Monday, March 30, 2015
For How Long Should a Business Keep Tax Records?
Minnesota Estate Planning Lawyer Talks About the Issues Related to Keeping Tax Records
There are many reasons for retaining tax records. They can be a useful guide for business planning, for tracking receipts and expenses, and in cases where the company or shares are being sold to outside parties.
The IRS expects taxpayers to keep records for as long as they are needed to administer any part of the Internal Revenue Code. In other words, if you fail to keep records, and an item in a past return is questioned, you may not have the documentation you need to defend yourself and avoid taxes and penalties. In addition, insurance companies and creditors may wish to see tax returns even after the IRS no longer does.
What is the "Period of Limitations" for a Tax Return?
Generally, you must keep records that support income and deductions for a tax return until the "period of limitations" for that return elapses. This is the period during which you can still amend your return to get a refund or credit and during which the IRS can still assess more tax. It varies depending on the circumstances surrounding each return.
- If you owe additional tax, but you haven't seriously underpaid, committed fraud, or failed to file a return, the period is 3 years from the date taxes were filed.
- If you failed to report income that you should have reported, in excess of 25% of the gross income that you did report, the period is 6 years.
- If you filed a claim for credit or refund after you filed your return, the period is the later of 3 years after the return was filed or 2 years after tax was paid.
- If you filed a claim for a loss from worthless securities or a bad debt deduction, the period is 7 years.
- If you filed a fraudulent return or failed to file a return, the period is unlimited.
Note: Returns filed before taxes are due are treated as though they were filed on the due date.
Other Periods of Limitations
Additionally, if you are an employer, you must keep employee tax records for at least 4 years after the later of the date the tax becomes due or the date it is paid.
For assets, you should keep records until the period of limitations elapses for the year in which you sell the property in a taxable transaction. You will need records to compute depreciation, amortization, or depletion deductions and to add up your basis in the property for purposes of calculating gain or loss. A business law attorney experienced in tax matters can further guide you in relation to your specific situation
Monday, March 02, 2015
Changing Uses for Bypass Trusts
Minneapolis Estate Planning Lawyer Explains the Reasons Why You May Want a Bypass Trust
Every year, each individual who dies in the U.S. can leave a certain amount of money to his or her heirs before facing any federal estate taxes. For example, in 2013, a person who died could leave $5.25 million to his or her heirs (or a charity) estate tax free, and everything over that amount would be taxable by the federal government. Transfers at death to a spouse are not taxable.
Therefore, if a husband died owning $8 million in assets in 2013 and passed everything to his wife, that transfer was not taxable because transfers to spouses at death are not taxable. However, if the wife died later that year owning that $8 million in assets, everything over $5.25 million (her exemption amount) would be taxable by the federal government. Couples would effectively have the use of only one exemption amount unless they did some special planning, or left a chunk of their property to someone other than their spouse.
Estate tax law provided a tool called “bypass trusts” that would allow a spouse to leave an inheritance to the surviving spouse in a special trust. That trust would be taxable and would use up the exemption amount of the first spouse to die. However, the remaining spouse would be able to use the property in that bypass trust to live on, and would also have the use of his or her exemption amount when he or she passed. This planning technique effectively allowed couples to combine their exemption amounts.
For the year 2013, each person who dies can pass $5.25 million free from federal estate taxes. This exemption amount is adjusted for inflation every year. In addition, spouses can combine their exemption amounts without requiring a bypass trust (making the exemptions “portable” between spouses). This change in the law appears to make bypass trusts useless, at least until Congress decides to remove the portability provision from the estate tax law.
However, bypass trusts can still be valuable in many situations, such as:
(1) Remarriage or blended families. You may be concerned that your spouse will remarry and cut the children out of the will after you are gone. Or, you may have a blended family and you may fear that your spouse will disinherit your children in favor of his or her children after you pass. A bypass trust would allow the surviving spouse to have access to the money to live on during life, while providing that everything goes to the children at the surviving spouse’s death.
(2) State estate taxes. Currently, Minnesota has an estate tax exemption of 1.2 million per person (to increase to 2 million by 2018), so a bypass trust may be helpful to allow you and your spouse to combine your assets that can be exempt from state estate tax.
(3) Changes in the estate tax law. Estate tax laws have been in flux over the past several years. What if you did an estate plan assuming that bypass trusts were unnecessary, Congress removed the portability provision, and you neglected to update your estate plan? You could be paying thousands or even millions of dollars in taxes that you could have saved by using a bypass trust.
(4) Protecting assets from creditors. If you leave a large inheritance outright to your spouse and children, and a creditor appears on the scene, the creditor may be able to seize all the money. Although many people think that will not happen to their family, divorces, bankruptcies, personal injury lawsuits, and hard economic times can unexpectedly result in a large monetary judgment against a family member.
Although it may appear that bypass trusts have lost their usefulness, there are still many situations in which they can be invaluable tools to help families avoid estate taxes.
Don't pay unnecessary taxes, call a Minneapolis estate planning attorney now to discuss your options with an attorney.
Monday, February 23, 2015
A Discussion of Wills, Part 3: Beware of “Simple” Estate Plans
“I just need a simple will.” It’s a phrase I hear at least once a week. What could be wrong with that? This post explains the many common situations in which a "simple will" may not be a good fit for your family tells the cautionary tale of one family who relied on a will purchased at a stationary store.Read more . . .
Monday, February 16, 2015
What Happens If Your Heir Doesn't Want What You Are Giving?
Beneficiaries may not want the asset left to them? Why? And what happens if they reject it? I explain the reasons why someone may reject an inheritance and what happens to it if they do.Read more . . .
