Proposed SECURE Act Make Roth IRA Conversions More Valuable

Proposed Regulations to SECURE Act Make Roth IRA Conversions Even More Valuable
by Lange Legal Group, LLC

Cartoon depiction of the SECURE Act featured on CPA/Attorney James Lange's website

Randy Bish

On February 23, 2022, the IRS nonchalantly released 275 pages of Proposed Regulations which shocked the retirement and estate planning professional community. Since the passage of the SECURE Act at the end of 2019, many planners have been reeling over the ten-year payout requirement for inherited retirement accounts created by the Act, subject to limited exceptions.

Families and their retirement and estate planners have been scrambling to minimize the greatly accelerated income tax burden caused by the ten-year payout rule and have been recommending in many cases (particularly with Roth IRAs) to wait until the end of the payout period to withdraw the funds from the inherited retirement account.

The most devastating announcement under the Proposed Regulations was for beneficiaries of retirement accounts who inherited from retirement account owners already receiving Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs)—those who reached their required beginning date for distributions prior to their death, i.e. the April 1st of the year after they reached age 72 or retirement, whichever is later. This group represents most retirement account owners, and these beneficiaries will likely be required to take annual distributions in the first nine years immediately following the year of the IRA owner’s death, and then be forced to take a lump-sum distribution for the balance of the retirement account in the final distribution year. These proposed distribution rules will apply to traditional retirement accounts but not to Roth retirement accounts because Roth retirement accounts never have a required beginning date for distributions.

If the Proposed Regulations are passed in their current form with respect to RMDs from IRA owners who reached their required beginning date before their death, our general recommendations to inherited retirement account owner beneficiaries are as follows:

    • Traditional Retirement Accounts: Consider your likely income tax bracket for the next ten years and then decide whether it is more advantageous to take roughly one-tenth the first year, one-ninth the second year, and so on or take advantage of the limited income tax deferral still available by taking the minimum amount out years 1-9 and take out the balance in year ten. This strategy will most likely make sense on more modest retirement accounts ($500,000 or less) and averaging the income or strategically withdrawing the IRA in some other manner will likely make sense for larger IRAs. Each case should be evaluated based on running the numbers, and our group is well-positioned to help you with that analysis.
    • Roth Retirement Accounts – The advice for Roth retirement accounts is more straightforward. We recommend that Roth IRA beneficiaries wait until year ten and then take out the balance in year ten.

The Proposed Regulations provide important guidance for when a minor child is no longer considered a minor (age 21) and when a beneficiary is considered disabled (defer to the Social Security definition for beneficiaries ages 18 or older and use a common-sense definition for determining disability before age 18 (if an individual has a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that results in marked and severe functional limitations and that can be expected to result in death or to be of long-continued and indefinite duration).

In addition, the Proposed Regulations provide important clarifications for planners regarding what language can and cannot be in a trust to qualify for stretch exceptions and/or the ten-year rule. Finally, the Proposed Regulations do waive the failure to take an RMD penalty (50%) if the missed distribution is taken by the due date of your tax return.

We will alert you to the approved Final Regulations which we anticipate being published later this year. However, we felt that it was crucial that you were aware of this pending additional change regarding inherited retirement accounts.

If you have inherited a retirement account after 2019, will inherit a retirement account in the future, or you’re looking for more information please register to attend Jim Lange’s upcoming webinars on Tuesday, May 3rd and Wednesday, May 4th at

How the For the 99.5 Percent Act Should Get All of Us to Think About Our Estate Planning

Blog Post 'How the For the 99.5 Percent Act Should Get All of Us to Think About Our Estate Planning by Matt Schwartz featured on

How the For the 99.5 Percent Act Should Get All of Us to Think About Our Estate Planning

On March 25th, Senator Sanders and Senator Whitehouse presented in the Senate Budget Committee an initial draft of the “For the 99.5 Percent Act” which will have a significant impact on estate planning going forward. There are still a lot of specifics to be determined through the political process but understanding the blueprint of the Act is crucial to determining what actions to consider in 2021 before the 2022 effective date of any new estate tax legislation.

