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Estate Planning / Asset & Wealth Preservation

Author: Linda Grear

December 13th, 2013

As 2013 comes to a close, have you made your New Year’s resolution yet? For many of us, estate planning is something we realize we should do, but somehow manage to keep postponing. With this in mind, you consider what estate planning is really all about. In essence, estate planning is about managing and protecting your assets during your lifetime and controlling distribution following your death so you may leave a legacy for your loved ones.

Effective estate planning may reduce estate taxes, which will benefit you and your family financially. In the face of ever-changing tax and Medicaid laws, there is growing concern about how to best protect assets and secure them for future generations. Time pressures, as well as issues confronting our own mortality, make many of us reluctant to deal with these matters. However, in estate planning, timing can be critical.

Anticipating your potential estate tax liability is a great place to start planning. The estate exemption equivalent for New York State residents is currently $1 million. The first $1 million of assets are exempt from NYS estate tax and any amounts over $1 million will be subject to NYS estate tax. Estate taxes are due within nine months after the date of death. Therefore, advance planning is key to address the tax liability.

For the year 2014, the Federal estate tax exemption will be $5,340,000. Any assets over that threshold will be subject to Federal estate taxes.

Below is a brief overview of the various trusts and estate planning techniques that may potentially shield your assets from future estate tax liability.

Last Will and Testament with Disclaimer (credit shelter trust) provisions: This technique provides a married couple the opportunity to utilize the federal estate tax exemptions of each spouse while giving the surviving spouse the opportunity to elect how much he/she shall receive from the deceased spouse’s estate. Any assets disclaimed or renounced by the surviving spouse are held in trust for the benefit of the surviving spouse. The trust assets are distributed to the ultimate beneficiaries only upon the death of the surviving spouse. The use of a Disclaimer Will may result in significant estate tax savings.

Annual Gift Tax Exclusion: One of the simplest ways to reduce the size of your estate would be to begin making annual gift tax exclusion gifts. An annual exclusion from gift taxes applies to each person to whom you make a gift. In 2014, you will be able to gift up to $14,000 each to any number of individuals without those gifts being taxable.


  • Allows you an opportunity to reduce the size of your taxable estate.
  • No gift tax returns are required if the gifts are $14,000 or less each year.
  • You can make these gifts each year, thereby dramatically reducing the size of your estate.
  • Receipt of the gift is not taxable to the recipient (unless the item gifted was a tax-deferred asset).

Payment of Tuition and Medical Expenses: Tuition payments made directly to a medical or educational institution are not taxable gifts. The payment must be made directly to the medical or educational institution providing the services. Please note that the exclusion covers tuition payments but not books, supplies, board and dorm fees.


  • Allows you an opportunity to reduce the size of your taxable estate.
  • Allows you an opportunity to make additional gifts over and above the annual gift tax exclusion.
  • This unlimited exclusion can be used for all levels of education.
  • This exclusion is permitted for tuition expenses of full-time or part-time students.

Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust: A life insurance trust is a vehicle by which the grantor gifts money to the trust and the trust, in turn, buys a life insurance policy on the life of the grantor. When the grantor dies, the life insurance proceeds are paid to the trust and distributed to the beneficiaries designated within the trust. This is a good wealth replacement tool to offset projected estate taxes to be paid.


  • Provides a liquid pool of funds to pay estate taxes, which are due within nine months of date of death.
  • The value of the life insurance policy is not included in the grantor’s estate because it was not owned by the grantor.

Education/General Purpose Living Trust: This is a lifetime trust which allows a parent or grandparent to establish a trust to be used towards education, training and/or the general welfare of the beneficiary. A person can specify the purposes for which the assets are used, as well as utilize the $14,000 annual gift tax exclusion amount.

The above items are just of few of the available estate planning techniques. In estate planning, timing is critical for the proper protection of your assets to ensure security for future generations and starting sooner rather than later is most important. If you have any questions about the above material, or wish to speak to an attorney, please contact HoganWillig at (716)636-7600. HoganWillig is located at 2410 North Forest Road in Amherst, New York 14068, with additional offices in Buffalo, Lancaster and Lockport.

Everybody has a Will. But, perhaps you don’t know what yours says?

Author: Linda Grear

May 1st, 2013

“Everybody has a Will. But, perhaps you don’t know what yours says?”

In New York State, everybody has a plan to distribute assets after death. Without a written Will Last Will and Testament, your assets will pass-on by what is commonly referred to as “intestate distribution” or “intestacy.”

There are four ways to pass on property when you die:

  1. by operation of law – joint tenancy;
  2. by contract – beneficiary designation;
  3. by Last Will and Testament – written instructions; or
  4. by intestacy – statute determines how assets are distributed following death.

