What You Can Learn From Three-Time NYC Mayor Ed Koch’s Will About Your Estate Planning

What You Can Learn From Three-Time NYC Mayor Ed Koch’s Will About Your Estate Planning

atlanta estate planning attorney


Three-time New York City Mayor Ed Koch died on Feb. 1, leaving an estate estimated between $10-$11 million.  And it’s a good thing that “Hizzoner” loved governing, because one-quarter of his estate will be going to the state and federal governments.

During his tenure as Mayor, Koch was famous for asking people on the street, “How’m I doin’?” He would have been better served to ask that same question to a Family Estate Planning Lawyer before he passed on.

In his will, Koch bequeathed most of his assets to blood relatives – a sister and her husband, a sister-in-law, and three nephews – as well as to his secretary and a charity.  And because Mayor Koch used a Will and didn’t put his assets in Trust, it’s all public. In fact, you can read the details of exactly what Mayor Koch left behind and to who right here.

When the former Mayor died, the federal estate tax exemption was at $5.25 million; and since his estate is estimated at twice that amount, Uncle Sam will net a cool $1.45 million.  New York State has an estate tax exemption of just $1 million, meaning it will receive $1.1 million from the estate, according to a Forbes article.

As Forbes notes, Koch could have made some savvy estate planning moves before he died by:

Creating a trust for the benefit of his nephews, who inherited the bulk of his estate, and their descendants.  Up to $5.25 million that goes into a trust would have been exempt from generation-skipping transfer tax. (And, would have protected those assets for generations upon generations. This was a big oversight.)

Making additional gifts up to $5.25 million right before he died could have significantly reduced his state tax bill, since New York does not have a gift tax.  This would have saved his heirs an estimated $600,000.

And there’s more he could have done as well, but he either didn’t get good counsel or he didn’t heed it.  Now, it’s too late.  And, of course, it’s all public.

If you would like to learn more about strategies to keep your money out of the government and the size of your assets totally private, call our office today to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk. We normally charge $750 for a Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session, but because this planning is so important, I’ve made space for the next two people who mention this article to have a complete planning session at no charge. Call today and mention this article.

Election Year Antics in Estate Planning

Election Year Antics in Estate Planning


Welcome to politics in 2012!  Did you sign up for what we’re getting in America?  In many ways, nobody is happy with the landscape.  Most of us—Independents, Democrats, and Republicans alike—are unhappy (or even disgusted) with politics in general.  It’s at the point of being most disgruntled, however, that we need to pay the most attention.  It’s the point at which real transformation can occur.

Pushing through the urge to disengage and through the resistance to be involved is difficult, but if we don’t all take responsibility for it, then we’ll end up in a place that we don’t want to be in.  Think about it like this: Who is taking responsibility for our current situation?  The answer is that we should all be taking responsibility, whether we played our role actively or passively.

More Reasons To Be Involved Than Ever Before

Even if the typical issues like taxes, the economy, social matters, job creation, globalization, and fiscal policy aren’t enough to motivate you to be involved, there is one issue that will probably get you off the couch this election season: YOUR MONEY!

On December 31st of this year, a law that provides very good tax treatment for estates will sunset, unless it is renewed by Congress and the President.  The current law exempts from taxation estates of $5 million or less ($10 million for married couples).  That means that most folks currently fall completely outside the realm of taxation.

If the current law does expire, the law that replaces it will likely tax estates that exceed the $1 million mark.  In other words, the new law will almost certainly cast a much wider net, and if you are at all concerned about your wealth, then you should be paying attention to the 2012 elections and writing to your representatives in Congress.  Every dollar in your bank account is a reason to be more involved than ever before.

It Can Actually Be Fun

The idea is to fully express yourself, and it’s okay to have some fun while doing it.  While the issues are very serious, there’s no reason that you have to take yourself too seriously, even when you’re talking politics with friends and family.  When you talk about your favorite candidates, talk about the issues and encourage your loved ones of voting age to research those issues and where the candidates stand on those issues.  And smile while you’re doing it!

An election year also presents an opportunity to teach your kids about our electoral system, the reasons it exists, and the importance of being involved.  Kids really do believe that they can make a difference in the world, and that idea should be nurtured, since children really are our future.

What You Can Do

Even if the beneficial estate tax laws sunset in 2012, you can take action today to prevent losing significant benefits.  There are several things you can do.  You can give gifts, you can create a trust, and there are some other tricks that can likely help you save on estate taxes.

