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Why and when do you need an Estate Plan?

Posted on February 27, 2013 at 3:30 AM

Когда и почему мы должны решать вопросы по оформлению наследства?


Многие из нас не любят обсуждать вопросы, связанные с подготовкой завещания и других юридических документов, имеющих отношение к оформлению передачи имущества наследникам. Откладывая планирование вопросов по передаче имущества наследникам на задний план, Вы рискуете тем, что Ваши наследники – те, кого Вы любите больше всего - не смогут получить то, что Вы хотите им оставить в тех долях, в которых Вы хотите и когда Вы хотите. Это может произойти по разным причинам:

1. Либо из-за того, что Вы не оставили завещания или трастового договора по распределению имущества после смерти и в силу вступает законодательная статья о распределении имущества в том порядке наследования и в тех долях наследования, как стандартно установлено в законодательстве штата, что, в большинстве случаев, может существенно отличаться от Ваших намерений по передаче имущества наследникам;

2.  Либо из-за дополнительных судебных издержек и юридических расходов при распределении наследства;

3. Либо из-за дополнительных посмертных налогов и соответственно уменьшения средств, которые получат Ваши наследники;

4. Либо из-за конфликтов между Вашими наследниками.

Вот почему так важно решить вопросы передачи наследства и правильно оформить необходимые документы пока Вы юридически дееспособны. Это поможет Вашим близким избежать лишних судебных разбирательств или финансовых трудностей.


Так, какие же юридические документы Вам следует подготовить, чтобы правильно оформить наследство?

Чтобы Ваш план по передаче наследства был правильно оформлен и имел юридическую силу, Вам необходимо подготовить у адвоката, как минимум, следующие юридические документы и оформить их у адвоката пока Вы юридически дееспособны:

1. Доверенности по медицинским и финансовым вопросам, которые будут иметь силу в течение Вашей жизни, в том числе на момент тяжелого заболевания или недееспособности и помогают избежать дорогостоящего судебного процесса по опекунству над Вами в случае недееспособности или над несовершеннолетними детьми;

2. Завещание или трастовый договор в зависимости от Ваших личных семейных и финансовых обстоятельств (трастовые договор также может помочь избежать процесса распределения имущества через суд);

3. Медицинскую директиву по вопросам обеспечения искуственного дыхания и жизнеобеспечения организма, если Вы оказались в коме или неизлечимо больны;

4. Список по передаче Вашего личного имущества (книг, машины, ювелирных изделий, произведений искусства, вещей, имеющих сентиментальную ценность и т. д.);

5. Формы по оформлению наследования пенсионных планов, индивидуальных пенсионных счетов, страховых полисов, имущества или банковских счетов, зарегистрированных на совместное владение и автоматически переходящих по наследству членам семьи или другим лицам, а также других видов собственности, которые не могут быть переданы согласно условиям завещания или траста.

Если у Вас есть несовершеннолетние дети или у Вас не первый брак и есть дети от предыдущего брака, то Вам обязательно следует проконсультироваться у адвоката, который занимается наследственным правом и планированием по поводу того, какие дополнительные документы или условия в завещании (или трастовом договоре) Вам следует иметь, чтобы защитить свои интересы и интересы Ваших наследников. 

По всем вопросам Вы можете обратиться к нам в офис по телефону (206) 915-5085 и мы будем рады Вам помочь!

New Unlawful Presence Waiver for Immediate Relatives of US Citizens

Posted on February 17, 2013 at 11:45 PM

The new waiver process will allow the immediate relatives of U.S. citizens to apply for a provisional unlawful presence waiver while they are still in the United States and before they leave to attend their immigrant visa interview abroad. Under the old rule, applicants who are not eligible to adjust status in the US to become lawful permanent residents must leave the US and obtain an immigrant visa and unlawful presence waiver abroad. The current process involved a long wait and a lot of uncertainty because the applicant had to prove extreme hardship to a US citizen parent or spouse to have a waiver for unlawful presence approved in order to return to the US. The new process is intended to reduce the reluctance of non-citizens who may wish to obtain a green card through their marriage to US citizens or relationship to a US citizen parent, because the applicant would no longer be deterred by lengthy separation and uncertainty of success imposed by the process.

Under the new rule, an applicant must meet all of these requirements to qualify for the provisional waiver: 

 

  • Applicant must be present in the US at the time he or she files for the waiver;
  • Applicant must prove hardship to a US citizen spouse or parent;
  • Applicant must be barred from readmission based only on unlawful presence in the US and have no other grounds of inadmissibility;
  • Applicant must be a beneficiary of an approved immediate relative petition (Form I-130 or Form I-360);
  • Applicant must have a case pending with the Department of State based on the approved immediate relative petition and paid the immigrant visa processing fee;
  • Applicant must depart from the US to obtain the immediate relative immigrant visa; and
  • Applicant must be able to prove extreme hardship to his or her US citizen spouse or parent.

