Thursday, June 3, 2010

Free DNS service - Easy, web-based domain manager -

Free DNS service - Easy, web-based domain manager - (JEH: This is probably the best domain name server (DNS) management tool that I've ever seen. I've been using it for at least five years. You can set forwarding of email and/or domain names, instead of paying your registrar or someone else to provide that for you. You can even configure dynamic DNS so that your ever-changing home IP address is "locked in" to a specific domain name that you can actually remember, though you don't ever need to worry about remembering the actual numeric IP (or Internet "street") address.) Plus it's free for the first five domain names.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Marital agreements in the estate and asset protection context

In honor of Valentine's Day (with smiles -- and hearts if you like), here are some general thoughts about marital agreements. Please note that I am admittedly not a family/marital lawyer (far from it and for many reasons). Nevertheless, there are certainly times when you should consider a marital agreement in the estate and asset protection context.

One of those circumstances involves Florida homestead (that is, a Florida resident's primary residence). By default, a surviving spouse receives a life estate in Florida homestead. One of the few ways to change that fact is via the use of a valid marital agreement. Consequently, many marital agreements drafted in light of Florida law -- whether for current Florida residents or those anticipating the change of their domicile to Florida -- should typically address Florida homestead issues. A detailed discussion is well beyond the scope of this blog post, but you may find excellent articles on the subject via a simple Google search for "Florida homestead" (no quotation marks needed) and/or a visit to The Florida Bar's website, where you may access years of archives of The Florida Bar Journal (under "Archives" or use the "Search" box) and find superb relevant articles by Barry Nelson, Esq. and others.

Another situation where marital agreements are indeed relevant involves asset protection. Perhaps you thought that you could only use a marital agreement prior to marriage, known as a "prenuptial" (or, if you prefer the Latin prefix, an "antenuptial") agreement. In some states, that is true because they still regard married couples as unified for contractual purposes, meaning that married couples are not typically viewed as separate parties for contractual purposes and therefore cannot generally make a valid contract between each other. In the wonderful Sunshine State, though, you may generally enter into a marital agreement even if you are already married, known as a "postnuptial" agreement.

Marital agreements can become important in the asset protection arena because they can require transfers of assets in order to satisfy the requirements of the agreement for each spouse. Those transfers typically do not constitute "fraudulent transfers," which is basically the "undo" tool that a creditor may attempt to employ in order to avoid the transfer of your asset(s) to someone or something (such as a trust or a business entity). The basic rule of fraudulent transfers is that you cannot put an asset that was formerly available to a creditor beyond that creditor's reach, particularly if trouble arises for you. Several exceptions to this set of rules apply, though, including transfers where you receive full value ("consideration") in exchange for the asset(s) transferred. Marital agreements can offer the same type of exceptional treatment because each spouse is viewed as merely carrying out required transfers under a binding legal obligation that reflects the pre-existing rights of each party to various assets.

Again, a detailed discussion of marital agreements is well beyond the scope of this post. You may obtain additional information by searching Google or your favorite search engine. Colleague Alexander Bove, Jr., Esq. has written some excellent recent commentary on the use of marital agreements in this context (see, for example, their firm's November 2009 newsletter). The American Bar Association also has helpful information regarding marital agreements in general, such as "The ABA Guide to Marriage, Divorce & Families" (entire book here via FindLaw) or "The ABA Guide to Family Law" (entire book online, just like "The ABA Guide to Wills & Estates" available here in its entirety).

Hopefully this post will provide some helpful general information on using marital agreements in the estate and asset protection planning context. As with anything, individual facts and circumstances will inform any type of planning. There is no "cookie-cutter" solution to these issues. With careful, thoughtful planning, though, marital agreements can enhance the estate plan, provide for the various distributions of assets under the estate plan, potentially even restrict future changes to the estate plan and/or its implementation after one spouse's death, and possibly even further protect assets of the estate (during lifetime and after death if properly structured).

Monday, January 18, 2010

Domestic tax havens continued

The article that I just shared (via ShareThis -- great tool) is a bit dated but still relevant, as are many other similar articles. What these articles do not clearly illustrate, however, is the stark contrast among states' tax regimes. For example, in Tennessee (which is still dear to our hearts, incidentally!), a married couple will face several additional tax burdens that do not exist in Florida: (1) a state-level inheritance tax (link -- actually applies as an estate tax) and gift tax (link); (2) the so-called "Hall" income tax on taxable interest and dividends as applied to individuals, business entities, and even trusts (link); and (3) a state and local sales/use tax applying at up to 9.25% (link). Those issues alone might justify changing at least one spouse's domicile to Florida, to say nothing of homestead protections and tax benefits, superior tenancy by the entirety (joint marital property) protection, and better protection for annuities and life insurance. I do not think that many of the folks who have left Florida in recent years have considered some of these factors, particularly if they were facing financial difficulties (unless a job in another state resolved their issues). My summary chart/matrix posted on our website compares Florida to several key Southeastern states, which are ironically better than many other states in terms of tax burdens and even protections and estate/trust laws. Florida is truly a domestic tax haven when compared to other states.

Tax Havens: States with Favorable & Friendly Tax Situations

Tax Havens: States with Favorable & Friendly Tax Situations

Posted using ShareThis

CCH's excellent site on using trusts and more

For many years, CCH's Business Owner's Toolkit (link) has been one of my favorite sites. We refer many clients and potential clients there because CCH has done an excellent job of summarizing many legal topics relevant to estate/tax planning and also business/corporate law. For example, their coverage on "Using Asset Protection Trusts" (link) is very helpful and continues with succeeding sections on how trusts function.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Additional repeal coverage at Heckerling Institute

Although I will miss the Heckerling Institute this year (only the second time in a decade), those who are attending should note the additional coverage/sessions on repeal of the federal estate tax. Additional details are available on the UM website (here). Advisers dealing with any aspect of estate planning should consider attending the Institute, as it is definitely the best in the country. I will miss participating in the ABA reporting team led by Joe Hodges, Esq., but will be reading their excellent coverage via the ABA-PTL list (here) or the ABA website (here) and would encourage other advisers to do the same.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Summary of estate planning and asset protection laws in Southeast

I recently posted a summary chart/matrix comparing the estate planning, asset protection, and state-level tax laws of four Southeastern jurisdictions (AL, GA, and TN, which often "feed" into Destin, along with FL (current as of August 21, 2009)), which is available <here.