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Bluffton South Carolina Estate Planning Law Blog

How to plan for old age when living alone

Roughly 19.5 million of the people who live alone in South Carolina and other states are age 65 and older. While some people prefer their independence, a spouse or child can act as a caregiver as an individual gets older. Absent the support that family members can provide, it is important for older people to create estate plans that meet their needs. Part of this plan is to save as much money as possible while still a part of the workforce.

Money should be split between a 401(k) and a bank account that can be accessed at any time. It is also important for an individual to choose a person who can make financial decisions when he or she cannot do so. Whoever is given a durable power of attorney can take actions such as filing a tax return or paying bills on another person's behalf.

The dangers of picking the wrong executor

You gave careful thought to what you want your will to accomplish. You made sure all the terms of your will are consistent with your wishes. Even if you've done all these things, the probate process could still end up going very differently than you would have wanted if you make a critical mistake in your will. This mistake is picking the wrong executor.

The executor is in charge of managing a person's estate and implementing the terms of a will after a person passes away. A person typically names an executor in his or her will.

Funding trusts

South Carolina residents can use an estate plan to ensure that their assets are managed according to their wishes and that their beneficiaries are not overly burdened with handling the estate. The inclusion of a trust is an important part of having a complete and efficient estate plan.

One type of asset that individuals can place into trusts is real estate. They can have an attorney draft a deed or deed in trust so that the real estate title is transferred into the trust. This transfers the title from under the individual's name to that of the trustee of the trust.

When a will is not enough

Many people living in South Carolina understand the importance of having a will. What they may not understand, however, is that a will is just the start of a comprehensive estate plan. While wills are helpful in ensuring that a deceased person's wishes regarding asset distribution are respected, other documents and plans are necessary to protect the interests of both the individual making the estate plan as well as their dependents.

When somebody makes an estate plan, one area of consideration should be the relationships between family members at the time of, and after, their death. Unfortunately, old resentments and unexpected misunderstandings can lead to significant heartache if family members are in disagreement over end-of-life decisions and distribution of personal property.

About revocable living trusts

People in South Carolina may consider using a revocable living trust as part of their estate plan to address issues that cannot be rectified with a will. A living trust is one that is created during an individual's lifetime and is useful in helping them with asset management and with ensuring that their wishes are carried out if they become incapacitated.

The majority of living trusts are created so that an individual has the option to revoke them or change the provisions at their discretion. Because they can be revoked or amended, and thereby included in the estate, they cannot be used to avoid being assessed taxes on the estate. However, they can be used to bypass the probate process.

Popularity of pet trusts growing

If you ever wanted a great trivia question to break out at cocktail parties, just ask what Gail Posner, Alexander McQueen, and Leona Helmsley all had in common. After getting past the quizzical looks you’ll probably receive, you can reveal that all of them (who were wealthy individuals) all created trusts for their pets. After they passed away, the trio left an average of $13 million for the care of their dogs.

Like many aspects of estate planning, creating pet trusts is not exclusively left to the wealthiest of Americans. In fact, more pet owners of meager means are leaving money to care for their pets. The American Pet Products Association reports that 12 percent of dog and cat owners made provisions in their wills for this purpose in 2016.

What is Trust Decanting?

Decanting is a new statute in South Carolina that was effective January 1, 2014.  The concept of decanting is codified at S.C. Code Section 62-7-816A.  Technically speaking, decanting is the ability of a trustee to make a distribution from one trust to another trust - rather than to a beneficiary of the first trust.  While this sounds quite mundane, it is quite a powerful concept because the second trust need not have identical terms as the first trust.  This allows the trustee to modify a trust that is otherwise irrevocable.  Decanting gets its name from the concept of pouring wine into a decanter (a new vessel) in order to improve the wine.  The trustee of the original trust is pouring the assets of the original trust into a new vessel, the second trust in order to improve the trust.

LLC vs. S Corporation

In order to truly understand the difference between limited liability companies ("LLCs") and corporations taxed pursuant to Subchapter S of the Internal Revenue Code ("S Corporations" or "S Corps"), it is important to realize that businesses exist within two different realms. The first realm is the state law realm which governs the interactions between the owners, the board of directors, the managers, and the like. The second is the realm of federal and state taxation, which have their own sets of guidelines that focus not on what the business can do, but the tax consequences of what the business does. The two sections below describe the similarities and differences between S Corps and LLCs for state law purposes and tax purposes.

How long does the probate process take?

The probate process is the process by which an estate is administered and property is transferred to the beneficiaries of the estate. If there is a will, the person who has died (often called the "decedent") is said to have died testate, and if there is no will, the person is said to have died intestate.

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