Federal Estate Tax Exemption Amount Adjustment:

Currently, the federal estate tax exemption amount is $11,700,000 per person or $23,400,000 per married couple and is adjusted each year for inflation. The proposed federal estate tax exemption would be reduced to $3,500,000 per person or $7,000,000 per married couple adjusted each year for inflation. Policy experts in Washington DC think it is more likely that the exemption will drop by 50% to $5,850,000 with any unused federal estate tax exemption remaining portable from the deceased spouse to the surviving spouse.

Federal Gift and Estate Tax Rates:

The proposed rates under the proposed Act are 45% between $3,500,000 and $10,000,000, 50% from $10,000,000 to $50,000,000, 55% from $50,000,000 to $1,000,000,000 and 65% on any amount above $1,000,000,000.

Federal Gift Tax Exemption Amount Adjustment:

Since 2011, the federal gift tax exemption has been unified with the federal estate tax exemption. The proposed Act would reduce the federal gift tax exemption to $1,000,000. Although policy experts believe that it is likely that the gift tax exemption will remain unified with the federal estate tax exemption, this development is something to watch closely in the proposed legislation.

Annual Exclusion Gift Adjustment:

The proposed Act reduces the annual exclusion from $15,000 per year (adjusted for inflation) to $10,000 per year (to be adjusted for inflation) and reduces the exemption to all restricted gifts in a year to $20,000 per year such as gifts to trusts or other gifts with limitations.

Limitations on Dynasty Trusts:

Multi-generation trusts created after the effective date of the proposed Act (currently, that date would be January 1, 2022, if legislation is passed in 2021) would only be allowed to last fifty years. Pre-existing trusts would have to be terminated fifty years after the enactment of the act.

Limitations on Irrevocable Trusts for Estate Planning Purposes that Qualify for Step up in Basis Treatment:

The proposed Act is seeking to eliminate the opportunity of creating the power to have a step-up in basis on an irrevocable trust for a beneficiary which means that there would be significant capital gain exposure on long-term trust accounts.

Estate Planning Action Steps

  • Make annual exclusion gifts to the beneficiaries of your estate if you have the means to do so. If outright gifts will not be effective, consider gifts in trust that can be controlled by a trusted family member.
  • Consider making credit-consuming gifts above the annual exclusion. Large gifts made now above the future exemption will not be clawed back (taxed again at your death) even if the federal estate tax exemption at the time of your death is less than your lifetime use of the exemption.
  • Develop a flexible estate plan in 2021 without mandatory trusts that have a proactive giving bent to maximize current tax benefits while they still exist.
  • Consider second-to-die life insurance with long-term trusts for family members (if appropriate) to maximize long-term tax-free money to the family while these opportunities still exist.
  • With the additional likelihood of higher income tax rates in 2022 and beyond for some taxpayers, consider Roth IRA conversions and other means to accelerate income in 2021.
  • Have a discussion with your Lange Legal Group attorney in 2021 to put a plan in place now that will maximize your protection against these pending law changes.

  • Although it is likely that the final federal estate tax act that Congress passes will be different than the “For the 99.5 Percent Act”, it is critical not to bury your head in the sand with regard to your estate plan and to act this year. Federal estate tax changes will most likely be in effect for 2022 so now is the time to contact us to revisit or to develop your estate plan and wealth transfer plan.

    Fortunately, there is light at the end of the tunnel for COVID-19 but the light in the tunnel may be dimming for proactive estate planning. We look forward to hearing from you.

    For more information, send an email to Matt by clicking the button below.

    Contact Matt Schwartz, Attorney at the Lange Financial Group for Estate Planning needs including Wills.

    Optimizing Your Estate Plan Now in the Event of a Biden Presidency and a Democratic Congress

    Optimizing Your Estate Plan Now in the Event of a Biden Presidency and a Democratic Congress

    by: Matt Schwartz, Esq.

    Image featured in a blog post by Matt Schwartz, Esq on PayTaxesLater.comAs the 2020 election approaches, a frequent question that I receive as an estate planner is what should I be doing now to maximize what I leave to my family as an inheritance.

