IRS Eliminates Valuation Discounts for Family Owned Entities: TAKE ACTION NOW!

 

 The IRS Has Issued Regulations Limiting or Eliminating the Use of Valuation Discounts.

One of the key benefits of Family Entities over the last several years has been the opportunity for significant valuation discounts for estate and gift tax purposes for clients with taxable estates. Last year, we advised  in our Estate Planning Newsletter that we expected the IRS to issue regulations limiting or eliminating the use of valuation discounts for family owned or controlled entities. Earlier this month, the IRS finally issued those proposed regulations. The  regulations are set to virtually eliminate the use of family entity valuation discounts as an estate planning tool.

family entity valuation discounts estate planning attorneyHowever, there is still time to take advantage of valuation discounts. But, you need to act now. 

What is a Family Entity?

A Family Entity is exactly as it sounds — a company (limited liability company, corporation or partnership) that is owned and controlled by the organizer and the members of his or her family.

What Are Valuation Discounts?

Traditionally, ownership interests of a Family Entity have been valued at a reduced or discounted value. The basis for the discount is lack of control, lack of marketability, and other factors that result from the entity structure.  An ownership interest in a Family Entity is often valued at 20%-40% less than the actual fair market value of the underlying asset. This means that you could transfer an asset to a Family Entity and then later transfer your ownership interest in the Family Entity (either through lifetime gifting or at death) at a value significantly less than the fair market value of the underlying asset.

The use of family entities to obtain valuation discounts is a well-tested Estate Planning tool. Other methods of Estate Tax Planning often do not provide the same benefits. Because this method of estate and tax planning has proven so effective, it is imperative that clients with potentially taxable estates take advantage of Family Entity Valuation Discounts before the new IRS regulations take effect.

What’s the Hurry?

Entities created and funded prior to the enactment of the new IRS regulations will be governed by the current (more favorable) rules. But, there is very little time left to take advantage of Valuation Discounts. While it is not yet clear exactly when the new regulations will become final, many Estate Planning Attorneys believe they could become effective as soon as December 1, 2016.  No one can be certain of the date, which is why you should act now.

Our Advice to You

  • We recommend that any client wishing to take advantage of Family Entity Valuation Discounts as an Estate Planning strategy do so well before December 1, 2016.
  • If you already have a Family Owned Entity, this is a good time to consider whether additional gifts or sales of ownership interests would be beneficial in order to maximize the value of the gift or sale.
  • Anyone with a current Family Entity should contact us  to discuss taking further advantage of the current IRS regulations.
  • If you are concerned about the value of your estate for Estate Tax purposes or  if you are interested in learning more about Family Entity Valuation Discounts, please contact us at (901) 372-5003 or email us here so we can determine if a Family Entity can yield significant tax and other benefits for you and your family.

Capacity to Make a Will in Tennessee

capacity to make will, TN estate planning lawyer

Capacity to Make a Will in Tennessee

As an estate planning and probate lawyer, I’ve handled cases from time to time where a person’s capacity at the time he or she created a Will or Trust was an issue. The elderly have increasingly become targets for those looking to prey on their physical and/or mental weaknesses. Additionally, people are living longer, and Alzheimer’s and dementia are becoming more and more common. Given all these factors, it is likely to continue to be an issue, especially when a person of advanced age changes or attempts to change beneficiaries.

What is a Self-Proving Will?

In most cases, a Will prepared by a lawyer includes the statements of 2 witnesses and a notary so that the Will is what is referred to as “self-proving.”  If the Will is not self-proving, it must be “proven” after the person dies.  In any case where there are handwritten notations or the document is totally handwritten, capacity of the person making the Will must be established.

Standard for Testamentary Capacity to Execute a Will in Tennessee

The general standard in Tennessee for capacity to execute a Will or a Trust is that the Testator (i.e., the person leaving the Will) be “of sound mind and disposing memory.” A person who does not have the capacity to conduct general business transactions or to enter into a contract can still have the required testamentary capacity to execute a Will or Trust. Two key factors in determining whether this standard is met are that the person must understand (1) the nature and effect of the act, and (2) the extent of the property the person is seeking to dispose of.

