Tag Archives: Estate Planning Attorney

Thoughts on Charitable Giving

20 Mar

MetroBoston Publication Date March 20, 2013
By Attorney George Warshaw

I was speaking with Mark at the U.C. about this column. He asked me to write about how charitable giving may be used with an estate plan.

Interesting question.

Money you leave by will, trust or otherwise to an IRS tax qualified charity is not included in your estate at death. If your estate is worth $1,250,000 and you leave $250,000 to a qualified charity, your estate is then valued at $1,000,000.

More interesting is what you can do with your charitable estate.

If you want to leave all or a chunk to charity, and possibly avoid even the Massachusetts estate tax problem, you could establish a private tax qualified foundation in which your friends and family participate in making donations to causes that are important to you.

Once or twice a year friends and family get together, remember you in their thoughts and hearts, and do something good with your money and memory. They could use it where it’s needed most – and certainly more efficiently than our spendthrift government.

It’s also a good way of keeping your family together and doing something positive “as a family” with a great result.

There are also Charitable Funds, like Fidelity runs, where they decide how your money is used, or you can direct it yourself in your will or trust.

Say you want to help children or pets. I’ll use the MSPCA and Tenacity, my personal favorites, as examples.

MSPCA, www.mspca.org. You can leave a specific amount of money in your will or trust (a “bequest” in legal talk) or you can target a specific program.

For example, “I give and devise to MSPCA $________ [or _____% of my net estate] for its “Pet Care Assistance Program for the medical care of sick or injured animals.”

Tenacity, www.tenacity.org. Tenacity changes the lives of inner Boston city kids. They learn to play tennis but only after the student and family make a multi-year learning commitment. The kids receive structure, discipline and educational assistance from elementary school through high school. Tennis is the motivator to enroll.

Aside from a bequest, you can give all or a portion of the residue of your estate (i.e. after payment of all debts and bequests.)

For example, “I leave the rest and residue of my estate (or a percentage) to Tenacity to sponsor as many children as possible in its “Middle School Academy.”

Plan it in advance with the charity or just surprise them in your will!

And don’t forget Tenacity and the MSPCA in your planning – helping children and pets is a good thing to do. © 2013 George Warshaw.

George Warshaw is a well-known attorney and author. He represents buyers and sellers of homes and condos in Massachusetts, and prepares wills, trusts, and estate plans. George welcomes new clients and questions. Contact him at metro@warshawlaw.com.

Medicaid – The 5 Year Lookback Rule

13 Apr

Metro®Boston, Publication Date: April 11, 2012
By Attorney George Warshaw

Last in a Medicaid series

I’ve never met anyone who would rather give his or her money to the government than leave it for one’s children, heirs or charity. The government never has as well.

To combat the natural inclination of giving away one’s money and property to qualify for free nursing home care, Medicaid, like in hockey, has a penalty box.

If you impermissibly give away your assets in Medicaid’s eyes, the whistle blows, you are disqualified from further play and placed in the penalty box.

The penalty? Medicaid takes the value of your gift and divides it by the average monthly cost of nursing home care. The result is the number of months you must sit in the penalty box before you can apply again.

There is a safe harbor though, as lawyers like to say, where you can permissibly make a gift and avoid the penalty box: make that gift more than 5 years before you apply for Medicaid and your gift is usually safe.

Your gift is then no longer a countable asset on the government’s list of assets that you must sell and spend before you can qualify for care.

Be careful! Always consult an Elder Care Attorney for your particular Medicaid situation. © George Warshaw 2012.

Read the Medicaid series at www.GeorgeintheMetro.com

George Warshaw is a real estate attorney and author. He represents buyers and sellers of homes and condos in Massachusetts, and prepares wills, trusts, and estate plans. George welcomes new clients and questions at metro@warshawlaw.com.

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Legal Advice: Laws, and court decisions interpreting them, change frequently and this article is not updated as laws change. The content and information contained in this article is neither intended as legal advice nor shall establish an attorney-client relationship.

Love and Kisses until Your House is Gone

15 Mar

Metro®Boston, Publication Date: March 14, 2012
By Attorney George Warshaw

It’s like a scene from “The Bachelor.”

It’s all love and kisses, “til death do us part,” and syrup on the pancakes – until reality sinks in. It’s back to the daily job and routine daily life? Does anyone get or stay married?

