Seven Estate Planning Myths

There’s no good excuse for not having a good, properly structured estate plan.  The following points are common misunderstandings of estate planning.

1. I heard that my family will get everything anyway if I die without a will.

 They may or they may not. If you die without an estate plan the state has a plan for you.

 The state has a pre-written law that says who will get all of your property upon your death. If you are married, your spouse won’t necessarily get everything you own.

If you have children and you and your spouse die together or your spouse pre-deceased you then the state courts will decide who gets your kids.

You can prevent all of this from happening with the use of a proper estate plan.

2. I made a will and left everything to my spouse so I won’t owe any estate taxes.

Many people think that by leaving everything they own to their spouse they will avoid estate taxes. This is partially true. A person can die and leave unlimited amounts of property to a surviving spouse and escape estate taxes.

However, if the property is of a high enough value and the spouse doesn’t manage to use it all before he or she dies, there may be estate taxes due upon the surviving spouse’s death.

The potential estate taxes due upon the death of a surviving spouse may be reduced or even eliminated with the use of proper estate planning.

3. I own my property jointly with my spouse (or other person) so they will get it when I die without a will and give it to who I want them to when they die and no one will owe any taxes.

Only property that is titled jointly and includes the words “with right of survivorship” in the title will pass to the joint tenant automatically. The surviving spouse or other joint tenant can pass this property to whomever they wish during life or at death. This removes any control that you may have to determine the ultimate disposition of your property.

 If the property has a high value, or combined with the other property of the person who dies has a high value, a potential federal or state estate tax may be owed if a proper estate planning device is not used. Furthermore there is a potential for double estate taxation of the property if the joint owner is not a spouse. In other words there may be a tax due upon the death of the first joint owner and the property may be subject to tax again when the second owner dies.

 A proper estate plan can maximize an owner’s control over the disposition and minimize the estate taxes that may be paid.

 4. I have a large amount of life insurance and I heard that this will not be subject to estate taxes when I die.

 Many people equate life insurance avoidance of probate with the avoidance of estate taxes. This is false. Probate is the court supervised process to re-title assets in the name of your heirs. If you name a specific beneficiary of your life insurance death benefit this person will receive the money and avoid this process.

 However, both the federal and state estate tax systems take the value of life insurance into account for calculating estate taxes. By doing the proper planning an individual may remove the entire value of a life insurance policy from his or her estate for estate tax purposes.

5. My kids know what I want to be done with my property.

You have lived a long life and have probably expressed many different desires with your family. While you may hope that they do what you wish to be done, there is no guarantee. I know of many examples of siblings who fight over what seem like minor items of property, even going to such lengths as changing the locks on a house to keep each other out.

In order to avoid any issues between surviving family members put your wishes in writing by establishing a proper estate plan.

6. I wrote up a will myself (using a form, software, legal web site, etc.) so that should be enough.

One of the biggest mistakes people make is to create a will for themselves and believe it is valid. This results in “intestacy” where the state will determine who gets your property and your children.

There are a number of formalities that must occur with the drafting of a will to ensure that it is valid. The only way to ensure that the will is drafted and executed properly you should consult a qualified estate planning attorney.

 7. I have less than $1.5 million dollars in insurance and property so I won’t owe any estate taxes.

 This falls into the category of “maybe true”.  As of today (Oct 5, 2010), there is no federal estate tax, although in Washington State we do have an estate tax.  The Washington State estate tax structure exempts an estate under $2 million dollars, so this example estate would pass free of estate tax.

Unfortunately, however, this situation may not exist for long.  Under current law, the federal estate tax will be automatically reinstated on January 1, 2011, at 2001 levels.  That means that we will return to a federal estate tax that has only a $1 million dollar exemption.

Congress has indicated that it will act to address this situation prior to year end, but we remain less than optimistic.  The legislative structure has existed for the last decade and Congress has failed to muster the votes to rectify the situation.

We recommend that you continue to plan for your estate with the statutory structure that currently exists.  That is, plan for a return to the $1 million exemption.  It may result in “over-planning”, should Congress actually change the estate tax laws prior to year end, but if Congress continues to fail to act you may end up paying significant estate taxes that you could have avoided.

Domestic Relations / Family Law

Both military and civilian couples preparing for divorce must handle sensitive matters including division of property and liabilities, spousal maintenance, restraining orders, visitation with minor children, and child support.  While divorce is typically a lose-lose proposition, experienced legal advice can assist you in making the most beneficial economic decisions and in maintaining your parental rights.

The staff of Luce Lineberry & Kenney PS strive to meet our client’s objectives and goals by focusing on the most practical, fair and expedient way forward when divorce breaks up a marriage.  If litigation becomes necessary, our staff is well prepared to be aggressive in pursuit of a divorce decree that is fair to you in every aspect.

Types of cases:

  • Legal Separations
  • Uncontested Divorces
  • Contested Divorces
  • Military Divorce
    • Marital Property Division
    • Complex Asset/Property Division
    • Spousal Support/Maintenance (Alimony)
  • Child Custody & Visitation
  • Child Support
  • Child Support Arrearages & Judgment Enforcement
  • Criminal Non-Support Cases
  • Modifications/Termination of Support Orders
  • Relocation Actions
  • Paternity
    • Establishment of Parenting Plan & Child Support
  • Premarital/Prenuptial Agreements
  • Domestic Violence

Cost to you

Your initial 30 minute consultation is free, during which we discuss your particular needs and how we can assist you.  An advanced fee deposit is required on every case with the amount based on your case’s individual needs.  Please feel free to contact one of our staff to discuss your particular needs and to schedule your free 30 minute consultation.