    One can reasonably assume that if Trump is reelected or the Senate remains Republican that there will unlikely be any sizable tax increases over the next four years.  However, what if Biden is elected and both the House and Senate are Democratic?  In that scenario, it is likely that the estate tax exemption returns to $5,000,000 adjusted for inflation per person and that the step-up in basis rules on appreciated assets will be repealed with immediate recognition of capital gain at the time of the taxpayer’s passing.  In addition, the maximum personal income tax rate will rise to 39.6% on income over $400,000 with capital gains being subject to ordinary income tax rates of 39.6% on income (including the capital gain) over $1,000,000.

    What can I do now to be safe no matter what happens in the election?

    Consider Recognizing Some Capital Gains Now: Over the years many people have ignored sound economic theory regarding diversification of your financial portfolio because of the extremely adverse tax consequences of capital gain recognition when such capital gain could be forgiven at the time of death.  Perhaps this thinking needs to be reevaluated.  With today’s current low income and capital gains tax rates, perhaps it makes sense to recognize $50,000 to $100,000 of unrealized appreciation through a capital gain if the federal income tax is 15% (or 20% depending on your other income).  For some families, it may make sense to recognize significantly more at 20% if you are looking at a future prospect of having some of this income be recognized at 39.6% at the time of death.  The prospect of recognition of the capital gains tax on the transfer of appreciated assets (especially less liquid appreciated assets such as business interests and commercial real estate) when most of the other assets to pay the tax are retirement assets could be draconian.

    Consider Second-to-Die Life Insurance: In recent years, I have been less of a fan of second-to-die life insurance based on the high federal estate tax exemption.  However, life insurance (probably ideal to get before 70 if you are a couple) could be a great asset (income tax-free) to cover the tax that will be due on the transfer of appreciated assets at death where the primary assets remaining to pay this tax in many estates could be retirement assets that are subject to income tax upon withdrawal. 

    Consider Transferring Some Appreciated Assets to Lower Income Family Members Now: Traditionally, we have recommended transferring appreciated assets to individuals who are in low tax brackets so that they can recognize the gain with little or no tax consequence.  In addition, to continue transferring a modest amount of appreciated assets to lower-income family members to keep their income down on the recognition of the capital gain, you may want to consider transferring more to them if they can recognize it at current favorable 15%-20% rates compared to having to recognize it at the time of your death at a possible 39.6% rate.

    Consider Transferring Appreciated Assets to Charity: It is always a good idea to fund a gift with highly appreciated assets as long as the gift is large enough to be deducted as an itemized deduction.  It will make even more sense to transfer highly appreciated assets to charity if Biden becomes President and both houses of Congress are Democratic.

    Consider Roth IRA Conversions Particularly if you are currently Married: We are seeing more and more widows and widowers in the 32% bracket or higher so considering Roth IRA conversions while you are still married to maximize the 24% bracket is a good planning strategy.

    The first of these four ideas is a relatively new idea for consideration in light of the understanding of many estate planners including myself that the step-up in basis was a permanent part of the tax law.  So, I would wait until after we know the outcome of the election to act too aggressively on recognizing capital gainsHowever, all of the other ideas are good tax, retirement, and estate planning ideas to consider now irrespective of the outcome of the election and I would act on those sooner than later if they are a good fit for your situation.

    Please do not hesitate to send me an email to or give me a call at (412) 521-2732 if you are interested in having a further discussion on these topics or any other retirement and estate planning topics.


    Tax Planning Opportunities During Coronavirus

    Article by Matt Schwartz

    Planning Opportunities During Coronavirus a blog by Matt Schwartz on

    Two months ago if you’d told me that in a matter of weeks I’d be walking two miles each way to an ATM to deposit a check or walking a mile and a half round trip to the nearest post office box to put a letter in the mail, I would have questioned your sanity or asked you what planet you live on. But this is the reality of Coronavirus and the way it has totally upended our daily lives. At the same time, on these treks to the ATM or the post office box I have connected with neighbors, Mt. Lebanon professional colleagues and potential clients whom I would not have seen but for my walks. Of course, we always make sure to maintain a safe social distance during these impromptu catch-up sessions.

    I have really enjoyed these interactions with fellow community members and they have reinforced my belief that connecting with friends, colleagues, and clients is particularly important during this period of social distancing. For our firm, this means finding methods of communication that can be used in place of in-person meetings. I’ve been reaching out to a number of clients by email, Facetime, telephone and even social distance signings at their homes by viewing clients signing in their garages or on their porches.