Is it any different when an older parent deeds the family home to one’s kids for love and affection? “We’ll use it to take care of you – and the government won’t get it!”

But the deed’s in someone else’s name! What if son or daughter gets divorced, sick or sued? Or if son or daughter needs personal money and borrows against the house – temporarily, of course?

One way of protecting a home is through a trust. A trust is a set of rules constructed by a lawyer to accomplish a goal or protect an asset, oftentimes both.

The trustees own the house on behalf of the trust and not personally – and a parent can name a trusted advisor as co-trustee who can have veto power on the sale or mortgaging of the home.

The house is thus protected from unnecessary sale or mortgage and the personal creditors of the son or daughter.

Caution: Check with a Medicaid attorney before transferring property out of an older parent’s name.

George Warshaw is a real estate and estate planning attorney in Massachusetts. He represents buyers and sellers of homes and condos in Massachusetts, and prepares wills, trusts for individuals and families. George welcomes new clients and questions at metro@warshawlaw.com.

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Legal Advice: Laws, and court decisions interpreting them, change frequently and this article is not updated as laws change. The content and information contained in this article is neither intended as legal advice nor shall establish an attorney-client relationship.

Giving Mom The Boot

1 Mar

Metro®Boston, Publication Date: February 29, 2012
By: George Warshaw

You may have read about the loving son who filed to evict his 98 year old mother from the home she once owned.

Mrs. Kantorowski deeded her home to her son several years ago. Though he wants to move her to a facility that will better care for her, she doesn’t want to go. Perhaps if he wasn’t trying to sell the house, his motives might have better credibility.

Mrs. K has one thing on her side. She didn’t deed the house directly to her son; she deeded it to him as trustee of a trust for her benefit.

A trustee owes the beneficiaries very special obligations, in this case, mom. It’s called “fiduciary obligations”. It’s a very high standard that courts impose on trustees to act in the best interests of those whose money and property they’re holding in trust.

There’s a rule in trusts against “self-dealing,” meaning a trustee can’t use trust property for his personal benefit, unless the terms of the trust permit it. While a trustee may receive a fee for services, he can’t sell the house and pocket the money – or so mom hopes.

So when mom goes to court next month, we’ll see who gets the boot!

More on this Next Week. © 2012 George Warshaw.

George Warshaw is a real estate attorney and author. He represents buyers and sellers of homes and condos in Massachusetts, and prepares wills, trusts, and estate plans. George welcomes new clients and questions at metro@warshawlaw.com.

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Legal Advice: Laws, and court decisions interpreting them, change frequently and this article is not updated as laws change. The content and information contained in this article is neither intended as legal advice nor shall establish an attorney-client relationship.

Do You Need A Children’s Trust?

7 Feb

Metro®Boston, Publication Date: February 8, 2012
By: George Warshaw

Is there anything more important than your children’s upbringing?  What would they do if you died?

Many people add a few scant words in their wills to provide for their children; others create a so-called subtrust as part of a 60-90 page master estate planning trust that requires a flow chart and diagrams to figure out.

Let me give you another idea.

Why not create a separate trust document devoted solely to your children, written in plain English, that they and you can read and understand. Call it a “Children’s Trust”.  Your will, life insurance or master estate planning trust funds the trust and all or part of your children’s upbringing.

You can fund their education, provide for medical care and reward personal accomplishments. You can provide incentives that broaden their personal growth and experiences. Here’s an example:

Let’s say you want your child to experience first-hand the heartbreak of a Katrina-like disaster and helping people in need. In your Children’s Trust, you offer to pay your child a handsome salary for spending a summer working for Habitat for Humanity or the like.

So consider what’s important to you and perhaps your child will “ace” your final exam!

Next week:  Protecting your Pets.

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© 2012 George Warshaw.  George Warshaw is a real estate and estate planning attorney in Massachusetts. He represents buyers and sellers of homes and condos in Massachusetts, and prepares wills, trusts for individuals and families. George welcomes new clients and questions at metro@warshawlaw.com.

Legal Advice: Laws, and court decisions interpreting them, change frequently and this article is not updated as laws change. The content and information contained in this article is neither intended as legal advice nor shall establish an attorney-client relationship.

Is it Better to Inherit Real Estate?

