INHERITANCE CONDITIONAL ON THEM DOING THINGS YOUR WAY?
In thirty years as a lawyer, I have had very few estate planning clients suggest conditioning gifts to their progeny on the kinds of restriction described in a recent Wall Street Journal article, excerpted and linked at the Taxprof Blog. I can’t recall a client ever even suggesting that a gift should be conditioned on marrying within the family’s faith tradition, for example. I agree that those kinds of conditions can have detrimental unintended effects.
When a client suggests that gifts should be conditioned on specific future events or activities, I typically simply point out that it’s impossible to predict the future, and equally impossible to even know what circumstances might exist at the future time when those conditions will have to be applied. Usually, the client will agree that they don’t want to put the person who would have to enforce those conditions in what might be an untenable position.
My motto is: keep it simple.
Probate is the process of changing the ownership of the assets of someone who has died. That’s how I describe probate (better referred to, in my opinion, as estate administration) when I am explaining it to clients, and that’s really what it’s about.
The message that estate administration is best avoided has been hammered so relentlessly by some purveyors of estate planning services that many consumers are, perhaps unnecessarily, biased against it. They don’t necessarily know what probate is, but they know they don’t want it.
My Estate Planning Law Report for October is an effort to clear up some of the myths, and give my loyal readers better information, about estate administration so that they can make informed decisions when planning their estates.
The Report is posted now in the News & Events section of deconcinimcdonald.com. If you’d like to be added to my mailing list so that you’ll receive my newsletter directly every month, use the “subscribe to newsletter” button below, or send me an email from the link on the home page of this web site.
I’M NOT INTERESTED IN INVESTING IN AN ENTERPRISE THAT DOESN’T CONSIDER THE RETURN ON MY CAPITAL TO BE ITS FIRST PRIORITY
If I invest in a company, I’m an owner. Why would I, or any other owner, countenance that company being managed in any way other than placing a return on my capital at the top of its priority list?
What I’m talking about is simply the fiduciary duty that company managers have to company owners (stockholders). This quote neatly summarizes the problem with CEOs pledging to prioritize the interests of “stakeholders” other than stockholders:
Capitalism is not named after the managers; it is named after the providers of capital, the shareholders. Its foundation is the strict and scrupulous fiduciary obligation (“the punctilio of an honor the most sensitive,” as Justice Benjamin Cardozo said in Meinhard v. Salmon), that gives credibility to capitalism by addressing the agency cost risk of entrusting money to others. Why should investors entrust their money to people who want to turn the fiduciary duty of strict loyalty into some version of “just trust me?”
EMPLOYEE/USER-OWNED BUSINESSES ALREADY EXIST, THERE’S NO GOOD REASON TO FORCE EXISTING COMPANIES TO ADOPT THOSE STRUCTURES
Cooperative associations and mutual companies are business organizations that are owned by their own employees or customers (users). There’s a good chance that you already participate in a mutual company through your insurance, as many insurance companies are mutual companies.
Since these types of business organizations already exist and are free to compete in the marketplace with investor-owned corporations, there is no compelling reason to force existing investor-owned corporations to give stock to their employees, or to force them to put employees on their boards of directors. I’m not sure what the proponents of such measures think they would accomplish, but I am sure that one of the results would be to make companies that are forced to take those measures less profitable and less able to provide good compensation to their employees.
If you’re unsure of how to deal with digital assets in your estate plan, my new Estate Planning Law Report might give you a place to start. It’s about the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (the “RUFADAA” for you acronym mavens).
My Estate Planning Law Report, both the current and past issues, along with my Real Estate Law Updates and Tax Law Special Reports, are available for your perusal in the news and events section of deconcinimcdonald.com.
The contents of this blog, this web site, and any writings by me that are linked here, are all my personal commentary. None of it is intended to be legal advice for your situation.