Let the IRS Take a Bath for Change

Nobody likes to pay taxes, but most of us like to take baths. Unless the bath is the kind where money flows out of your pocket and down the drain. If you feel like paying taxes is a lot like seeing your money go down the drain, you will be glad to know about an exciting estate planning opportunity that can help make the IRS take a bath after your death instead of your loved ones.

Beware: It’s the Return of the Estate Tax

The good news is that the federal estate tax took a vacation in 2010. The bad news is that it spent the whole year lifting weights and taking steroids. The estate tax is coming back in 2011, as big and bad as it has been in a long time. Now is the time to review your estate plan and make changes that could drastically affect how much of your estate goes to your loved ones, and how much goes to the IRS.

Do You Really Want to be a Trustee?

You were named as successor Trustee of a trust created by a family member or friend, and that person just died. What now? Before you rush in, think about what awaits. Until you sign on the dotted line, the fact that you have been named as a trustee does not obligate you to accept that position. Decide carefully, because once you accept the job, you accept all that goes with it. It is a position of great honor, and it involves great responsibility.

Who Gets My Stuff?

You may have heard the old joke, “where there’s a will … I want to be in it.” That may be true, but is estate planning really all about “who gets my stuff?” Who gets your stuff is important, but when you sift through the reasons for doing estate planning, you may find that identifying who gets your stuff takes a distant back seat to far more important considerations.

A Legacy of Aloha

Estate planning is the process of protecting that which is important and then passing those important things on to our loved ones and future generations. Many concepts that are central to Hawaiian culture are particularly applicable to estate planning. Starting with the concept of ‘ohana (a very inclusive notion of family), all the way through lokahi (a sense of unity — especially appropriate at the passing of a loved one), estate planning and the culture of our islands interweave to form a rich tapestry of aloha.

Don’t Be ‘Buried Alive’

Protecting personal privacy is generally a good thing, but can also have unexpected results. Consider the plight of a 90-year-old lady (“Nancy”) who was the life of her weekly exercise classes. Nancy was very well known for youthful outlook and zest for life.
So when Nancy missed class one day, her friends tried to contact her. All they were able to learn was that she had been moved to a nursing home.

Hiring a Private Caregiver Can Be Tricky

When hiring a caregiver, you may be tempted to try to make the process as simple as possible by treating the caregiver as a “private contractor.” You tell the person “I will pay you so much an hour, and you deal with the IRS and the State when it comes time to pay taxes.” After all, taking on the responsibilities of withholding taxes (and then paying the taxing authorities), buying Workers’ Compensation insurance, paying Social Security and Medicare tax, and all the rest, can be a real pain. However, the IRS and the State will take the position that the caregiver is an “employee,” that you are an “employer,” and that all the legal obligations that attach to those labels are applicable to your situation.

Mastering Change

Class reunions are poignant reminders of change. With each passing year, our classmates grow a little grayer, perhaps a little balder, and maybe a little more expansive at the midsection. Good thing we are not like our classmates, right? Actually, we are. Father Time is catching up with all of us. That sobering fact should inspire us to reflect each year on our estate plans and whether they still do what we want them to do.