On December 31, 2013, new law went into effect in Michigan allowing parents to gift their real estate to children during the parents' lifetimes without uncapping the taxable value of the property. As a result, several families took advantage of the new law, and parents actually transferred ownership of their homes to their children. However, preparing, signing and recording a deed transferring the ownership is not all that is required with respect to a transfer of ownership of the property.
Taxable Gifts Are Required to be Reported
Individuals sometime assume estate plans only deal with future concerns like planning for retirement, providing an inheritance for loved ones, specifying long-term care provisions, avoiding estate taxes and appointing guardians for minor children … all the "someday" or "what if" stuff.
While the statements above are true, your estate plan also eliminates (or at the very least reduces) issues that are usually present now – namely, stress and worry.
I recently represented a client who was appointed as successor trustee of his father’s trust. The father, just prior to his death, held a “family meeting” to announce his intentions to change certain distribution of asset provisions in the trust that would apply after his death. The family meeting was held, the changes were announced but nothing was done to actually amend the father’s trust.
Upon the father’s death, my client’s brother, whose share was decreased by the father in the family meeting, sued my client to obtain his original share of the trust assets.
In my experience assisting families with succession planning for legacy assets such as their family business, cottage or farm, the biggest challenge I’ve found is making sure there is enough money to pay for the immediate obligations after the current owner’s death. These obligations can be in the form of taxes, possible interruptions to business operations, and revenue and debt service. The obligations also may extend to longer-term capital needs such as paying the bills for these assets.
People view life insurance as a contingency plan if something bad happens in life. That view, however, is not the whole picture when it comes to considering life insurance as a planning tool. Life insurance can be a solution to several challenges in estate, business and cottage planning situations. As such, it is not only a contingency plan, but it can be a primary tool to serve a specific purpose in a person's overall succession plan.
Periodically Dan Penning will appear in the local media to discuss various matters relating to Cottage Law, Estate Planning, Business Succession Planning and Asset Protection.
Families Preserve Their Best Memories of the Family Cottage Through Succession Planning
Spring triggers the annual migration of cottage/cabin owners back to their summer homes after the long, cold winter – or, for those more fortunate, spending time at warm climate retreats. Spring also brings the excitement and anticipation for a new season of warm, muggy nights, fishing, watersports, campfires, and the constant coming and going of family members and guests at the family cottage.
As life circumstances change (birth, marriage, divorce, death), it may become necessary to make changes to your estate planning documents. If estate planning documents are not kept up-to-date, they can become useless. The best way to make changes to estate planning documents is to either restate an estate plan in its entirety or make specific changes to documents like a will through a codicil or a trust through an amendment to the trust.
One of the most significant tax advantages to owning a home comes at the back end of ownership, when you decide to sell it for a profit. A homeowner can exclude up to $250,000 of such profit from their federal capital gains tax. For married couples filing a joint tax return, the exclusion jumps to $500,000. This big tax break, however, does come with some basic requirements. It applies to the sale of only a “principal residence,” not a vacation home or investment property.