20 Dec

Metro®Boston, Publication Date: December 14, 2011
By Attorney George Warshaw

Many people often want to give their home to their children before they die. It’s certainly simpler but it sometimes has unintended tax consequences. (See GeorgeintheMetro.com for last week’s story).

There is an important tax rule regarding inheriting real estate that could save you a bundle of taxes.

When a person dies, the fair market value of any real estate owned must be determined. If you inherit property, you inherit it at its fair market value.

Inherit a house worth $500,000, sell it a month later for $500,000, and there is no taxable gain. But what if your parents only paid $100,000 for it 20 years ago?

It matters not what your parents paid if you inherit it, but it may matter if you receive it as a gift during their lifetimes.

The basic tax rule is this: you inherit property at fair market value; but when you receive it as a gift, you acquire it at the same cost+ tax basis as the giver had in the property. Sell it later for more than cost+ and you could pay a tax that could have been avoided.

So before gifting real estate: always consult your tax advisor or attorney. The foregoing is not intended as legal advice.

© 2011 George Warshaw. All Right Reserved.

George Warshaw is a real estate attorney and author. He represents buyers and sellers of homes and condos in Massachusetts, and prepares wills, trusts, and estate plans. George welcomes new clients and questions at george.warshaw@warshawlaw.com.  

Legal Advice: Laws, and court decisionsinterpreting them, change frequently and this article is not updated as laws change. The content and information contained in this article is neitherintended as legal advice nor shall establish an attorney-client relationship.

Before making any legal decision, consult an attorney to see how the foregoing may apply to your circumstances.

Real Estate for Christmas

30 Nov

By Attorney George Warshaw

It’s Christmas and Hanukkah time. Naturally one’s thoughts turn to gifts.

As families get together, oftentimes the discussion shifts to a parent’s home. Is it better to gift it now or inherit it later?

While the answer requires a careful discussion with a tax advisor, it’s helpful to review a key gifting rule.

When a person receives a gift of real estate, the gift is valued for tax purposes at the same cost+ value (or “tax basis” in accountant-speak) as the giver has in it.

Bought a home years ago for $200,000, put $50,000 in improvements into it, and your tax basis is likely $250,000.

Give it to your kids today and the IRS will likely value the gift as worth $250,000. It doesn’t matter if the house is worth $1,000,000, the gifting value is still $250,000.

If your kids later sell it for a million, the IRS deems they made a profit of $750,000 (sale price minus tax basis) – and they may have to pay a tax on the $750,000 gain at the time of sale. That’s painful!

Next week: Is it better to Inherit Real Estate?

Always consult your tax advisor or attorney before gifting real estate. The foregoing is not intended as legal advice. Only an in person consultation with an attorney can establish an attorney-client relationship. © 2011 George Warshaw.

George Warshaw is a real estate attorney and author. He represents buyers and sellers of homes and condos in Massachusetts, and prepares wills, trusts, and estate plans. George welcomes new clients and questions at george.warshaw@warshawlaw.com.

Pre-nups, Co-ownership and Real Estate

24 Aug

Metro®Boston, Publication Date: August 24, 2011
Expanded content

By Attorney George Warshaw

“Honey, I love you, but would you mind signing this little piece of paper for me?”

Relationship don’t always last forever, despite the best of intentions.

If you’ve been married before, broaching the subject of a pre-nuptial or a co-ownership agreement with a partner or future spouse is more the norm than the exception. It should not be overlooked in any relationship when planning for the future, especially if one person has real estate, substantial assets, or a prospective significant inheritance.

In the pre-nup or co-ownership agreements that I do for clients, I suggest simple methods of handling real estate. One way is this (and there are several other ways):

In the event of a divorce or separation, you get back what you put in to buy the property – or your present equity if you are contributing a property that you already own. Anything beyond that (i.e. the increase in value), is split evenly or according to a fair formula that considers everyone’s contributions, past and future.

Here’s an example (it may not be right for you). If you came into a relationship owning a condo consider the equity as yours. If, going forward, both of you make equal contributions towards the mortgage, taxes, insurance and condo fees, then, in the event of a divorce, any increase in the equity over time could be recovered 50-50.

