For all of our existence, one common misconception among the general public was that estate planning was only for rich people and “Trust Fund Babies”. However, this notion could not be further away from the truth, especially when considering the recent changes we have seen in family dynamics and financial opportunities.
The three major financial institutions of the United States consist of the banking industry, stock brokerage industry, and insurance industry. Under the Glass-Steagall Act, each major industry could not engage in activities that fell within the scope of the other two industries. In 1999, the Glass-Steagall Act was repealed and the door was left open for each major industry to conduct activities and transactions that fell within the scope of the other two industries. This in turn increased the probability for both unlimited prosperity and financial collapse.
The second part of this two-part article (View Part 1)analyzes financial planning from an estate planning standpoint. Financial planning is an essential component of estate planning. The amount of wealth you generate prior to retiring will generally determine whether you will have a comfortable retirement and have anything left over to pass on to your descendants after your death. When choosing a retirement plan, you ideally want some combination of the following tax efficient strategies: for the contributions to be tax deductible, the appreciation to be tax deferred, and the distributions to be tax-free.
Let’s begin by debunking an age-old myth that somehow estate planning is only pertinent to those people who have a significant amount of wealth. There are many compelling reasons for anyone to have an estate plan. One such reason is to prevent the courts from making decisions on your behalf, especially in such a manner that you would probably not want to be made in the first place. In addition to overriding your wishes, the court proceedings may come with a heavy price tag and take a very long time before all the dust settles.
In essence, effective estate planning solves matters of life and death. It allows you to decide who will make health care and financial decisions in the event a mental or physical condition renders you disabled or incapacitated. It also allows you to determine who will inherit your assets and when those assets will be inherited. Similarly, estate planning allows you to determine who will inherit your business in the event you are disabled, incapacitated or dead. It also provides you with the tools you need to protect your children and any family members with special needs.
What Is Estate Planning?
An estate plan includes trusts, wills, health care directives, financial directives, guardian designations, and living wills. However, proper estate planning does not merely include the delivery of these documents, but the process of identifying the objectives sought by our clients and putting in place the strategies that help them achieve their goals. Thus, estate planning primarily consists of the advice and guidance that you get from a professional who can be a steward in the preservation of your wealth.
In a nutshell, our firm takes the comprehensive approach to estate planning, which includes not only the methods in which a person’s assets are distributed upon death, but also the implementation of strategies that preserve the most amount of wealth during one’s life. It follows that the most amount of wealth that can be preserved during one’s life can increase the overall value of the estate, which the beneficiaries will receive upon one’s death. Our firm also uses the various tools available in the legal realm in order to protect the assets of our clients from creditors and predators.
What Is Included In Business Succession Planning?
A business owner needs to consider various strategies in order to prepare for the expected and unexpected legal challenges. To do so, the business owner should generally form a separate entity, such as a corporation. Next, whether the business is owned by one person or multiple partners, every business owner must consider planning for an exit strategy. Moreover, the business owner must understand the effect of certain provisions in the contracts he has entered into or those that were entered into on his behalf, including by agents. Furthermore, the business owner must ensure that the scope of an agency relationship, if any, is specifically defined.
Why Does A Business Owner Need Advance Planning?
1. The Status of the Business
If a business owner does not form and operate under a valid legal entity, a number of issues may arise. For tax purposes, the business owner may end up paying significantly higher taxes if certain types of entities are not properly formed. For example, it’s sometimes more advantageous to pay taxes as a shareholder of a corporation rather than as an individual operating under a sole proprietorship.
Tax planning involves a wide range of strategic decisions and implementations which affect your overall estate plan. In fact, there is arguably no other area of law that is more complex and that contains as many guidelines as the U.S. tax law. In addition, there are also State and Local Tax laws (SALT). The impact of SALT has become even more significant ever since the passage of the Tax Cuts And Jobs Act, primarily because the legislation now limits the SALT deductions to only $10,000.
The understanding of such complicated set of rules is a fundamental key to tax planning. Proper tax planning is a proactive measure that one takes to arrange and rearrange their finances in order to limit his or her tax liability to the lowest amount allowed by law. The confusion often arises because people often make the mistake of thinking that by hiring somebody to file their taxes they are engaging in proactive tax planning. However, the filing of tax returns is usually a reactive activity, not a proactive one.
Corporations are treated as separate entities under the law. They generally have the capacity to perform the same types of functions that individuals perform including entering into contracts and promulgating or defending lawsuits. The primary incentive for forming a corporation is to grant limited liability to its owners.
One common misconception among the business community is that by merely filing proper documents with the state, the business owner has established a legally enforceable corporation. However, compliance with formalities is essential in order for the corporation to be granted with the status of limited liability and protect its owners from personal liability. Formalities are especially critical for corporations since they generally contain more rigorous standards than other business entities, such as LLCs.
WHAT STEPS ARE REQUIRED FOR ESTABLISHING A CORPORATION?
The first step required for establishing a corporation is filing an application for formation (e.g., Articles of Incorporation) with the state. It is generally recommended to establish the corporation in the state in which the business is going to operate. Of course, the corporation can do business in other states provided that the state allows the entity to operate in its state. However, a corporation will be required to file tax returns and pay taxes in any state that mandates state corporate income tax. In addition, different states have different requirements for other forms of compliance (e.g., Statement of Information).