Friday, December 23, 2011

FileLocator Lite - Free File Searching Utility

FileLocator Lite - Free File Searching Utility (JEH: Especially for Windows 7 users (no "classic" search tool), this is an amazing program. You can see dates modified, created, and accessed. You can also export/print search results. Take a look at their customer list if you want more "recommendations": You're in very good company! (including Boeing, Cisco, FedEx, NASA, VISA, etc.))

Friday, December 9, 2011

Estate Tax Exclusion to Rise: IRS Inflation Adjustments for 2012

Estate Tax Exclusion to Rise: IRS Inflation Adjustments for 2012 - (JEH: Due to the automatic inflation adjustment of the federal transfer tax exemptions as part of the 2010 tax act, the $5 million exemption available during 2011 and 2012 -- but perhaps not beyond -- will actually be increased as of 2012)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

With Higher Taxes Looming, Are Your Clients Ready?

With Higher Taxes Looming, Are Your Clients Ready? - Ed McCarthy, CFP® (Journal of Financial Planning, Nov. 2011) (JEH: I have posted several other links on this blog during the last few months that highlight estate planning opportunities under the 2010 tax act. For anyone with assets valued in excess of $1 million but less than $5 million (and certainly beyond that), or twice those amounts for married couples, more advanced planning such as qualified personal residence trusts, "intentionally-defective" grantor trusts, charitable lead trusts, and similar techniques should be considered. Most commentators agree that Congress will not likely reduce the now reunified gift, estate, and GST exemption to $1 million per person, which will occur as of 2013 without additional legislation, but no one knows what the "compromise" will be. Nearly all commentators are recommending the use of the above (and other) lifetime techniques that utilize the unprecedented $5 million per person exemption. Unfortunately, if you live in Connecticut or Tennessee, you have to deal with a state-level gift tax in addition to the federal rules. Please browse my posts over the past five months (from June 2011 to present) to obtain numerous summaries with more detailed information. For practitioners, please join me at the Heckerling Institute on Estate Planning, which I have attended nearly every year since 1999 and which will extensively cover these topics. Our American Bar Association group will also be reporting on and summarizing the Institute's proceedings, which will be available here.)

Monday, October 31, 2011

Using Skype for deposition in Italian estate

My co-counsel and I obtained permission from the local Circuit Court to use Skype for our client's deposition in a probate case involving an Italian decedent. A Georgia judge made headlines earlier this year when he allowed Skype to transmit an unavailable witness' testimony in a criminal trial. Several other cases have made news since then.

For our equipment, we used my MacBook Pro, which has a good video card (important), a high-speed broadband Internet connection (critical), and a 30-inch high-definition television to display the digital video (with a mini-DVI to HDMI converter) so that opposing counsel could easily see. I also connected the audio to the television, which is superior to my MB Pro's speakers. You could even use a digital projector to make the image literally larger than life, although the video resolution on both ends would need to be HD to make the projection look good. The 30-inch HD television worked well for our small deposition's purposes.

Both the audio and the video flowed perfectly, allowing everyone to see and interact as if our client were in the room rather than over 4,000 miles away. Everyone, including the court reporter, was impressed with the flawless transmission. In fact, Skype performed so clearly that we could hear our client's clock ticking in the background without missing even part of a tick (or tock).

The simple aspect of Skype is its availability on every major operating system's platform from Linux to Windows and even mobile editions (not advisable for this purpose). Skype encrypts the transmission, which is also comforting in this type of setting. Skype-to-Skype video conferencing is free, and there's a premium (paid) subscription that allows multiple participants simultaneously.

We considered using Regus, which offers professional video conferencing around the world. The pricing for their service was relatively good considering all factors (around $1,000 for the US (FL) and Italy). However, free -- other than the electricity consumed and the Internet access, for which you must pay anyway -- is difficult to beat!

At the end of the deposition, the court reporter offered an excellent suggestion: allowing expert witnesses to testify via Skype. This would be extremely helpful in another complex trust/estate litigation case because our expert is a nationally-known lawyer who might need to travel for a day or more using the traditional approach, often waiting most of that time. With Skype, he could offer his expert testimony exactly when necessary and from anywhere, provided he had access to a webcam (with some external models produced by Logitech and Microsoft offering up to 1080p HD video and surround sound as well), Skype, and a broadband Internet connection.

I don't have time for more detailed postings such as this, but I view this one worthwhile. I hope that it helps someone. Incidentally, you could achieve the same or perhaps even better results using Apple's Facetime, AOL video messaging (which is also compatible with Facetime), Google Voice, MSN or Yahoo messenger, and so on. None is as ubiquitous as Skype, though.