 A variation on this approach is that each person gets back what each paid in to buy the house, pay for improvements and cover core expenses like taxes, insurance and mortgage. Each person’s contributions easily translate into a percentage of investment that can be applied to any profit or loss. While this approach sounds good on paper, this requires a bit of record keeping.

 While there are many ways of dealing with real estate in a pre-nup or co-ownership agreement, what’s often most important is the relationship, and that one person doesn’t feel like they are living in the other’s house. With good planning, that can be easily addressed.

It’s important in any relationship to discuss future finances. A pre-nuptial or co-ownership agreement should just be one of the discussion points. Since “no one suit fits all,” it’s critical to see a lawyer for advice and planning. One simple detail or concern can change the advice you may get.

© 2011 George Warshaw. All rights reserved.

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George Warshaw is a real estate attorney, estate planner and author. He represents buyers and sellers of homes and condos in Massachusetts, and prepares wills, trusts, prenuptial agreements and estate plans. George welcomes new clients and questions at george.warshaw@warshawlaw.com.

Legal Advice: Laws, and court decisions interpreting them, change frequently and this article is not updated as laws change. The content and information contained in this article is neither intended as legal advice nor shall establish an attorney-client relationship. Before making any legal decision, consult an attorney to see how or if the foregoing may apply to your circumstances.

Where Are Interest Rates Going?

11 Aug

Metro®Boston, Publication Date: August 10, 2011

By Attorney George Warshaw

Lost in the debris of the deficit debacle and the stock market free fall is the effect on mortgage interest rates. Will they rocket upwards, stay the same or decline?

Mortgage rates rise or fall based on something. But what?

There are actually two types of mortgage loans and two types of rates: first mortgages are long-term interest rates; home equity loans are short-term monthly rates. The rate on each is established differently, and often go in different directions based on the exact same news.

When the Fed announces that it is lowering or raising rates, that immediately affects the monthly rate charged on home equity loans, not first mortgages.

First mortgage rates are determined by the longer-term bond market. I’ve heard it said that first mortgage rates follow “the 10-year Treasury” or “mortgage backed securities” instead. In other words, as prices on a specific longer-term “fixed income investment” rise or fall on Wall Street, first mortgages interest rates ultimately bounce along with it.

Confused? Since no one seems to be managing our economy right now, you are not alone. Be safe. If you can lower your first mortgage rate, do it now.

Need a recommendation for a good mortgage lender? Email me. I know several good lenders.

© 2011 George Warshaw. All Rights Reserved.

George Warshaw is a real estate attorney and author. He represents buyers and sellers of homes and condos in Massachusetts, and prepares wills, trusts, and estate plans. George welcomes new clients and questions at george.warshaw@warshawlaw.com.

It’s Tax Time Again – Deducting Interest

30 Apr

Metro® Boston, Publication Date: March 30, 2011

By Attorney George Warshaw 

Last week I wrote about the advantages of paying off your mortgage early. A reader asked whether that was wise since a homeowner gets a tax deduction for all or part of the mortgage interest one pays. 

I’ve known many homeowners who say they like to have a mortgage so that they can deduct the interest on their taxes. I’ve never fully understood the rationale. 

A mortgage is not an investment; it’s a debt.  A dollar of mortgage interest does not reduce your taxes by a dollar. A homeowner only gets to offset income taxes by a percentage of that dollar. 

A tax deduction is not a tax credit. A tax credit reduces your taxes dollar for dollar. A deduction merely reduces the amount of income subject to tax. Here’s an example: 

Let’s suppose you are single and your taxable income is between $34,000 and $82,400. Of every taxable dollar you earn over $34,000, 25% (or 25 cents) is paid to the IRS in income taxes. Since a dollar of mortgage interest merely reduces your income by a dollar, a dollar of interest saves you only 25 cents. 

If you don’t need a mortgage, talk to your accountant or lawyer about the best tax strategy for you. © 2011 George Warshaw. 

The foregoing is not intended as legal advice. Consult an attorney to see how or if the foregoing applies to you.

Attorney George Warshaw represents buyers and sellers of homes, condos and investment properties, prepares wills and trusts for inheriting real estate, and trusts that protect your children and pets. George welcomes new clients and questions at  george.warshaw@warshawlaw.com.

Cash Now or Inherit Later?

30 Apr

Metro® Boston, Publication Date: March 9, 2011

By Attorney George Warshaw 

What would you do? 