Monday, February 09, 2015
When to Involve Adult Children in the Estate Planning Process
Should you bring your kids to meet with your estate planning attorney? I discuss the issues related to having them present and what an estate planning attorney should do if you want the children involved.Read more . . .
Monday, January 26, 2015
Leaving a Timeshare to a Loved One
You have a timeshare in a warm sunny place and want to leave it to a loved one to inherit. How can you do this? What are the issues unique to owning a timeshare?Read more . . .
Monday, January 12, 2015
A Discussion About Wills, Part 2: Is a copy of a will sufficient?
A Minneapolis Probate Lawyer Discusses the Issue of Using a Will Copy in a Probate
Many people keep their important documents at home where they are easily accessible. It’s not at all uncommon to find people with a filing cabinet or even a shoe box containing passports, account statements, deeds, tax returns, birth certificates and social security cards. Wills are often added to these files once the estate planning process is completed. In choosing to store your important estate planning documents at home, however, you risk having the originals lost or destroyed in the case of fire, flooding or theft. So what happens if the original version of your will is lost or ruined?
When a person dies, Minnesota law determines what must happen in the state probate proceeding. In most cases, the "original" of the will must be submitted to the probate court in the county where the person resided. If the original of the will cannot be located and provided to the court, Minnesota's probate code does permit the submission of a photocopy of that signed will though it may cause a delay.
Should you lose the original copy of your will, the best practice would be for you to execute a new will which would make things easier for your family and loved ones upon your death. In that case there would be better assurances that your wishes were followed and carried out. Preparing a new will should not take much time for your attorney. If you work with Unique Estate Law, we can easily finalize a new original for you. In addition, if you have our Foundational Estate Plan, then you received a free account with Legal Vault and copies of your documents should all be online for your, or your loved ones, to access in case of emergency. If for some reason this is not done, you may wish to execute a document stating the original was destroyed in a flood or fire but that you did not intend to revoke it.
Another option to consider to keep the originals of your estate planning documents safe, even in the face of disaster, is purchasing a fireproof/waterproof safe for your home or rent a safe deposit box with a local bank where you can still easily access your documents but keep them secure off-site. Many of my clients have gun safes and have decided to put their plan in the safe. Also, each county in Minnesota will, for a small fee, store your original will.
If you have any questions on storage of your documents, please contact an estate planning attorney at Unique Estate Law.
Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Do I Really Need Advance Directives for Health Care?
Many people are confused by advance directives. They are unsure what type of directives are out there, and whether they even need directives at all, especially if they are young. There are several types of advance directives. One is a living will, which communicates what type of life support and medical treatments, such as ventilators or a feeding tube, you wish to receive. Another type is called a health care power of attorney. In a health care power of attorney, you give someone the power to make health care decisions for you in the event are unable to do so for yourself. A third type of advance directive for health care is a do not resuscitate order. A DNR order is a request that you not receive CPR if your heart stops beating or you stop breathing. Depending on the laws in your state, the health care form you execute could include all three types of health care directives, or you may do each individually.
If you are 18 or over, it’s time to establish your health care directives. Although no one thinks they will be in a medical situation requiring a directive at such a young age, it happens every day in the United States. People of all ages are involved in tragic accidents that couldn’t be foreseen and could result in life support being used. If you plan in advance, you can make sure you receive the type of medical care you wish, and you can avoid a lot of heartache to your family, who may be forced to guess what you would want done.
Many people do not want to do health care directives because they may believe some of the common misperceptions that exist about them. People are often frightened to name someone to make health care decisions for them, because they fear they will give up the right to make decisions for themselves. However, an individual always has the right, if he or she is competent, to revoke the directive or make his or her own decisions. Some also fear they will not be treated if they have a health care directive. This is also a common myth – the directive simply informs caregivers of the person you designate to make health care decisions and the type of treatment you’d like to receive in various situations. Planning ahead can ensure that your treatment preferences are carried out while providing some peace of mind to your loved ones who are in a position to direct them.
Monday, November 24, 2014
What is a Successor Trustee
A Minneapolis Estate Planning Lawyer Defines a Successor Trustee and Explains Why You Should Have One
You did everything right. You sat down with a lawyer, paid her to draft your estate plan, created a living trust and named each other as trustees. But, the unthinkable happened and your spouse died before you did. You were so sure it would be you first. Your lawyer now explains that you are the successor trustee and that you must now administer your spouse's trust. What does she mean by a successor trustee? Read more . . .
Monday, November 10, 2014
How to Choose an Executor
A Minneapolis Probate Lawyer Discusses Selecting An Executor Post Mortem
The death of a loved one is a difficult experience no matter the circumstances. It can be especially difficult when a person dies without a will. If a person dies without a will and there are assets that need to be distributed, the estate will be subject to the process of administration instead of probate proceedings.Read more . . .
Monday, October 13, 2014
Family Foundations: What, Why, and How
Families with significant net worth who have a tradition of philanthropy often consider establishing a charitable foundation as part of their estate plans. While there are a number of advantages to using family foundations as a philanthropic vehicle, families need to seek guidance from estate planning and tax professionals to ensure it is the best option for achieving their objectives.
Read more . . .
From within Hennepin County Unique Estate Law represents estate planning and elder law clients throughout Minnesota, including Minneapolis, Edina, Bloomington, St. Louis Park, Minnetonka, Plymouth, Wayzata, Maple Grove, St. Paul, and Brooklyn Park. The Minnesota law firm of Unique Estate Law focuses on all aspects of estate planning, including specialized wills, trusts, powers of attorney and medical directives for married couples, young families, blended families, single parents, gay families and those going through a divorce. Unique Estate Law also handles probate administration, asset protection, Medical Assistance planning, elder law, business succession planning, adoptions and cabin planning.