Long Term Care Choices

Driving to a lunch appointment with a friend, I heard the wonderful Up to Date program Tuesday on KCUR (Kansas City’s NPR affiliate), an elder law attorney friend gave some great advice to families considering long term care and elder law issues. As our family members and loved ones age, we can support them by having open and honest conversations about long term care and elder law issues and helping ensure their legal affairs are in order to give care and dignity to the final years of life.

The long term care discussion reminded me of this WSJ article. Anecdotally and in my practice, I’ve seen a real mix of retirees selling their homes and downsizing. Some people want to downsize long before they have any serious physical ailments or health related issues. Others may insist on living in their homes until their 80s or 90s, including spending for in-home health care services as needed (an expensive option). Ultimately the question hinges on (1) how much a client wants to stay in their home as their health issues arise and youthful vigor deteriorates, (2) how much in-home care they can afford, and (3) the family’s comfort level with the decision (including proximity to the elderly relative). 

My firm’s estate planning documents (wills/trusts, living wills, and durable medical and financial powers of attorney) include elder law protections standard and can be custom tailored (for free) to reflect a client’s beliefs, convictions, and long term care wishes. Here’s a basic explanation of the core estate planning and elder law documents. If you or a loved one need to consider your estate plan or elder law issues, call me (913-707-9220) or email me (steve@johnsonlawkc.com) for a free, convenient consultation. Our passion and expertise is serving you and your family’s legal needs.

(c) 2014, Stephen M. Johnson, Esq.


Estate Planning Like a Billionaire

Bloomberg has this fascinating article exploring grantor retained annuity trusts (GRATs) and grantor retained income trusts (GRITs) and how they are used by very wealthy business owners to pass assets to the family without incurring estate or gift taxes. (Longtime readers may recall our discussion of Mitt Romney’s large scale estate planning for his family’s estimated $750 million fortune.) Many estate planning attorneys and accountants make a sport of devising creative methods to help clients save money and pass their wealth on to future generations. The ideas aren’t illegal or unethical, they simply utilize gaps in the IRS Code that Congress and/or the Treasury haven’t solved that yield big savings to clients when multiplied by millions of shares in a given company. Estate planners are careful when practicing on the cutting edge of tax law to gauge how much risk the client is willing to take on (e.g. whether the IRS will void a transaction and send the client a tax bill), how much money is at stake, and how reliable/tested a technique is. While the estate planning techniques discussed in the Bloomberg article have been blessed by various authorities (the IRS, the Tax Court, or others), many advanced trust or tax techniques are in a legal grey area – we know X is illegal and we know Y is OK, but what about something between X and Y?

In law school, the first day of estate planning class with Prof. Martin Dickinson, he told us a story about a family business in a small town where a father gave his wife and each of his 4 children a 20% stake in the family business (worth about $5,000 each at the time, the annual gift tax exemption) in 1953. 60 years later, that family business is called Wal Mart and each 20% stake is worth $20 billion. So $100 billion was transferred without estate or gift tax liability. Sam Walton relates the story in his autobiography Made in America and credits his fraternity brother and banker, R. Crosby Kemper Jr., of UMB Bank with helping him develop the business. Here’s Bloomberg’s visual of some of the tricks of the estate planning world.

Inheriting in trust is better than inheriting money in your individual name, as it protects your inheritance from lawsuits, creditors, and divorcing spouses, among other unpleasant life surprises. Inheriting in trust using a discretionary trust provides asset protection. Asset protection uses a separate entity (e.g. a trust or LLC) to hold an asset and protect it from your creditors, divorcing spouses, spendthrift kids, or others. Asset protection trusts are not allowed under Kansas law (see K.S.A. 33-101), but Kansas and Missouri residents can use a Missouri trust to protect assets for generations. Missouri (unlike Kansas) welcomes dynasty trusts – irrevocable trusts designed to pass wealth across families for generations – and allows them to last indefinitely. For clients who anticipate inheriting over $400,000, we recommend a Missouri inheritor’s trust. An inheritor’s trust allows you to protect the assets and keep them off your balance sheet for tax purposes (so you don’t have to worry about estate, gift, or generation-skipping taxes) while having the assets available for your use and enjoyment.

My firm has experience working with individuals and families to serve their business, estate planning, and nonprofit/charitable/philanthropic needs. I enjoy working with a variety of clients – ranging from single young professionals with minimal assets to multimillionaire business owners with complex trusts. My firm has strong relationships with local and national trust companies to help administer all types and ranges of trusts. If my law firm can help you or your family with your estate planningelder lawasset protectionbusiness law needs, or digital estate planning, including a Walton GRAT, a GRIT, or other sophisticated trust planning, call me (913-707-9220) or email me (steve@johnsonlawkc.com) for a free, convenient appointment.

IRS CIRCULAR 230 Disclosure: Unless expressly stated otherwise, any U.S. federal tax advice contained in this blog post or links is not intended or written by Johnson Law KC LLC to be used to avoid IRS or other tax penalties, and any tax advice cannot be used to avoid penalties that may be imposed by the IRS.

(c) 2013, Stephen M. Johnson, Esq.

Trusts on trial

Trust litigation is a growing trend in the estate planning and financial world. A beneficiary may think she’s entitled to more money, accountings, or information that the trustee has given her. A trustee may make a controversial investment or distribution decision that the beneficiary doesn’t agree with and believes violates the trustee’s fiduciary duties. A grantor may not be happy with how the trustee is doing things. On the international trust litigation front, Bloomberg has this article about a recent decision by the New South Wales Supreme Court where a daughter and heir to a large fortune lost her bid to keep the trust dispute in private arbitration, so the trust (all $4 billion of it) is going to trial.

Trusts have traditionally been private law matters, set up by individuals or families for the benefit of family members and friends. Everyone involved hopes that a trust never goes to court or trial, but if the trust does get dragged into court, the parties need good counsel from experienced estate and trust litigation attorneys. Because trusts often involve sensitive family financial matters, details of closely held business operations, complex family dynamics and relationships, and may hinge on state trust or fiduciary duty law, trust litigation is best handled by estate planning attorneys, not general practice trial lawyers. If my firm, Johnson Law KC LLC, can help you or your family in the estate planning process, or in estate or trust litigation, call (913-707-9220) or email me (steve@johnsonlawkc.com) for a complementary consultation.

(c) 2013, Stephen M. Johnson, Esq.

Heckerling Insights: Part 3

Here are some interesting insights from our colleagues at the Heckerling Institute from this year’s conference. Among other topics, beneficiary defective inheritor’s trusts (BDITs), generation skipping tax planning (GST), trust protectors, qualified personal residence trusts (QPRTs), grantor trusts, and various probate planning issues are discussed. If we can help you and your family with any of these issues or address other estate planning or small business issues you have, please call (913-707-9220) or email us (steve@johnsonlawkc.com) for a convenient appointment.

Our firm, Johnson Law KC LLC, is developing a practice in Missouri inheritor’s trust and other beneficiary defective inheritor’s trusts (BDITs) and excited about sharing this new tool with clients to help meet their estate planning needs now and for generations to come.

(c) 2012, Stephen M. Johnson, Esq.