 

Below we have summarized a few things you should know about the new provisional waiver process: 


The provisional waiver is limited to immediate relatives of US citizens who can prove extreme hardship to their US citizen spouse or parent. The extreme hardship to a US citizen spouse or parent is a discretionary determination based on a totality of circumstances.


The waiver is limited to waiver for unlawful presence, and not other grounds of inadmissibility. Non-citizens who have other grounds of inadmissibility besides unlawful presence are not eligible for this new I-601A provisional waiver process but may be eligible to apply for additional waiver and ultimately, an immigrant visa, through the existing regular I-601 waiver process.


The waiver is available to non-citizens in removal proceedings who have their proceedings administratively closed or terminated. Non-citizens in removal proceedings should have their proceedings administratively closed or terminated and apply directly to the USCIS for the waiver. For cases that have been administratively closed, the non-citizen should seek termination and receive termination before departure from the US to avoid triggering other bars of inadmissibility. The waiver is unavailable to applicants who have received deferred action but have final orders of removal or other grounds of inadmissibility beyond unlawful presence. Individuals with final orders of removal should seek to have their proceedings reopened and then administratively closed to apply for the waiver with USCIS.


Consular interviews take place abroad. Under the new provisional waiver process, immediate relatives of US citizens who have already departed the US must pursue their waiver from abroad.  Further, immediate relatives of US citizens who are still in the US must still depart the US for the consular immigrant visa process. However, the immediate relatives who are in the US can apply for the provisional waiver from within the US and wait until it has been approved to depart the country so that they do not face lengthy separation from their families.  Non-citizens who have already been scheduled for their immigrant visa interviews at consular posts abroad are ineligible for the new provisional waiver process. However, if Department of State ("DOS") scheduled the immigrant visa interview after the publication of the final rule, the non-citizen can apply for a provisional unlawful presence waiver. An individual can also qualify for the waiver process in the US if he or she has a new immigrant visa case because DOS terminated the immigrant visa registration associated with the previous interview and they have a new immediate relative petition filed by a different US citizen petitioner.


Waiver can be refiled. The filing of the provisional unlawful presence waiver is not limited to those filing for the first time as USCIS agrees the one-time filing limitation that was initially proposed was too restrictive. Rather, when an applicant’s waiver has been denied or withdrawn, the applicant can file a new waiver with the appropriate filing fees. This is especially pertinent to cases where circumstances have changed since the first filing or the first filing was done through non-licensed notarios or ineffective assistance of counsel.


Who is not eligible? USCIS has specifically stated that the following non-citizens would be ineligible for the new unlawful presence provisional waiver: 

  • Applicants under age 17 (seventeen);
  • Applicants subject to other grounds of inadmissibility;
  • Applicants who have already scheduled an immigrant visa interview abroad before the publication of this rule;
  • Applicants who do not have an immigrant visa pending with DOS based on the approved immediate relative petition and have not paid the immigrant visa processing fee;
  • Applicants in removal proceedings unless the proceedings are administratively closed or terminated;
  • Applicants subject to final orders of removal; or
  • Applicants with pending applications to USCIS for adjustment of status.

 

Removability from the US. For individuals who are denied a waiver, USCIS will follow the NTA issuance policy in effect at the time of adjudication. This means that individuals whose waiver request is denied or who withdraw before final adjudication will only be referred to ICE for removal proceedings if he or she is considered a removal priority by the agency, such as having a criminal history, engaging in fraud, misrepresentation, national security, or public safety threat.


No appeal process is available. There is no appeal for denial of an I-601A provisional waiver. However, in the event of denial, there are several alternate avenues, such as filing a new Form I-601A with the required filing fees or filing a Form I-601 after attending the immigrant visa interview abroad and after DOS makes a determination that the individual is inadmissible. I-601 waiver can be appealed to the Administrative Appeals Office of USCIS.


No right to employment authorization or parole upon filing of waiver application. A pending or approved provisional waiver does not create lawful immigration status, extend an authorized period of stay, or protect non-citizens from removal or grant of any other immigrant benefit, such as employment authorization or advance parole.


Fees. Fees for the new provisional waiver process will consist of a filing fee $585 and a biometrics fee $85. There are no fee waivers available for this process.

The new procedure does not take effect until March 4, 2013. Before filing any waiver application, we highly recommend that you contact our office at (206) 915-5085 to have a consultation with an immigration attorney regarding your particular situation.  

2013 Changes in Estate and Gift Taxes

Posted on January 27, 2013 at 11:05 PM

Now that the fiscal cliff has been averted, there appears to be confusion about the effect on the estate planning. Mostly what Congress did in this arena was to make permanent the system that has been in effect for the past two (2) years. This was an important achievement because, without any action on the government's part, the tax-free amount at federal level would have automatically reverted to $1 million per person, and the Federal estate tax rate for most estates would have increased to 55%. But at the end of the day the only thing the lawmakers actually changed is the Federal gift tax rate and the Federal estate tax rate, which has gone up to a top rate of 40% from a maximum of 35%.

