Warren Street Sits Down with Partner Genene Dunn
At Warren Street, we want to ensure we are continuing our education to give our clients a financial edge. This applies to all aspects of their overall financial picture.
We recently had the opportunity to sit down with one of the partners of the law firm Hunsberger Dunn, LLP, Genene Dunn. During our conversation, we had the chance to talk with her about estate planning, and specifically, building a trust.
Here are some of the issues we discussed, our key takeaways, and some of the nuances we learned regarding trusts and avoiding the probate process.
Who needs a trust and what does it do?
A trust’s primary objective is to avoid probate for the client. Period.
The threshold for probate is $150,000 of real assets, which are defined as physical assets that have value due to their substance. Real assets can be things such as: precious metals, commodities, real estate, land, machinery, or oil, so estate with $150,000 in real assets or more without a trust is subject to probate.
Genene gave the example of $500,000 in real assets with no trust. In this instance, you can expect to pay approximately $26,000 in fees.
Going through probate, both the lawyer and the personal representative (administrator), the person named by the court to handle the estate, are paid according to the fee schedule below. This is why probate can be so expensive.
Not only is probate an expensive process, but it is lengthy as well. The probate system in Orange County is significantly backed up, it could take up to a year to complete the process.
If you have real assets in excess of $150,000, it might be time to start thinking about building your own trust and avoiding the probate process all together.
How do I handle creditors when the trustee has passed?
If the deceased person had debt in their names, then these become debts of the trust. They do not become debts of the beneficiaries.
When handling credit card collections, the collectors have 4 months after the announcement of the death of the trustee to file for a claim for their debt. An announcement of death can be placed in the local newspaper of the trustee. If the credit card companies do not file their claims through the appropriate process within this 4-month window, their claim becomes void and does not need to be paid by the trust.
If there is real property inside the trust, such as real estate, Genene suggested to continue paying the bills that “keep the lights on”, such as utilities and house maintenance services (pool cleaning, gardening, etc.). The reason for this is that the property may eventually be sold and you want it to remain presentable to a prospective buyers.
What about my 401(k) or other outside accounts?
Genene will sometimes gets asked about placing a 401(k) or retirement account inside a trust. This is something that is probably not recommended as these types of accounts have listed beneficiaries. Probate can be avoided if the beneficiaries are named and appropriate forms are completed.
On the other hand, non-retirement or brokerage accounts can be placed inside the trust to then be distributed according to the wishes of the grantor, the person who established the trust.
Another interesting topic was Transfer on Death (TOD) bank accounts. If a TOD is in place, then you can present your bank branch with a Death Certificate, which typically can take 10-12 days to process, before being allowed access to funds. However, if they accounts are held in trust, there would be no delay since a spouse is typically the co-trustee and would be able to act on the account immediately upon death. If there is not a Transfer on Death established or a trust account, then the assets would be subject to probate.
Special Needs Beneficiaries
One of the most interesting things we learned from our conversation was with regard to children or beneficiaries that have special needs. Some of these people receive assistance from the government for their condition, and they can become disqualified from that assistance if they have an interest in the assets of a trust.
It is imperative if you have someone in your life with special needs whom you want to ensure receives assets from your estate, that a special needs trust is established and that it is set up correctly to avoid disqualifying them from government assistance in the future.
As we had mentioned earlier, the main objective of establishing a trust is to avoid probate and the wasted time and expense associated with it. A trust usually runs between $2,000-$3,000 depending on the complexity, but the amount of time and money saved by going through the process can be 8-10x the cost of the trust itself. Not to mention not having to waste time in an Orange County probate system that is already significantly backed up.
If you are concerned about your current estate planning situation, including your current assets, trusts or other aspects of your plan, please feel free to contact us to discuss.
Warren Street Wealth Advisors
Joe Occhipinti is an Investment Advisor Representative of Warren Street Wealth Advisors, a Registered Investment Advisor. Information contained herein does not involve the rendering of personalized investment advice, but is limited to the dissemination of general information. A professional advisor should be consulted before implementing any of the strategies or options presented.
Warren Street Wealth Advisors and its representatives are not attorneys and all information herein should be verified via qualified legal opinion.
