It’s not something that comes up every day, but it is important for many people: what if my pets outlive me? What will happen to them? What can I do to see to it that they are cared for in the manner I desire?
Read my Estate Planning Law Report, just posted at my firm’s web site, for a primer on how to formulate answers to these questions. It’s the latest in my continuing series on practical solutions to estate planning problems that you, or people you know, are likely to encounter.
No sooner are we told to never mind about that robot lawyer than someone comes along claiming that a robot accountant is the next technology to render an entire class of professionals obsolete. I wasn’t convinced then, and I’m not convinced now.
As a follow-up to my post yesterday on the House proposal for revamping the income tax, the proposal would make two major, long overdue changes. First, it would substantially simplify the individual income tax return. I have written on several occasions about the inexcusable failure of the government to do anything about, or even recognize, the fact that filing a tax return without professional help has become impossible for most taxpayers. Second, it would eliminate the alternative minimum tax. That tax is a monument to a federal government that is so addicted to revenue increases that it can’t bring itself to repeal an abomination of a tax that was initially enacted to try to punish a handful of taxpayers who weren’t paying enough to suit the government.
The income tax in its current form is worse than just a monument to government inefficiency. It is doing significant harm to the country. Fixing it might be the best way for the Congress to restore some measure of confidence in that body's ability to effectively govern the country.
DON’T LET THE PERFECT BE THE ENEMY OF THE GOOD WHEN IT COMES TO SIMPLIFYING THE FEDERAL INCOME TAX
The House of Representatives majority caucus has unveiled a tax reform proposal that could be called dramatic, except it doesn’t really contain any new ideas as far as I can tell. It is dramatic only in that it would represent a significant change from the status quo. It would dramatically simplify the individual income tax.
Because it would represent a significant change, and because the effect of the change would not be uniform across the spectrum of taxpayers (which would of course be impossible), the critics are already out in force, pointing out how the proposal would disproportionately impact their favored constituencies. You could say that if it gets enough criticism from across the spectrum, that means it’s probably a pretty good proposal.
RANDY CALIFORNIA’S ESTATE COULDN’T PROVE THAT JIMMY PAGE STOLE THE OPENING CHORD PROGRESSION FOR “STAIRWAY”
Apparently it’s tough to prove that if someone else used the same chord progression in their song that you used in yours, they must have copied it from you. That’s my takeaway from the verdict in the Led Zeppelin copyright case, announced today.
I can’t help wondering, though: how much time do you have to make a claim for copyright infringement? Stairway to Heaven was released in 1971, the guy whose estate is claiming copyright infringement died in 1997, and the lawsuit wasn’t filed until 2014. I’m sure our intellectual property guru could explain how the lawsuit wasn’t barred by a statute of limitations, but I can’t.
Cross-posted at my music blog.
Things are going to change, that’s for sure. There’s a discussion on how things might change, and what it might mean for real estate, at the Antiplanner blog.
I just hope when I do have the opportunity to handle an estate that owns a Picasso, the IRS doesn’t do what it’s apparently been doing lately to estates that have valuable works of art: claiming dramatically higher values than the appraised values submitted by the estate administrators, resulting in substantially increased estate tax liabilities.
Couldn't pass up linking to Ace of Spades HQ for a post of a meme with minions.
Back to business next week.
THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN AN EASY ONE
No, the government can’t put a moratorium on the development of your property because it intends to condemn it for a highway at some undetermined time in the future. Duh.
THE NUTS AND BOLTS OF A PET TRUST
This week I have been writing about pet trusts. As I discussed in my earlier posts, there are other ways to provide for the care of your pets if they outlive you, but a pet trust is probably the most comprehensive planning method for that situation.
How do you set up a trust for your pet? The Arizona statutes don’t give a lot of detail, but they do provide enough guidance that a competent estate planning lawyer should be able to put together a pet trust without too much difficulty.
I should remind my readers at this point that the Arizona statutes on this subject, contained in the Arizona probate code and the Arizona trust code, are based on uniform code provisions. This means that many other states have similar laws. As with any estate planning situation, of course, the planning must be done in compliance with the specific provisions of law in your state.
The statute in the Arizona probate code starts with this statement: “A trust for the care of a designated domestic or pet animal is valid.” It was necessary to say that because without it, a pet trust would not be valid. Without that statement, you couldn’t make an animal the beneficiary of a trust.
The probate code provision doesn’t expressly say how you can establish a pet trust, but a pet trust can apparently be established either in a will or in a separate document that meets the requirements for establishing a trust.
The trust must be for the care of one or more animals that are alive during the lifetime of the person establishing the trust. The trust terminates when the last animal provided for in the trust dies.
The trust should identify who is to be the trustee, although the court can appoint a trustee if one isn’t named. The statues are explicit that the trust assets must be used only for the purposes of the trust,
The court may reduce the amount of property transferred to the pet trust if it determines that the amount substantially exceeds the amount required for the intended use. Any trust assets left at the termination of the trust, or any excess if the court reduces the amount of the trust, will be distributed according to the provisions of the trust instrument. If the trust instrument doesn’t say what happens to assets left at termination, the assets go to the residuary beneficiaries of the transferor’s will, or in the absence of residuary beneficiaries, to the transferor’s heirs.
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.