    All of these discussions begin in a similar fashion with me asking the clients how they are doing and feeling very reassured when they tell me that they are doing OK. No one is doing great, but we are all in this together trying to figure things out one day at a time. Once we check in with each other, since clients always want to make sure my family is doing OK too, they ask me what planning opportunities that they should be considering right now.

    Here are a few of the strategies I often recommend:

    • Roth IRA Conversions – My wife, Beth, completed a Roth IRA conversion about a week and a half ago by making an in-kind transfer of all of the positions in her rollover IRA to her Roth IRA. She did not have to realize a loss by selling positions in her IRA, and she was able just to transfer the funds directly into the Roth IRA. This year clients will have additional opportunities to make larger Roth IRA conversions because of the recently passed Coronavirus, Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act or “CARES Act” (we only get acronyms like this from Congress) waives the requirement for clients to take required minimum distributions from qualified plans. This includes those that were inherited before 2020, whether they are inherited Roth IRAs or inherited traditional IRAs. If you are interested in utilizing this strategy this year, I recommend that you consult with one of the CPAs at Lange Accounting Group who can develop a Roth IRA conversion masterplan for you.

    • Tax Loss Harvesting – With the volatility in the market, there are opportunities to recognize losses to offset remaining gains in equities, while buying a similar enough equity to get around the 30-day wash rules which prohibit you from buying back the same exact investment within 30 days. We recommend that you consult with your financial advisor on how you can best pursue this strategy.

    • Charitable Giving – With the increased need in the community, the CARES Act allows those who can afford to do so to make cash contributions to public charities up to 100% of their adjusted gross income rather than 60%. Most of us do not have enough savings to be able to afford to do that. But the broader point is that we should consider charitable giving to the extent that we can afford to do so and perhaps even consider bunching (giving more than you normally would so that you can itemize the deductions and help the charities now).

    I am confident that we will survive Coronavirus, and the economy will eventually get back on its feet. I also appreciate how difficult a time this is for all of us. At the same time, I encourage you to take advantage of these opportunities before the market really starts to recover.

    Best wishes to all of you for what I hope is continued good health. I am looking forward to the time that we can meet again in person.

    Best wishes,


    Contact Matt Schwartz, Attorney at the Lange Financial Group for Estate Planning needs including Wills.

    The Devil is in the Details – Understanding Annuities

    Meme used for blog on by Attorney Matt Schwartz

    What is an Annuity?

    Recently, I was consulting with a client who owned several nonqualified annuities. A nonqualified annuity is an investment where an individual invests after-tax dollars with an annuity company in exchange for lifetime income guarantees and deferred taxes on any growth earned during the time that the assets are owned by the annuity. Usually, the costs of these annuities to individual investors are the significant commissions to the people who sell these annuities. Despite these commissions, nonqualified annuities are a common way for investors to save additional taxes when they have already maxed out the opportunities to save taxes through qualified plans and Roth IRAs.

    Ownership of an Annuity by a Trust

    What was unusual about this client’s situation was that the annuity was owned by the spouse’s Revocable Living Trust rather than by the annuitant. I believe the reason this form of ownership was recommended to them at the time they purchased the annuity was to have the proceeds of the annuity paid to the spouse’s Revocable Living Trust so that the proceeds would avoid probate at the surviving spouse’s death. If the annuity is owned by a Trust, then the proceeds will be paid to the Trust.

    Although this ownership arrangement accomplishes the goal of avoiding probate on these assets at both spouse’s death, it took away a very important opportunity for the surviving spouse. Not only did the surviving spouse lose the opportunity to take advantage of the spousal continuation benefit to continue the tax deferral on the growth in the annuity until advanced age (90 under most policies) or death, but more importantly the annuity had to be fully liquidated within five years as a lump sum distribution (one distribution) meaning that the spouse had to recognize all of the deferred income from the annuity at one time. Since these annuities had several hundred thousand dollars of deferred income, the immediate taxation to a surviving spouse would have been significant (would have likely be over $100,000 in this particular case) which would have substantially reduced the initial benefit of deferring the taxes.