Intestate distribution is made to distributees, i.e. the nearest level of blood (including half-blood) relatives. Unless you change that distribution by leaving a valid Last Will and Testament document, your estate will pass as follows:

  1. Survived by spouse and issue (“issue” means children or next lineal descendents)
    • Spouse gets first $50,000 and ½ of the residue of the estate
    • Issue equally share the rest;
  2. Survived by spouse and no issue, then the spouse inherits all;
  3. Survived by issue but no spouse, the issue equally share the estate;
  4. No spouse or issue, then to your parents, then to siblings, then to nieces/nephews, etc… , and so on, all the way to first cousins once removed;
  5. If there are no family members beyond that, your estate will pass to the State of New York.

There are many other rules and nuances to intestate distribution that are beyond the scope of this short article, but, remember, if you do not leave a Last Will and Testament for yourself, total strangers could inherit your life’s savings.

With a Will, YOU decide who receives your property and in what proportions. Your may create a trust for children or family members with special needs. You may nominate guardians for your minor children. If you don’t make this decision for yourself, New York State law will make those decisions for you.

Wills are not costly or complicated if you have relatively simple needs and the cost is an investment that is well-worth the effort to ensure your wishes are honored. If you have any questions about this article, or wish to speak to an attorney, please contact HoganWillig at 716-636-7600. HoganWillig is located at 2410 North Forest Road in Amherst, New York 14068, with additional offices in Buffalo, Lancaster and Lockport.

Basic Estate Planning Documents

Author: Linda Grear

October 5th, 2012

There are three basic estate planning documents that all individuals should consider when making a life plan strategy. The specific content of each document will depend on personal and family circumstances, but, everyone should consider having the following documents in place:

Last Will and Testament – A Last Will and Testament is a legal document that includes your personal instructions regarding the distributions of your assets upon your death. The preparation of a Will allows you to designate the beneficiaries of your estate. Your Will may also name a person to serve as executor of your estate.

A Will may also name a guardian for any minor children and designate the age when the children will receive their inheritance. Parents of a child with disabilities can also express their preference relative to their child’s future care, education, job training and living arrangements and even establish a trust to supplement governmental benefits received by the disabled child.

Power of Attorney – A Power of Attorney allows you to appoint an agent to make decisions concerning your legal and financial matters in the event you cannot do so for yourself. If something catastrophic happens and you become incapacitated, having a Power of Attorney in place can avoid the alternative of having a Court appoint a guardian, this could take several months and cost several thousand dollars.

Health Care Proxy / Living Will – A Health Care Proxy/Living Will allows you to designate an agent to make health care decisions in the event you are unable to do so yourself. It also allows you to document your wishes concerning treatment in the event you become terminally ill.

The simple act of planning ahead can assure that your personal wishes are followed.

What If You Die Without a Will?

April 3rd, 2012

Every person who lives in New York State dies in one of two ways: with a Will (testate) or without a Will (intestate).

If a person dies with a Will, that decedent leaves a document directing the disposition of what they own and naming a person to administer their estate (the Executor).  A Will can name a guardian for a child of the person signing the Will (the Testator), in case the child’s parents are deceased. It can provide for special administration of property for the benefit of a child or a disabled person.

Everybody has a Will. What, you don’t know what yours says?

Author: Hogan Willig

February 15th, 2012

In New York State, everybody has a plan to pass assets on their death. Without a written Will your assets will pass on by what is commonly referred to as “Intestate Distribution” or “Intestacy.” More formally by Article 4 of the New York Estates Powers and Trusts Law (the “EPTL”) – Descent and Distribution of an Intestate Estate.

There are four ways to pass on property when you die: 1) By operation of Law –like joint tenants; 2) By contract – like a beneficiary designation; 3) By a Last Will and Testament – everything left after 1 and 2; or 4) Intestacy – which controls the same items as your Will. (All other states also have laws of intestacy with the same basic rules but may differ in who may inherit. Our focus is New York.)

Intestate distribution will be made to distributees, the nearest level of blood (including half blood) relative. So, unless you change it by a Will, your estate will pass as follows:

Spring Cleaning? Time to Review Important Estate Planning Documents

Author: Hogan Willig

March 9th, 2011

Issues to Consider When Evaluating the Need for a New or Revised Will / Estate Planning Documents

As spring rolls around and we get ready for warmer weather, our thoughts turn to spring cleaning. Take this time to clean up your current estate planning documents and determine if they need to be revised. It is suggested that your estate planning documents be reviewed every five years to make sure they still comply with your wishes. If any of the categories listed below apply to you, it may be a good idea to embrace the season and make the necessary changes to your Last Will and Testament, Living Will/Health Care Proxy or Power of Attorney documents.


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