An elderly parent owns several rental properties. He offers to sell these investments and give you your inheritance now. You could, of course, decline and simply inherit it several years from now. 

Most people, I suspect, would take the cash now – but they might be short changing themselves. Here’s why. 

Let’s say your parent sells an investment property and has to pay a capital gains tax of $100,000 on the profits realized. If you were to inherit the property instead, you might have saved the $100,000. 

When a person inherits real estate, he or she acquires it at its fair market value. Sell it at the same value and you haven’t made a profit in the eyes of the IRS. For example, if a property is worth a million when you inherit it and then you sell it at the same amount, you haven’t made a profit. You make a profit only if you sell it for more.

Be careful though: if your parent’s estate is large enough to be subject to a federal or state estate tax, it might be better to take the money today. Consult a tax accountant or attorney for your situation. © 2011 George Warshaw.

The foregoing is not intended as legal advice. Consult an attorney to see how or if the foregoing applies to you.

Attorney George Warshaw represents buyers and sellers of homes, condos and investment properties, prepares wills and trusts for inheriting real estate, and trusts that protect your children and pets. George welcomes new clients and questions at  george.warshaw@warshawlaw.com.

Should You Gift Real Estate?

30 Apr

Metro® Boston, Publication Date: January 12, 2011 

 By Attorney George Warshaw 

Is it better to receive a gift of real estate or inherit it later? Tax wise, a gift isn’t always the best choice for the recipient. 

When a person dies one’s real estate has to be valued. Let’s say the present market value of the house is $500,000, but you, the homeowner, only paid $100,000.

Give it to your children while you are alive and they later sell it for $500,000: they may have to pay a capital gains tax on $400,000 of profit. But if they inherit and sell it for $500,000, no tax or a lesser tax may be due.

 Here’s why:

 A person who receives a gift steps into the shoes of the giver. The recipient acquires the property at the same cost or tax basis as the person who gave it, i.e. $100,000. Sell it for $500,000 and you’ve made a profit. If you inherit property, you instead acquire it at its fair market value, i.e., the same as if you paid $500,000 for it. Sell it for $500,000 and you’ve sold it for the same amount that you acquired it.

 The above information may not apply you. Always consult your tax advisor or attorney before gifting real estate. There are numerous opportunities available to owners of real estate. © 2011 George Warshaw.

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Caution. The foregoing is not intended as legal advice. Laws, and court decisions interpreting them, change frequently. This post is not updated. If you have a legal question, only an actual consultation with an attorney who has an opportunity to review all the facts can provide an answer that applies to your situation.

Attorney George Warshaw represents buyers and sellers of homes, condos and investment properties and prepares wills and trusts for inheriting real estate. George welcomes new clients and questions at  george.warshaw@warshawlaw.com.

Gifting Your Home to Your Children

30 Apr

 Metro® Boston, Publication Date: January 5, 2011

 By Attorney George Warshaw

 It’s not unusual for parents to gift their home to their children and expect to live in it afterwards; but we’ve all heard stories – all too real – about how someone’s parents were later forced to move.

How can something so simple go so badly?

Suppose you (the parent) deed your home to your son as a gift. He gets a mortgage but can’t pay it; or, your son’s creditors place a lien against all real estate standing in his name; or, your son gets divorced and now your home is one of his assets before a probate judge.

How can you protect your home? A trust is perhaps the best method, but a life estate may work almost as well.

It works like this: In the deed to your son or daughter you, the parent, simply reserve the right to live in the house the rest of your life (i.e. called a “life estate”). While your son’s creditors may still acquire a lien, the lien is subject to your right to live in the house forever. If your son wants a mortgage, your permission is needed – and, if you take my advice – be smart, don’t give it! If you do give it, you will likely be evicted in the event of a foreclosure. © 2011 George Warshaw.

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Caution. The foregoing is not intended as legal advice. Laws, and court decisions interpreting them, change frequently. This post is not updated. If you have a legal question, only an actual consultation with an attorney who has an opportunity to review all the facts can provide an answer that applies to your situation.

Attorney George Warshaw represents buyers and sellers of homes, condos and investment properties and prepares wills and trusts for inheriting real estate. George welcomes new clients and questions at  george.warshaw@warshawlaw.com.