Legal Separation

Why choose legal separation over divorce?  Many couples having troubles in their marriage may not be ready to call it quits!  If you believe there is a chance to reconcile your marriage; either through marital counseling, agreement, or otherwise – you may wish to file for legal separation.  Whether legal separation or divorce, you still divide all assets and liabilities, you still set visitation and child support just the same as you would in divorce.

Divorce (Uncontested & Contested)

The thought of filing for divorce can be very intimidating to many individuals. There is paperwork to complete, agreements to review and sign, and possibly children to consider. To confidently bring an end to all of these matters, you need a competent, experienced legal team on your side. Whether you are the spouse filing for divorce, or the spouse responding to a divorce petition, we can help. You are entitled to a portion of your jointly shared properties and possessions as well as preservation of your parental rights.

Military Divorce

A military divorce requires special consideration and handling of military benefits including retirement funds; understanding of military regulations; structuring unique and individualized parenting plans for visitation to include long distance and non-long distance schedules for each parent; and calculating child support based on changes in service members individual pay (including oversea deployments).  Our staff is knowledgeable of those benefits the non-military spouse may still be eligible for following divorce, such as continued health care, commissary, base access, and other benefits.  Our experienced family law attorney(s) are prepared to protect our rights, whether you are the non-military spouse or the military spouse.

Child Custody

Child custody is an area of family law that is especially prone to high levels of conflict.  Contact our office to talk with an attorney to learn how to protect your parental rights and safeguard your child’s best interests throughout divorce or separation and to schedule an appointment regarding your child custody concern, whether it is part of a divorce or is a stand-alone legal issue such as in the case of unmarried parents (including same-sex couples).

Child Support

As part of your family law case, you may have questions regarding child support that you may be seeking or a support obligation that court may have ordered you to pay. Under Washington law, both parents have an obligation to provide financial support to their children.   Our staff has extensive experience with child support, enforcing obligations and modifying child support orders while protecting your rights.

Modifications Due to Relocation

Our family law attorneys understand the complexities and uniqueness of each family situation (both civilian and military). We are prepared to work with you and your child’s other parent to try to help you arrive at a revised parenting plan that the family courts will agree to if you must move out of state.  Our firm strives to satisfactorily meet client objectives and goals by focusing on the most practical, fair and expedient way forward when child custody is in dispute.

Paternity

Matters of paternity and parentage can drag on for years. All the while, a child may be suffering from lack of child support or even from the absence of one parent. Gain control of your situation and take steps to establish the paternity of your child.

Premarital/Prenuptial Agreements

Establishing a premarital/prenuptial agreement merely protects you and your loved one’s assets and personal property in instances where such protection is needed.  Let us help you and your significant other or loved one draft and finalize the agreement that is warranted in your situation. Having one of these agreements in place can prevent heartache and emotional distress later on in your relationship and your life.

Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is often closely tied to matters of family law.  We regularly help victims of domestic violence understand their rights and obtain the protections available from the law.  In some cases we represent individuals who have been falsely accused of domestic violence.  Our offices aggressively seek to stop domestic violence. We are committed to seeing the perpetrators held accountable for their actions, and to preserving your future safety.

DUI Defense

Good people make mistakes and the staff of Luce Lineberry & Kenney PS take pride in helping people minimize the impact a DUI charge can have on their life.  When you hire an attorney with Luce Lineberry & Kenney PS to represent your interests in a DUI case, we will advocate for you and protect your rights every step of the way beginning at the arraignment hearing and all the way to jury trial if necessary.

Our office has handled countless cases of this nature and has a very high success rate of getting charges dismissed or reduced to a lesser charge.  While we strive to achieve the best result possible in pre-trial negotiations, rest assured that we are prepared to vigorously litigate when necessary.

After you are charged with DUI, get help immediately

If you are charged with DUI in Washington state, you are facing some of the toughest penalties and consequences in the country.  In nearly every DUI charge, e.g., those with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level at or over .08, there are two issues that need to be dealt with swiftly and aggressively: (1) the Department of Licensing hearing and (2) the criminal case.  Even if you have not yet been charged, the wheels are in motion from the Department of Licensing to take administrative action to suspend your driver’s license.

Typically, a person arrested for DUI must respond to the Department of Licensing within 20 days to request a hearing, otherwise the license is automatically suspended for at least 90 days.  When dealing with the criminal case, the possibility exists for jail time, fines, additional license suspension, installation of an ignition interlock device in a vehicle, alcohol classes or a combination of any of these things.  Mandatory minimum penalties including jail time, fines and license suspension exist even upon the FIRST conviction for DUI.    Many people don’t know that you can still be charged with DUI even if your BAC is BELOW a .08.  In certain cases, it can take weeks or months for DUI charges to be filed by the prosecutor.

Even if you have not been formally charged, it is critical to speak with an attorney immediately in order to get your side of the story while it is still fresh in your mind, while witnesses can still be contacted and evidence preserved.  Over time, memories tend to fade and critical evidence to your defense can be lost or forgotten.  Once you are charged, it is even more important to have an experienced and knowledgeable DUI attorney to protect your rights all the way from the first court appearance and request for administrative hearing to the resolution of your case.

Consultation and Defense

Choosing a DUI attorney is a very important decision.  You should be comfortable with the attorney you choose and have an opportunity to have your questions answered prior to making that decision.  Once we both decide that it is the right fit, we can discuss fees and the strategy that will be taken to aggressively defend your case.  To learn more about how to protect your rights and what you are facing, contact Luce Lineberry & Kenney PS to schedule your free initial 60 minute consultation.

Types of Case Defended:

  • Boating Under the Influence (BUI)
  • Contested traffic infractions
  • Department of Licensing hearings
  • Driving Under the Influence (DUI)
  • Hit and Run
  • Negligent Driving
  • Reckless Driving
  • Reckless Endangerment
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