New Estate Tax Legislation Introduced by Rep. Linda Sanchez

July 19, 2010

Filed under: Federal Estate Tax — Christopher J. Berry @ 9:36 pm

U.S. Rep. Linda Sanchez has introduced new legislation to restore the estate tax. Her bill entitled the Responsible Estate Tax Act calls for a progressive tax rate starting at 45% and a $3.5 Million exemption. Included in her bill are the restrictions on GRATs that we’ve seen discussed as well as an additional tax on estates above $500 million. You can read her press release on the bill here: Legislation to Shift Tax Burden Back to Billionaires.

In other Federal Estate Tax news, Nancy J. Altman, who is the co-director of Social Security Works, testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the need of Social Security.  During her testimony, she proposed reinstating the 2009 Federal Estate Tax rules and dedicating a portion of the proceeds to fund Social Security. Her testimony can be read here.

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George Steinbrenner Dies Leaving Behind Another Tax-Free Billionaire Estate

July 14, 2010

Filed under: Estate Planning,Federal Estate Tax — Christopher J. Berry @ 9:39 pm

George Steinbrenner, who in 2009, according to Forbes, had an estate worth $1.15 billion passed away recently making him another who has joined the growing group of billionaires and millionaires who have passed away in a year where there is no estate tax.

The way the current estate tax rules work, there is no estate tax due in 2010. Compare this to if Georgoe Steinbrenner passed away in 2011, when there is only a $1 million exemption and anything over $1 million would be taxed at up to 55%. For example, say an individual with a $5 million estate passed away in 2011. That estate could generate nearly $2 million in taxes.

For more on George Steinbrenner’s passing, visit and George Steinbrenner, Who Built Yankees Into Powerhouse, Dies at 80.

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Asset Protection Planning for Physicians

Filed under: Asset Protection,Estate Planning — Christopher J. Berry @ 9:37 pm

Physicians are constant targets of malpractice lawsuits and other legal actions, including employee lawsuits for sexual harassment, unfair termination and discrimination, business related lawsuits and legal issues arising out of unwise investments.

Given this environment along with many plaintiffs lawyers looking to cash in, many Michigan physicians feel like they are in the legal cross hairs. That is why so many physicians are looking to strong legal counsel on their estate planning and asset protection matters.

Asset protection for Michigan physicians involves a few different aspects. First asset protection involves the adoption of advanced planning strategies which place assets beyond the reach of future creditors. Asset protection planning for physicians discourages lawsuits by lowering a client’s financial profile so that they become a far less attractive target for the plaintiff’s lawyers. Also, there is the benefit of enhanced leverage in negotiations if a lawsuit is field.

Understand that asset protection planning for physicians, while it’s confidential, it is not based on secrecy or fraudulent transfers, it does not involve hiding assets, and is not a type of tax dodge.

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Michigan Veterans Benefits Planning Information

July 13, 2010

Filed under: Elder Law,Michigan Veterans Benefits — Christopher J. Berry @ 9:40 pm

As an Oakland county elder law lawyer, I take great pride in being able to assist Michigan veterans in receiving the veterans benefits that they deserve.

There are currently over 25 million veterans alive in the United States. There are over 9 million surviving spouses of veterans currently living in the United States. Many of these veterans and surviving spouses are receiving long term care or will need some type of long term care in the near future, and there are funds available from the Veterans Administration (“VA”) to help pay for that care. Unfortunately, many of those who are eligible have no idea that any type of benefits exist for them or that an attorney can help them become eligible.

Benefits Available
There are three types of benefits available that provide a monthly cash payment to veterans who have long term health care needs. Below is an overview of the three benefits, and more detail will be provided on each benefit in the following paragraphs…

you can read the rest at the Michigan Elder Law Center.

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Billionaire Dies, No Taxes For Uncle Sam

July 31, 2010

Filed under: Federal Estate Tax — Christopher J. Berry @ 9:30 pm

As a Detroit Federal Estate Tax estate planning lawyer, I keep up on the latest goings on with the Federal Estate Tax debate.

Dan Duncan, a billionaire, who made his money in oil and gas has recently passed away. Forbes magazine had him listed as the 74th wealthiest person in the world.  His estate was valued at $9 billion.  Had he lived until Jan 1, 2011, his estate may have paid up to 55% of that $9 billion to the United States government.  Instead, because of congress’ failure to address the Federal Estate Tax, there is no estate tax due.

The United States has had a Federal Estate Tax since 1916.  When Rockefeller died in 1937, his estate had paid a 70% tax according to a article.

It will be interesting to see if Congress acts before we go reach 2011.  Will the estate tax exemption amount fall back to $1 million?

LegalZoom is Unfair & Misleading

July 30, 2010

Filed under: Do It Yourself Estate Planning Gone Wrong,LegalZoom,Quicken Willmaker,Suze Orman — Christopher J. Berry @ 9:31 pm

There has been a class action lawsuit filed against LegalZoom, which is an online “document preparation” service. You can read more about the lawsuit at the Courthouse News Service.  This is no big surprise to the many estate planning lawyers and probate lawyer who stumble across people using these products.

A short snippet from the article:

Katherine Webster sued as executor of the estate of Anthony Ferrantino and trustee of the Anthony J. Ferrantino Living Trust.
Webster claims that LegalZoom’s website and advertising are premised on the misleading claim that “virtually anyone” can create a valid legal document through the site, and that the “customized” documents made by nonlawyers would be reviewed for “accuracy and reliability,” imbuing customers with a false sense of security.
“Nowhere in the manual do defendants explain that using LegalZoom is not the same as using an attorney and that its documents are only ‘customized’ to the extent that the LegalZoom computer program inputs your name and identifying information, but not tailored to your specific circumstances,” the complaint states.
Plaintiffs say they bought a living trust through LegalZoom, which was to include a revocable living trust, a will and a durable power of attorney. But Webster says the documents were flawed as a result of LegalZoom’s failures, and Ferrantino’s estate had to hire an attorney to correct the problems.

Federal Estate Tax | What’s Happening

July 29, 2010

Filed under: Federal Estate Tax — Christopher J. Berry @ 9:34 pm

The Federal Estate Tax debate has been heating up for a while. Lexis has put together a nice little summary that I wanted to share, but hadn’t had a chance to. You can read the Lexis summary at “What’s Cooking with the Estate Tax” by Deirdre R. Wheatley-Liss.


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