Published: August 4, 2016

Many books and articles talk about the ongoing transfer of business interests from one generation to the next within families. One of the most valuable techniques in that process is the ability to transfer business interests at discounted values, and by doing so to transfer more value within the existing gift and estate tax exemptions. Discounts of substantial amount have been based on the lack of marketability of closely held business interests and the fact that they generally represent only a minority interest in the business, and therefore do not permit control of the business.

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Published: March 11, 2016

Many people who have been successful in their life endeavors turn their attention to the well-being of the next generation or two in their families. They have sufficient wealth for their own needs, but would like to do what they can to make life better for children and grandchildren. It is important to think of estate planning as a multi-generational project. This means more than wills for the parents. It's a process that includes how retirement plan and IRA assets and other employment-related benefits will pass among members of the succeeding generations.

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Published: October 7, 2014

Several sessions of the US Congress have eventually passed provisions permitting contribution of IRA amounts to charities. It’s always been a limited right, applicable only to those who have reached age 70 1/2, limited in amount to $100,000, and somewhat limited as to what charities could receive it. It’s really more symbolic than anything else, because anyone can withdraw from an IRA, distribute the funds to a charity and get an income tax deduction. The benefit of a charitable IRA rollover was that the amount withdrawn was not included in income.

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Published: May 30, 2014

I was reading a magazine article about a well-known (to others) author, whose books are semi-autobiographical. In the course of reviewing his life, the article noted that he had inherited a substantial sum of money through his grandmother when he was 18. According to the article, he apparently used much of it to buy drugs. The article mentioned his grandmother and other members of his family, and I realized that the trust through which he received the money was set up by lawyers in this law firm and its predecessor, more than 100 years ago.

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Published: May 20, 2014

A federal judge has issued a lengthy opinion striking down Pennsylvania’s ban on same sex marriage. Such a ruling may be appealed, so we don’t know the final result yet. But there is a significant tax consequence to the downfall of this ban, and it relates to Pennsylvania Inheritance Tax. The Inheritance Tax is based on who receives the assets, not who leaves them. This means that the tax rate differs depending on who inherits. Assets that pass between spouses are free of tax, assets passing to children are taxed at 4 1/2%, and assets passing to unrelated persons are taxed at 15%.

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Published: April 23, 2014

We’ve discussed pet trusts before, but here is a tale guaranteed to make your fur stand on end, if you’re a cat. An older woman in a nursing home wanted to ensure that her cat was well taken care of after she was gone, so she planned to set up a $450,000 trust fund for its benefit. Not Leona Helmsley money, but probably sufficient. Some “friends” offered to care for the cat, and are now accused of having used that relationship to loot the funds that were to be used for Purdy Cat, as it was called. The lesson here is to be careful to whom you entrust funds to care for your animals.

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Published: March 2, 2014

A recent article in U.S. News lists six documents everyone should have:

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Published: January 20, 2014

A recent article in the Boston Globe by columnist Hiawatha Bray discusses the life that continues online after we are gone. Information that we have posted online is not automatically deleted at our deaths, and online services might be unwilling to take instructions from next of kin. What to do? The author suggests an inventory of usernames and passwords, which can be given to a family member or friend, with written permission to close accounts. That might not solve the problem completely, but it’s a start.

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Published: November 24, 2013

I recently attended my homecoming at the University of Pennsylvania, and as part of the day’s events there was a program on estate planning for pets. Many people are concerned about what happens to their pets after they are gone, some more concerned than they are about their children. An interesting idea that came out of the seminar was having a card to carry around, giving information about pets and who should be contacted about their care.

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Published: July 2, 2013

A government publication called the Consumer Action Handbook refers to the preparation of a social media will. Many people have online accounts of various types. What happens to them when you die? The owners of the online services may deny family members access to these accounts. What right do family members have to take over or dismantle online accounts of decedents?

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