Month: August 2021

Do You Need Both a Will and Trust?

Wills and Trusts

When it comes to estate planning, every case is as diverse and unique as the people involved. Luckily, modern estate planning offers a wide array of tools to accommodate virtually anybody’s goals. What is right for you will largely depend on the nature of your estate and those who you want to benefit from it.

Many clients come to us feeling torn between setting up a trust or relying solely on a will, but there is no need to choose between one or the other; a single estate planning can, and often does, include both a will and a trust (or multiple trusts).

Creating a Will

As most people know, a will is a written document that communicates how a person wants their property distributed after they pass away. It can be as simple or complex as the testator (the person who makes the will) wants it to be.

If a person dies without a will—“intestate” is the legal term for this—the state laws of intestacy provide a generic hierarchy for transferring their property. For example, if the person had a spouse, all the property goes to him or her; if not, it will be distributed equally among their children; if there are no children, then to the decedent’s parents, etc.

Of course, many people want a more custom-tailored estate plan than is offered by the laws of intestacy. For example, they may wish to leave specific property to specific people or leave property to a spouse for the rest of their life (called a life estate) before passing it on to their children. A will can accomplish all this and more when drafted by an experienced attorney. It can even be used to create a trust.

Different Types of Trusts

A trust is a legal arrangement whereby property is held on behalf of and for the benefit of another. Here’s an example: a person owns an apartment building; she dies, and by the terms of her will, if she dies before her child reaches the age of 21, the apartment building will be held in a trust until that time. The trust is its own legal entity, and all of the assets are managed by a trustee. The trustee has a legal obligation to maintain the building, pay taxes, etc. (paid for by the trust); depending on the terms of the trust, the monthly rental income may be paid out to the child, invested in a college fund, or whatever else the parent wished.

There are quite a few types of trusts, but they are separated into two main categories: revocable and irrevocable trusts. As the names imply, a revocable trust can be revoked by the trustor after its creation, while an irrevocable trust cannot. A trust established by a will is by definition an irrevocable trust, as the trustor is no longer around to revoke it. As to so-called “living trusts,” there are many reasons a person might create one or choose one type over another. For example, they may be looking to minimize their tax exposure or ensure that a child with diminished capabilities is cared for.

Identifying the right kind of trust and drafting a document that withstands legal scrutiny can be a complicated process. Therefore, you should consult an estate planning attorney.

Finding the Right Balance

With so many options available, estate planning involves choosing the right combination to suit your needs. The best way to do this is to sit down with an attorney who understands this area of law, identify your goals, and craft a plan accordingly. Take the first step today and contact our office to schedule a consultation.

Everything You Need to Know About the 2021 Child Tax Credit

Child Tax Credit

It’s often said that the only two certainties in life are death and taxes; one could probably also add that not only are taxes a certainty, so is Congress’s tendency to make regular changes to tax laws. This year is no different, though. Major adjustments to tax policy are not surprising with a change in presidential administrations and the continued economic hardships caused by COVID-19. One particular change that should be of interest to many households is the Advance Child Tax Credit, which will be limited to the 2021 tax year.

What Is the Child Tax Credit?

The Child Tax Credit is known as a “refundable tax credit” paid to parents for each child under the age of 18. It is refundable because if your overall tax bill is lower than the total amount of the credit, you will receive the remaining balance in the form of a tax return payment. For example, if your total tax for the year was $4,000, and your total Child Tax Credit was $7,200, you would receive a tax return of $3,200.

This is different from deductions, which reduce your income figure (and thus your total tax), and non-refundable tax credits, which can reduce your tax bill to zero but don’t entitle you to a refund. The Child Tax Credit is a very good deal for parents.

What’s Different in 2021?

The tax credit will be different in two important ways. First, the default amount of the credit has been raised from $2,000 per child to $3,600 per child. Second, this year the IRS will be paying 50% of the credit in monthly payments from July to December 2021. The result is that parents will be receiving checks through the end of the year, but the tax credit they receive when filing their tax return in 2022 will be reduced by half.

Who Will Receive the Advance Child Tax Credit?

The Advance Child Tax Credit will go out automatically to anyone who meets the following conditions:

  1. (a) Filed a tax return in 2019 or 2020 OR (b) didn’t file but gave your income information in 2020 to receive an Economic Impact Payment (stimulus check)
  2. Had your main home in the United States for more than half the year, or file jointly with someone who did
  3. Have a child who will be under 18 at the end of 2021 and who has a Social Security number
  4. Have annual income under a certain amount (the amount of the credit goes down starting at $75,000 annual income for single filers, $112,500 for heads of households, and $150,000 for joint filers)

Parents who meet these conditions should receive a monthly check with no further action. If you neither filed a return in 2019 or 2020 nor gave the IRS your information to receive a stimulus check last year, you can still qualify for the Child Tax Credit. You must first either file a normal tax return or a simplified return available on the IRS website.

If you don’t want to receive the advance payments and prefer the larger tax credit when you file your return next year, you must notify the IRS.

Experienced Tax Attorneys in Southern California

State and federal tax policy is constantly changing, and it’s important to have help from a tax expert to make sure you are gaining the maximum benefit and minimizing your tax bill. Schedule a consultation today, and we’ll help you get the most from your Child Tax Credit and other programs.