Whether a person is “of sound mind and disposing memory” is easy to determine when he or she is at one end of the spectrum or the other. Unfortunately, capacity is often not an all-or-nothing deal but falls somewhere in between the two.  When a person whose capacity is questionable tries to make notes or create or modify a Will or Trust, it can be very hard to determine after the fact. Obviously, the opinion of the person’s physician is always preferable and can often help prevent questions later.

Without capacity to make or modify a Will, the person’s intent may not be able to be carried out, even if there is no question as to what he or she wanted or was attempting to accomplish.

Your Legacy is Too Important to Leave to Chance.

Proper execution of  testamentary documents (i.e., Will, Trust, etc.) can avoid confusion later after you die, which is why it is important to consult an attorney when planning for your beneficiaries. The goal of testamentary documents is to accomplish your goals and objectives. What a shame if your intentions are not fulfilled due to a legal technicality or because a document was not executed properly.

If you would like to learn more about planning for your estate, please call us at 901-372-5003 or visit the Estate Planning page on our website.

Probate Process: How long does it take?

probate process, how long does it takeHow long does the probate process take? I often pose this question at seminars and get a variety of answers. Two of my favorite answers are “years” and “forever.” While neither answer is correct, it typically indicates that someone in the room (or perhaps a friend or neighbor) has had a bad experience with Probate Court at some point. In Tennessee, a Probate Estate must remain open for a minimum of four (4) months from the time of first publication. This period is designed to give creditors time to come forward and assert a claim against the Estate.  An Estate must remain open the full four (4) months regardless of whether the deceased person had any debts.

Time Starts to Run on the Date of “First Publication”

When an estate is opened in Shelby County Probate Court, the clerk’s office notifies The Daily News, and they publish a public notice regarding the opening of the Estate, typically within a week of the opening of the Estate. This first publication marks the start of the four (4) months, and the Estate cannot be closed until 4 months after the date of first publication.

However, bear in mind that this is a minimum amount of time, and there is no guarantee that the Estate can be closed at the end of the 4 months. I frequently tell clients that 6-9 months is a more realistic average for a straightforward Probate Process. The “first accounting” is not due until 15 months from the opening of the Estate, so if the Estate is closed out within that 15 month period, you are still doing pretty well.

Why does the Probate Process take so long?

So what makes the probate process last beyond the 4 months? A number of factors often contribute to how long a Probate Estate is open. Preliminarily, there are 8-10 steps that must be completed for every Probate Estate regardless of the size of the Estate, the cooperation of the Beneficiaries, or the debts of the deceased person. If these steps have not been completed or if the proper letter has not been received from Tenncare of the Tennessee Department of Revenue, the Estate cannot be closed. If there are minor Beneficiaries involved and the Will does not contain instructions on holding those funds in trust, we often have to seek court guidance and have additional hearings regarding handling these funds. Likewise, if Beneficiaries are fighting, the Probate Process will often take significantly longer than the 4 month minimum. If the decedent left a number of debts, and creditors have filed claims against the Estate, each valid claim must be paid in full or settled before the Estate can be closed. If the decedent had property in more than one state, the process can take much longer. These are just a few of the factors that can contribute to a lengthier Probate Process.

Every Probate Case is Different

Although the correct answer is rarely, if ever, “years” and definitely not “forever,” the Probate Process can last much longer than Beneficiaries are expecting. The Probate Estate that is open for years is not the norm, but most attorneys who do a lot of Probate work will typically have at least a couple of cases that drag on for one reason or another. In many cases, where everything is straightforward, 6 months should be a reasonable estimation of how long it takes. Unfortunately, we often can’t predict when we open an Estate the circumstances that may arise, so while it may seem simple on the front end, it could also turn out to be more complex. If we know some of the complicating circumstances in the planning stages, we can often  incorporate strategies to avoid some of the Probate pitfalls.

Need help with Probate Court?

Please call us at 901-372-5003. We know you have a lot on your mind and the thought of going to court can be overwhelming. We are experienced probate lawyers and we can guide you through the Probate Process.

How to Avoid Probate

Did you know that you can eliminate the Probate Process altogether through revocable living trust planning? If you would like to learn more about Probate or about planning to avoid probate, please call us. We can guide you through an Estate Plan designed specifically for you and your family.