Any investments discussed carry unique risks and should be carefully considered and reviewed by you and your financial professional. Past performance may not be indicative of future results. All investment strategies have the potential for profit or loss. Changes in investment strategies, contributions or withdrawals may materially alter the performance, strategy, and results of your portfolio.Historical performance results for investment indexes and/or categories, generally do not reflect the deduction of transaction and/or custodial charges or the deduction of an investment-management fee, the incurrence of which would have the effect of decreasing historical performance results.Economic factors, market conditions, and investment strategies will affect the performance of any portfolio and there are no assurances that it will match or outperform any particular benchmark. Nothing in this commentary is a solicitation to buy, or sell, any securities, or an attempt to furnish personal investment advice. We may hold securities referenced in the blog and due to the static nature of content, those securities held may change over time and trades may be contrary to outdated posts.
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All too often, family wealth fails to last. One generation builds a business – or even a fortune – and it is lost in ensuing decades. Why does it happen, again and again?
It is because families fall prey to serious money blunders – old and new. Classic mistakes are made, and changing times aren’t recognized.
Procrastination. This isn’t simply a matter of failing to plan, but also of failing to respond to acknowledged financial weaknesses.
For example, let’s say we have a multimillionaire named Alan. The named beneficiary of Alan’s six-figure savings account is no longer alive. While Alan knows about this financial flaw, knowledge is one thing and action is another. He realizes he should name another beneficiary, but he never gets around to it. His schedule is busy, and it is an inconvenience.
Sadly, procrastination wins out in the end and as the account lacks a POD beneficiary, those assets end up subject to probate. Then his heirs find out about other lingering financial matters that should have been taken care of regarding his IRA … his real estate holdings … and more.1
Minimal or absent estate planning. Every year, multimillionaires die without any leaving any instructions for the distribution of their wealth – not just rock stars and actors, but also small business owners and entrepreneurs. A 2015 Caring.com survey found that only 56% of American parents have a will or living trust.2
A will may not be enough. Anyone reliant on a will alone risks handing the destiny of their wealth over to a probate judge. The multimillionaire who has a child with special needs, a family history of Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, or a former spouse or estranged children may need more rigorous estate planning. The same is true if he or she wants to endow charities or give grandkids a nice start in life. Is this person a business owner? That factor alone calls for coordinated estate and succession planning.
A finely crafted estate plan has the potential to perpetuate and enhance family wealth for decades, perhaps generations. Without it, heirs may have to deal with probate and a painful opportunity cost – the lost potential for tax-advantaged growth and compounding of those assets.
The lack of a “family office.” Decades ago, the wealthiest American households included offices: a staff of handpicked financial professionals worked within the mansion, supervising a family’s entire financial life. While the traditional “family office” has disappeared, the concept is as relevant as ever. Today, select wealth management firms emulate this model: in an ongoing relationship distinguished by personal and responsive service, they consult families about investments, provide reports and assist in decision-making. If your financial picture has become too complex to address on your own, this could be a wise choice for your family.
Technological flaws. Hackers can hijack email accounts and send phony messages to banks, brokerages and financial advisors greenlighting asset transfers. Social media can help you build your business, but it can also lend personal information to identity thieves who want access to digital and tangible assets.
Sometimes a business or family installs a security system that proves problematic – so much so that it is turned off half the time. Unscrupulous people have ways of learning about that. Maybe they are only one or two degrees separated from you.
No long-term strategy in place. When a family wants to sustain wealth for decades to come, heirs have to understand the how and why. All family members have to be on the same page, or at least read that page. If family communication about wealth tends to be more opaque than transparent, the mechanics and purpose of the strategy may never be adequately conveyed.
No decision-making process. In the typical high net worth family, financial decision-making is vertical and top-down. Parents or grandparents may make a decision in private, and it may be years before heirs learn about it or fully understand it. When heirs do become decision makers, it is usually upon the death of the elders.
Horizontal decision-making can help multiple generations understand and participate in the guidance of family wealth. Estate and succession planning professionals can help a family make these decisions with an awareness of different communication styles. In-depth conversations are essential; good estate planners recognize that silence does not necessarily mean agreement.
You may plan to reduce these risks (and others) in collaboration with financial and legal professionals who focus on estate planning and wealth transfer. It is never too early to begin.
Warren Street Wealth Advisors
190 S. Glassell St., Suite 209
Orange, CA 92866
714-876-6200 – office
This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.
1 – nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/free-books/avoid-probate-book/chapter1-5.html [5/5/15]
2 – caring.com/about/news-room/american-parents-wills.html [4/22/15]
Warren Street Wealth Advisors, LLC
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Tustin, CA 92780
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