    Ownership of an Annuity by an Individual

    A better alternative is to have these policies owned by the annuitant and name the spouse as the primary beneficiary and a trust, if appropriate, as a successor beneficiary. Naming the spouse as the primary beneficiary allows the spouse in most cases to continue the tax deferral of the annuity which is normally advantageous. If the spouse chooses not to continue the annuity, he or she can choose to put the proceeds in their Revocable Trust (if they created one) or name a beneficiary on the account where they invest the proceeds (not what we normally recommend because of limited distribution options). Although we would likely recommend that the spouse continue the annuity in many circumstances, it is good for the surviving spouse to have options.

    Should the Beneficiary of an Annuity be a Trust or an Individual?

    The more interesting question is the successor beneficiary of the annuity. Some companies will permit a Revocable Trust to be a beneficiary and allow the individual beneficiaries of the trust to stretch out the proceeds over their lifetimes. However, most annuities require a five-year payout of the annuity to the trust (many of these distributions must be one-time distributions of the entire annuity within five years). For a trust with a subtrust for a spendthrift or special needs beneficiary, this immediate taxation can add insult to injury by forcing much of this taxation to be at the 37% maximum federal income tax rate.

    In certain situations, liquidation of an annuity as a lump sum distribution may need to be considered by a beneficiary if the distribution options are limited to life income options which involve the risk of a loss of principal if the beneficiary does not live to his or her life expectancy.


    It is crucial to have the right owner and beneficiary of a nonqualified annuity. To know the optimal owner and beneficiary, it is important to ask the right questions about the annuity. The attorneys at Lange Legal Group, LLC are trained to analyze these annuities and ask the right questions on your behalf. Please do not hesitate to reach out to Matt Schwartz, Esq., if you have questions about the ownership and beneficiary options of these annuities or other estate planning questions.

    Contact Matt Schwartz, Attorney at the Lange Financial Group for Estate Planning needs including Wills.

    Roth IRA Conversions of After-Tax Money: Beware of the IRA Aggregation Rules

    How Do the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 Effect Roth IRA Conversions?

    With the historic low tax rates under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, we have received many inquiries regarding Roth IRA conversions.  Two of the most common inquiries we receive are as follows:  1) when a client retires and wants to convert after-tax money in their employer retirement plan to a Roth IRA, and 2) when a client is not eligible to make Roth IRA contributions but wishes to get additional savings into Roth IRAs.

    Transferring After-Tax Contributions from an Employer Plan to a Roth IRA

    If you have after-tax contributions in your employer plan and you are retiring, ideally you want the company to issue one check directly payable to a Roth IRA consisting of the after-tax funds and the balance to a rollover IRA or other qualified plan.  That is the easiest way to convert the after-tax contributions to a Roth IRA.  Unfortunately, some companies will not do a direct transfer of the after-tax funds to a Roth IRA and will either write you a check for the after-tax funds or deposit all your retirement funds including the after-tax contributions into a rollover IRA.  If all the funds are deposited into a rollover IRA, then you cannot segregate the after-tax contributions without meeting special rules.  If you receive a separate check for your after-tax contributions, then you have 60 days to transfer that check to a Roth IRA.  If you do not take advantage of the 60-day period, then those dollars can never be recontributed to a Roth IRA.

    How Do you Get Additional Funds into IRAs if Your Income is Above the Roth IRA Contribution Income Eligibility Limit?

    If your income exceeds the Roth IRA contribution income eligibility limit, then you can make a nondeductible IRA contribution and then convert it to a Roth IRA.  However, if you have pre-existing IRAs, then those IRAs must be considered to determine the taxation of the conversion.  For example, suppose that you make a $5,500 nondeductible IRA contribution but have a rollover IRA of $94,500.  If you were to convert the $5,500, you would likely be surprised to learn that 94.5% of the $5,500 conversion ($94,500 (amount of taxable IRA) divided by $100,000 (total balance of all IRAs) would be taxable.  That is why it is important if you use this technique either not to have other retirement funds or to have all your other retirement funds in Roth IRAs or qualified plans.  Married couples can often use spousal IRAs when one spouse does not have a rollover IRA and is not currently working or is working somewhere that does not have a qualified plan to utilize this technique.

    Please do not hesitate to contact me at (412) 521-2732 or send me an email at the link below if you are interested in creative ways to increase your Roth IRA holdings.