If you have questions about establishing an estate plan, please don’t wait to call our offices.  Time is ticking.  If you call our office today at 770.425.6060 and mention this article by name, we’ll give you a Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session™ free of charge.  Don’t wait.  November and election time could honestly be too late.

Atlanta Attorney Says Prepare Now For Year-End Changes to Estate Tax Laws

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The expiration of key laws in Congress may expose more local individuals to estate or “Death Taxes” after their passing.  Atlanta attorney, Steve Worrall explains these anticipated changes, as well as steps Georgia residents can take now to take now to ensure more money goes to their family—and not Uncle Sam—after death.

ATLANTA, GEORGIA (08/08/2012)- You’ve worked hard to save money, accumulate assets and leave your loved ones an inheritance after your passing. 

But according to Steve Worrall, an estate planning attorney in Atlanta, the expiration of key tax laws in Congress may now put more local families at risk of owing more than half of their inheritance in “death taxes” after the first of the year. 

Worrall explains how preparing now for the much-anticipated expiration of the Bush-Era tax cuts (which were extended temporarily under the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act  in 2010)  is critical for high-net worth individuals, but also for middle-class families, too.  Here’s why: 

  • If Congress does nothing and the legislation expires, the estate tax will revert from a $5 million exemption to $1 million on December 31st.  That means if your estate is worth over $1 million at your passing, your family may be on the hook for significant taxes up to 55%.
  • For many people, when you add up the value of your home, life insurance policies, investments and assets, $1 million is usually closer than you think.
  • The payment is due in cash just 9 months after you die (or the 2nd spouse dies if you are married), often forcing loved ones to sell assets quickly at depressed market or “fire sale” prices to satisfy the bill. 
  • There’s a very real chance that up to half of the inheritance you worked so hard to leave your family will go to Uncle Sam. 

The good news, Worrall says, is the estate or “death tax” is entirely voluntary and there are steps you can take right now to minimize your exposure.

He explains that one such strategy is to utilize the lifetime gift tax exemption, which also set to expire at the end of the year.  This law allows you to remove up to $5.12 million (or $10.2 million for married couples) out of your “taxable estate” by gifting it now to future generations. On December 31st at midnight, the exemption amount significantly drops to $1 million.

In other words, for the rest of this year, Worrall says that parents can pass along valuable assets to their heirs up $5.12 million (i.e. a house, stock portfolio, part of the family business), without paying a single dime to Uncle Sam.

Worrall further notes tools such as living trusts can also be used to minimize your exposure to burdensome taxes after your passing. Your estate planning attorney will advise you on the best strategies to implement based on your wishes and financial needs.

Why Does This Matter Now?

Because proper estate tax planning requires getting appraisals, amending titles and creating airtight documents, Worrall warns that planning must be started now to ensure everything is finalized before the end of the year. He says estate planning firms across the country are already busy handling year-end estate tax planning, and encourages individuals affected by these changes not to wait until the last minute to get professional help.

For more information on upcoming changes to the estate tax laws or on Atlanta estate planning attorney, Steve Worrall, please visit GeorgiaFamilyLaw.com or call 770.425.6060. 


Handling The Tax That Won’t Die, Even If You Do

With all the talk about the future of the Bush tax cuts, one aspect of taxation that isn’t getting quite as much press is the reappearance of the estate tax.

As of January 1, 2011, the estate tax will once again rear its ugly head and take a serious bite out of your estate when it does. 

If your estate is valued at $1 million or more (for individuals, not married couples), you can expect your heirs to be hit with a tax bill of 55%.

Here’s a quick and dirty list of things you need to seriously think about before January 1st:

1.    Don’t Count On Congress.

The issue of the estate tax may not be resolved any time soon.  The Bush tax-cut extension is such a hot button issue and is generating so much press, no one is sure what will result from it.  An increase of the estate tax exemption to $5 million is included in the Obama tax plan, but the House and Senate would both have to agree to it for that to become law. The end of the year is only about 3 weeks away and there’s still a lot of squabbling on Capitol Hill about this issue. 

2.    Plan For The Worst Tax Rate.

Plan your estate based on the worst case scenario.  The smart money is on some change in the estate tax for 2011, possibly going back to the 2009 individual exemption and tax rate, but no one really knows what will happen.  With the government facing a serious budget crisis, it is highly unlikely that the tax will be repealed and eliminated.  No one in government is going to let go of that kind of revenue.