On a personal note, you can even use Skype to share a newborn baby's video with your family. We did just that using my MB Pro a couple of years ago. With most laptops now including good to very good webcams and many hospitals offering high-speed wireless Internet, this is an amazing way to share free streaming video (well, other than the cost of having the child, of course!). There's no end to the ways that you can use Skype for business or personal purposes.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Dynasty Trusts Let Wealthy Duck Estate, Gift Taxes Forever - Businessweek

Dynasty Trusts Let Wealthy Duck Estate, Gift Taxes Forever - Businessweek

How to Pick an Asset Protection Lawyer – Key Due Diligence Questions and Caveats | Pro Asset Protection

How to Pick an Asset Protection Lawyer – Key Due Diligence Questions and Caveats | Pro Asset Protection (JEH: This article makes some good points, although I disagree with some of it, e.g., the particular jurisdiction of a client can make all of the difference in their planning ... and protection. Overall, however, the article is worth reading, particularly for those in search of these specialized legal services.)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Google Scholar Advanced Legal Research Tips | Lawyerist

Google Scholar Advanced Legal Research Tips | Lawyerist (JEH: I posted a link to another recommendation of Google Scholar (GS) on April 25, 2011 on this blog. I have used GS to research several cases and only found one instance where GS did not retrieve the full opinion (early case in the 1900s). The "How Cited" feature is indeed valuable, although obviously not as extensive as LexisNexis' Shepard's or Westlaw's KeyCite. GS also links to HeinOnline, which provides scanned bar journal and law review articles and offers a 24-hour subscription to access. Amy Beller's article in our ABA RPTE Law Section's eReport provides a more detailed overview, and is definitely worth reading. Remember to select the "Legal opinions and journals" radio button under the GS search box to limit the search to legal cases and periodicals.)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

president obama budget proposal estate planning

Change is on the Way: President Obama’s proposals for estate planning in 2013 and beyond - WEALTH WATCH - Trusts & Estates Magazine (JEH: The current administration's proposals make planning during 2011 and 2012 even more important. The current $5 million gift tax exemption, which is the highest in history (except during times when these federal transfer taxes did not exist), would be decreased to the $1 million exemption under the 2001 tax act. The estate and generation-skipping transfer (GST) tax exemption, which are also currently $5 million, would return to their $3.5 million levels under the 2001 tax act. In addition, the proposals suggest a 90 year "term limit" on trusts designed to optimize these exemptions (essentially a tax-oriented version of the rule against perpetuities) in order to limit their effectiveness (which of course means taxing those assets more often as they pass from one generation to the next). Consequently, planning to utilize the current exemption is critical for anyone whose assets would exceed the revised exemptions, including those whose assets would appreciate beyond those limits. With the possibility of future inflation, that might be more folks than anyone thinks now.)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Resources on general estate planning information

Clients and even other advisors often ask where to find resources on general estate planning information, such as the differences between wills and revocable living trusts or the basic steps of the probate process. The Internet is a wonderful tool, but can also be overwhelming and does not necessarily deliver the most useful information at the top of your search results. Following are several of my favorite resources on fundamental estate planning issues and questions.

First, The Florida Bar's consumer pamphlets on estate planning are excellent. Unfortunately the website's auto-generated links are terribly long. Here is the link to the relevant pamphlets on wills, trusts, and estates, or you may use this much simpler shortcut link:

For example, the pamphlet on "The Revocable Trust in Florida" discusses some of the common myths regarding these topics. For instance, all assets are not subject to probate after someone passes away. It also covers "Do I benefit by avoiding probate?" and cites the general example of a multi-jurisdictional probate situation -- where someone owns real property in multiple states -- as one illustration of the proper use of a revocable trust.

The Florida Bar's website contains a vast amount of additional resources. In another blog post, I mentioned the Florida Bar Journal, the archives of which are available for more than ten years. You may also view any Florida lawyer's profile via the "Find a Lawyer" online directory.

Second, the American Bar Association's Section of Real Property, Trust and Estate Law website, which was recently redesigned along with the rest of the ABA website, also offers numerous resources from basic to very advanced information (including complete continuing legal education materials from previous programs). The "Estate Planning [Frequently Asked Questions" pages cover many basic estate planning and probate/trust administration issues.

The third favorite is CCH's excellent "Financial Planning Toolkit." I have praised this site and CCH's companion "Business Owner's Toolkit" for years. Each features an expandable "tree" of information on relevant topics. An entire portion of the Financial Planning Toolkit is devoted to estate planning, which explains basic and more advanced concepts and techniques to achieve a person's planning goals.

I hope that others find these resources useful. Everyone should of course consult their own professional advisors in their own state to determine how to implement planning that achieves their specific goals based on their circumstances. Being informed with accurate general information should help to facilitate the planning process, though.