    Contact Matt Schwartz, Attorney at the Lange Financial Group for Estate Planning needs including Wills.

    Unprecedented 2018 Roth IRA Conversion Opportunities

    A For Sale sign showing Roth IRA Conversions For Sale

    The 2018 Tax Cuts, Jobs Act of 2017 and Roth IRA Conversions

    At first glance, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 would have seemed to reduce the desire for individuals to make Roth IRA conversions for the 2018 tax year and beyond because of the inability to recharacterize Roth IRA conversions as non-conversions by your tax return filing date.  However, the historic low tax rates created under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 only last under current law through 2025 so many taxpayers have been willing to take the risk that the market could decline and have been converting their IRAs to Roth IRAs. The creation of the 22% and 24% tax brackets for 2018 effectively replacing the 25% and 28% tax brackets for 2017 along with an elongation of the tax brackets in 2018 have made a compelling case for Roth IRA conversions.

    Roth IRA Conversions – The Benefits of Being Married and Filing Jointly

    For example, suppose that you are married filing jointly and had $100,000 of taxable income in both 2017 and 2018.  Further, suppose that you were comfortable making a conversion if your marginal tax rate did not exceed 25%.  In 2017, you could make a $53,100 conversion at 25% and then the next dollar would be taxed at 33%.  In 2018, you could convert $65,000 at a 22% rate and then another $150,000 at a 24% rate.  In this example, a married filing jointly taxpayer can convert an additional $161,900 at a rate of 25% or less in 2018 compared to 2017.

    In effect, the current tax law is the equivalence of a “tax sale” so families (grandparents, parents, children, etc.) should collaborate to reach the best strategic Roth IRA conversion answer for their family. Please do not hesitate to contact me at (412) 521-2732 x211 if you would like to discuss a coordinated Roth IRA conversion strategy for your family or;

    Contact Matt Schwartz, Attorney at the Lange Financial Group for Estate Planning needs including Wills.

    Planning For The End: Why Your Will Is Important by Matt Schwartz


    Image used for Pay Taxes Later blog. Blog post written by Matt Schwartz

    Why Have a Will?

    Perhaps one of the most common answers to the above question is that a responsible adult should have a Will. However, the benefits of a Will go far beyond satisfying an internal sense of responsibility to your family and loved ones.

    Some of the benefits of a Will are expected. Perhaps the most common benefits that come to mind are the opportunity to state who should be in charge of the distribution of your probate assets (it is important to remember that Wills do not govern the distribution of joint assets or assets such as retirement plans and life insurance that pass by beneficiary designation) and how should those assets be distributed to a beneficiary (outright or in trust). Beyond those common benefits are the opportunities to address subtleties such as which beneficiaries should pay the inheritance taxes due on the transfer of your assets. Should those taxes be paid by the residuary beneficiary even if assets are being distributed as specific bequests to friends whom will likely pay inheritance tax at a higher rate than the residuary beneficiary (that is at least commonly the case in Pennsylvania). Additional considerations include determining which assets should be distributed to which beneficiaries. For example, a Roth IRA should never be distributed to a charity and it is far better to use a traditional IRA or retirement plan to fund a charitable bequest than funding that charitable bequest with after-tax assets under a Will.

    Preparing or Updating a Will Should Give You Peace of Mind

    Despite the above stated positive benefits of a Will, I believe the best benefits of preparing a Will are organizing your affairs. The exercise of preparing a Will should force you to do a formal inventory of your assets and cause you to ask questions such as Am I on track for retirement?, Will my assets last for my lifetime?, How do I want to be remembered? Would my loved ones be able to continue my investment philosophy if I pass away? Could my loved ones find all of my important papers and, if they can, would they know whom to contact first to take care of the administration of my estate?
    When we complete estate plans at our office, our goal is not nearly to document your wishes but rather to leave detailed instructions to leave your family prepared to handle the distribution of your assets and to give you peace of mind. Why go through the hassle of meeting with an attorney, sharing some of your most private thoughts and thinking about your mortality if you cannot have true peace of mind as an outcome?

    Call me to discuss, revisit, or develop your Will at 412-521-2732 x211 or:

    Contact Matt Schwartz, Attorney at the Lange Financial Group for Estate Planning needs including Wills.