3.    Take Advantage Of Every Possible Loophole.

If you or a loved one is critically ill, talk to your estate attorney now.  Ask about the possibility of annual gifts of cash (up to $13,000 tax free), securities, property, medical care payments, or even tuition, before year end.  If your assets are still at issue, ask about generation-skipping trusts or the formation of other trusts.  It may cost you some in taxes but gift tax rates this year are 35%.  They will probably never be that low again. 

4.    Talk To Your Lawyer Now.

Any of the potential changes in the estate tax can have an adverse effect on your estate and the future of your heirs.  And none of the options to handle the tax can take place overnight.  Talk to your attorney as soon as possible to get your plan in place.

You can’t “wait until after the holidays” to deal with these tax issues.  It can take weeks to transfer accounts or securities or even gifts.  Talk to us now to get things rolling and make sure your bases are covered, regardless of what Congress does or doesn’t do.    

Call us, your Marietta estate planning lawyers, to schedule your Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session today.  We can advise you about the steps you need to take now to protect your estate and continue to advise you when Congress finally on the future of the estate tax.

A Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session normally costs $750, but this month I’ve made space for the next four people who call us before December 31 and mention this article to have a complete planning session with me at no charge.  Call today and mention this article. 

Georgia Asset Protection Lawyer Offers Gift Suggestion for Your Grandchildren


By Steve Worrall, Georgia asset protection lawyer

As your Atlanta GA asset protection lawyer, I’d like to ask how your holiday shopping is going?  If you are like me you are trying your best to fit that in with all of the other holiday planning and day-to-day obligations.  What if I told you to skip the malls when looking for a holiday gift idea for your grandkids?  What if you give them a family limited partnership instead?


Let me explain…

While the estate tax lapse seems to be hogging the spotlight this year, there is also a lesser-known gap that is offering many people a tax-free way to pass on some of their wealth to their grandchildren.

The generation-skipping transfer tax, or GST, has also been repealed for 2010.  This means that you can leave outright gifts to your grandchildren as long as those gifts meet certain conditions.  The definition of a “gift” is fairly broad, but one way to take advantage of this is to set up a partnership and then give away units to your grandchildren. This will mean that you can put funds into a family limited partnership and transfer them tax-free but also transfer it in a way to keep the kids from getting control of the assets all at once and possibly squandering them.

The GST is different than income, estate and gift taxes.  The purpose of this tax is to keep people from transferring property many generations down without paying any tax.  So, the GST is imposed if the transfer avoids gift or estate tax.

So, say a man dies with a large estate and leaves his property in a trust with the income payable to his children.  At his death, his trust assets go to his children.  The man’s estate would then owe estate tax.  But when his children die, the trust property would not be taxable in their name so the family will have avoided paying for a generation of estate tax. In this instance, the GST would apply.

It is important to point out that the GST applies to anyone, not just family, so this would apply to unrelated beneficiaries as long as they were at least 37 and one-half years younger than the deceased.

There are limits to what you can exempt in generation skipping gifts and you are only allowed to use them in certain circumstances.  So, it is important to talk to an experienced Atlanta Georgia asset protection attorney when considering this.

So, as you are pondering your holiday list you might want to consider this for your grandchildren.  This will be a gift they will remember (and thank you for!) for the rest of their lives!

Estate Taxes: Not Just For the Rich

You work hard for your money, so who do you want to leave it to when you die – the government or your kids? Even if you don’t consider yourself “rich,” you need to know how to protect yourself against estate taxes.

Alexis Martin Neely, a personal family lawyer and creator of the Family Wealth Planning Institute, explained on Wednesday’s show (September 10, 2008) that the government can take up to 45% of your assets if they total over $2 million, and that rate is set to climb to 55% in 20011 if you are worth more than $1 million. But even if you don’t make close to that much in salary, you’d be surprised how your assets can add up. The government considers home equity banking and brokerage accounts, retirement savings and life insurance policies all to be part of your estate. That makes it much easier for the average American to suddenly become a millionaire in the eyes of Uncle Sam.

The best thing you can do to prepare, according to Neely, is to set up a family living trust and make sure you have the provisions in there to protect your assets from being taxes to high heaven. There are even lawyers who can legally find ways to make your assets look 30-40% less than they actually are in the eyes of the government.

So nothing is certain but death and taxes, right? Oh yeah, and a tax upon your death. Better get your house in order.

To see Alexis’ September 10 appearance on CNBC’s On The Money with Carmen Wong Ulrich, click here.