New Estate Tax Provisions

With the recent agreement over the much talked about Fiscal Cliff, Congress has come to a resolution on new estate tax provisions for 2013.  Under the new law, the life-time exemption amount remains $5.0 million.  The exemption will also be adjusted for inflation each year going forward.  This means in 2013, the inflation adjusted amount is $5,250,000.00 for individuals and $10,500,000.00 for married couples.

Less generous was Congress’s treatment of the maximum estate tax rate.  The maximum tax rate for estates increased from 35 percent to 40 percent under the new law.  However, although Congress did raise the maximum tax rate 5%, the increase it is not nearly as severe as the 20% increase which would have automatically gone into effect had Congress not reached an agreement.

Finally, Congress has made the portability provisions of the Bush Tax Cuts permanent. Portability allows married couples to use their spouse’s unused life-time exemption amount after their death.  This effectively means that married couples, with proper estate tax planning, can pass $10,500,000.00 free of estate taxes at their death, regardless of which spouse ultimately transfers the property.

If you have questions regarding the estate tax and how it could effect your estate plan, contact the experienced attorneys at Ford + Bergner today.

Estate Planning Tools Apps Available for iPad and Other Tablets

In order to keep up with the ever-evolving technological world, many industries have made the move to different platforms to reach their target consumer.  The Wealth Management and Estate Planning industry in no different in this regard.

The American College of Trusts and Estate Counsel (ACTEC) has released a Wealth Advisor iPad app to allow consumers access to their products via the tablet.  The app allows uses to search for trust and estate practitioners within the United States and aboard.  The app carries the most cited and notable estate planning laws and regulations, which are presented in a state-by-state summary. Additionally, the app shows the latest application federal interest rates, short-term, mid-term, and long-term federally adjusted rates, and the Section 7520 rates.

Apple’s iPad and other technological advances allow estate planners and wealth managers to reach their consumer on many more levels.  When paired with knowledgeable legal counsel, these apps can lead to a more satisfying client experience.

To learn about the ways Ford + Bergner LLP can help with your estate planning needs contact our offices in Houston or Dallas today.

Trust Accountings: When are you entitled to see what is going on?

Many times we receive calls from individuals who are beneficiaries to trusts, but have not been told what is going on with the trust.  Every beneficiary is entitled to demand a trust accounting, and pursuant to Section 113.151 of the Texas Trust Code the Trustee must provide an accounting upon demand.  In order to obtain the trust accounting the beneficiary must take action in accordance with the provisions of the Trust Code.

A demand must be made in writing that all beneficiaries be provided a written statement of account annually.  Once the demand is made the trustee has 90 days to prepare and deliver the accounting to the beneficiaries.  If the trustee fails to produce an accounting after the 90th day, any beneficiary may file a suit to compel the trustee to account with the Court.

One of the primary duties of a trustee is to keep full, accurate and orderly records concerning the status of the trust estate and all acts performed as trustee.  However, absent a demand, a trustee is not required to issue an accounting.

If you are a trust beneficiary and are concerned about your rights, contact Ford + Bergner LLP today.