    Best wishes,

    Matt Schwartz

    What Happens If You Don’t Have A Will?

    New Blog by Lead Estate Attorney Matt Schwartz of the Lange Financial Group

    Other than getting a tooth pulled, most people would tell you that there are few things that are as unpleasant to them as talking about their future death and wills. Death is an emotional and difficult topic for many people because it forces them to assess their legacy and their life purpose. So what happens if you don’t have a will?

    How Are My Assets Distributed at My Death?

    To help clients get over their discomfort of discussing their mortality, I explain to clients what will happen if they do not have a Will. Certain assets such as retirement accounts, life insurance policies and joint accounts pass to the successor owner irrespective of whether you have a Will. All other assets that do not have a joint owner or a beneficiary designation would be distributed in accordance with Pennsylvania intestacy law if you pass away without a Will. Examples of such assets are individually owned real estate and individual financial accounts without beneficiary designations.

    Who Controls the Distribution of my Assets? Advice from an Estate Attorney

    If you are married, it is quite possible that all of your assets are either jointly owned with your spouse or will pass to your spouse by beneficiary designation. If so, it will not be necessary to use a Will to transfer any assets at the first spouse’s death because all of the assets will pass to the surviving spouse independent of any Will. However, if assets are individually owned without a beneficiary designation, then the distribution of those assets will not be permitted until an administrator is appointed for the estate. Although the initial choice for administrator would be the spouse, how will the children decide who should be administrator if your spouse predeceases you or does not have capacity to serve as administrator? Will a majority of the children agree on one of them to serve as administrator?

    Who Receives My Assets if I Don’t Have a Will?

    Finally, how are individually owned assets without a beneficiary designation distributed if you do not have a Will? Contrary to what most people think, the individually owned assets will be split at the first spouse’s death between the spouse and the children. The surviving spouse is already upset enough about losing their spouse. Finding out that they might not inherit all of the assets of their spouse (this result can be common with families that own real estate or closely held businesses) only adds insult to injury for these surviving spouses.

    In future blog articles, we will focus on positive benefits of having a Will. Please do not hesitate to send me an email or give me a call at 412-521-2732 x211 if you would like to have a discussion to revisit your current Will or to develop an initial Will.

    Contact Matt Schwartz, Attorney at the Lange Financial Group for Estate Planning needs including Wills.

    Simplify Your Life After the New Tax Act and Terminate that Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust

    Matt Schwartz Blog Photo

    Is It Time to Terminate Your Life Insurance Trust?

    As a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, the federal estate tax exemption is now $11,180,000 per person and $22,360,000 per married couple. How many of you purchased life insurance in a trust in the last 15-20 years when the federal estate tax exemption was $600,000 or even at $2,000,000? If you fall into that category, then you are like me. As the federal estate tax exemption has increased, I started asking myself; ‘Why am I going through all of this work to maintain the insurance trust? Especially since the insurance proceeds would not cause any taxation in my estate, because of the high federal estate tax exemption.’ In addition, I realized that I was inconveniencing my sister as Trustee by asking her to deposit my check for the premium into the insurance trust and then write a check from the trust to the insurance company to pay the policy as well as preparing the Crummey withdrawal notices.

    How Does The Process of Paying My Insurance Premiums Change?

    A few years ago, I became aware of an opportunity under the Pennsylvania Uniform Trust Act, either to modify or to terminate, an insurance trust without court approval. I decided to utilize this opportunity to terminate my life insurance trust and return the ownership of my life insurance to myself so that I had full autonomy over the life insurance and did not have to inconvenience my sister anymore. It was also crucial that I have full trust in my wife, Beth, of over 20 years and knew that she would make sure that our wishes were honored with the life insurance proceeds if she survives me. So, my insurance premium payments are much simpler each year without the involvement of the insurance trust.

    Am I Able To Help You With Your Needs?

    As I started to share this story with my clients, they became interested in this idea as well. Please do not hesitate to send me an email or give me a call at 412-521-2732 x211 if you are interested in terminating your insurance trust and making your life simpler.

    Contact Matt Schwartz, Attorney at the Lange Financial Group for Estate Planning needs including Wills.