Below we have summarized the most frequently asked questions and answers on the Federal estate and gift taxes after the fiscal cliff deal.


Who has to pay the Federal estate tax

Once you are worth more than a certain amount, taxes shrink your estate.  Under the 2010 tax law, we could each transfer up to $5 million tax-free during life or at death.  That figure is called the basic exclusion amount, and it is adjusted for inflation.  In 2012 it was raised to $5.12 million per person.  The new tax law does not change how much you can pass tax-free.  On January 11, 2013, the IRS announced that, with the inflation adjustment, the Federal estate tax exclusion amount for deaths in 2013 would be $5.25 million.


Do spouses have to pay the Federal estate tax when they inherit from each other

The new law does not change this either.  There is an unlimited marital deduction from the Federal estate and gift taxes that postpones the tax on assets inherited from one spouse to another until the second spouse dies.  This unlimited marital deduction applies only if the inheriting spouse is a U.S. citizen.  Certain tax planning techniquest must be employed for spouses who are non-U.S. citizens.  Contact us for more details. 


How much can my surviving spouse pass tax-free to our heirs

Here is where things get a bit complicated, but in a good way.  The 2010 tax law gave married couples a wonderful tax break, which the new law has made permanent.  Widows and widowers can add any unused estate tax basic exclusion amount of the spouse who died most recently to their own.  This enables them together to transfer up to $10.5 million tax-free.  This is known as portability.  Portability is not automatic.  A personal representative handling the estate of the spouse who died first will need to transfer the unused exclusion to the surviving spouse, who can then use it to make lifetime gifts or pass assets through his or her estate.  The prerequisite is to make an election by filing a Federal estate tax return when the first spouse dies, even if no tax is owed.  This return is due nine (9) months after death of the spouse with a six-month automatic extension allowed.  If a personal representative does not file the return or misses the deadline, the surviving spouse loses the right to portability.  Spouses should file this return even if they are not wealthy today, because no one knows what the future holds. 

To illustrate this, let's assume John dies in 2013 and passes on $3 million to his wife Mary.  He has no taxable estate and his wife, Mary, can pass on up to $7.5 million (her own $5.25 million exclusion plus her husband's unused $2.25 million exclusion) free of federal estate tax.  However, to take advantage of this, Mary must make an "election" on John's federal estate tax return.  This is how the IRS tracks the portability of John's used exclusion.


How does this relate to gifts made during lifetime

The lifetime gift tax exclusion and the estate tax exclusion are expressed as a total amount, currently $5.25 million per person.  It is possible to use this exclusion (sometimes called the “unified credit” to transfer assets at either stage or a combination of the two.  If you exceed the limit, tax of up to 40% will be owed.  The IRS expects you to keep a running tally and report these gifts so it will know how much has already been used up when you pass away.  For example, if you have used $1 million of the exclusion to make taxable lifetime gifts, the unused exclusion if you were to pass away in 2013 would be $4.25 million, rather than $5.25 million.  Under these circumstances, married couples get a break:  they can share the basic exclusion during life (this process is called gift-splitting) and give more to the kids now, tax-free.  But of course this also reduces how much of the tax-free amount will be available when they pass away, either for their own use or to be carried over by the surviving spouse.


Are there lifetime gifts that do not count

Yes, certain lifetime gifts do not count.  We can each give another person up to $14,000 per year without it counting against the lifetime basic exclusion amount.  This amount increased starting in 2013.  This is called the annual gift tax exclusion amount.  Spouses can combine this annual exclusion to double the size of the gift.  This amount should not be confused with the basic exclusion which is $5.25 million referenced above.

For example this year, relying on the annual exclusion, a married couple with a child, who is married and has two (2) children of his or her own, could make a joint cash gift of $28,000 to the adult child, the child’s spouse, and each grandchild – four (4) people – providing the family with $112,000 a year.  Only gifts that exceed the limit count against the lifetime exclusion.  The simplest way to use the annual exclusion is to give cash or other assets each year to each of as many individuals as you wish.  Another possibility is to put money in Section 529 education savings plans for your children.  Establishing these plans for relatives could relieve siblings or children of the need to save for college at a time when they are overwhelmed with current expenses.  It is still important to keep track of your annual gifts.  Contact us or talk to your CPA how to properly report annual gifts.


Should I redo my Will now

Many people do not have at least the basic estate planning documents needed to protect their loved ones.  We highly recommend that you and your spouse (if married) have at least the following basic documents in your estate plans:  a basic Will, Durable Powers of Attorney for financial and health care matters, as well as Health Care Directive and Supplement (also known as a Living Will).  We also highly recommend that you review your estate plan at least once every three (3) years and consult us to determine if any changes may be necessary or not. You should also revisit your estate plan if there have been changes in your personal or financial situation, for example, marriage, dissolution, adoption, acquisition of out-of-state real estate, or other significant events. Contact us today at (206) 915-5085 to discuss your specific situation!


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