Importance of a Pour Over Will

Jul 25, 2013  /  By: Roger Levine, Estate Planning Attorney  /  Category: Estate Planning, Wills & Trusts

If you have already created a revocable living trust, you will still need to have a will. The vast majority of your estate should be in the control of your trust, but there will almost always be some assets that will lie outside the trust. The pour over will transfers your remaining assets to your trust at your death.

When you are using a pour over will, the executor of the estate has one simple job. The executor gathers the assets and transfers them to the revocable living trust. This occurs after the will has been probated. Because the will is optimally addressing a limited amount of assets, the probate process can be completed with relative quickness.

Once assets are transferred to the trust, all distributions will be made by a successor trustee. They are not governed by the probate court. The distribution standards are outlined in the trust agreement. If all of the beneficiaries are able to receive their shares of the trust shortly after the death, the trust will be dissolved then. If any assets are to remain in the control of the trust, it will continue. An example would be in the case of a minor child who will receive their final distribution at age 21. Once that final asset has been transferred, the trust is no longer needed and  can be terminated.

You may think that a will is not needed when most of your assets are already spoken for in your trust. You will still need a will to address any guardianship or custody issues. A will can address items outside the trust that may be of a far greater sentimental value than a monetary one. Lastly, it will complete your estate planning.


Levine & Furman, LLC is a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys.

Protecting Children From a First Marriage

Jun 24, 2013  /  By: Roger Levine, Estate Planning Attorney  /  Category: Wills & Trusts

Many decisions in estate planning require balancing competing interests. You want to provide something for everyone. You choose to provide for your surviving spouse for the remainder of their life. You want to ensure that when your surviving spouse passes away your assets pass to your children.  A Qualified Terminal Interest Property trust allows you this control. Your surviving spouse benefits from the income of the trust or the use of the property during their lifetime. Upon your spouse’s eventual passing, the assets of the QTIP trust will transfer to beneficiaries of your choice.

You must be married to set up a QTIP trust and it is often part of a more complex estate plan. Proper planning will be required to ensure that any assets passing outside the QTIP Trust, will further be consistent and not detract from your estate planning goals. The residual beneficiaries of the trust may need assets immediately, so those assets would be outside the trust and you may decide to also benefit your spouse beyond just the trust assets.

Once you have decided to establish a QTIP trust, you are protecting all beneficiaries to some extent. Your spouse can use the assets of the trust and no one can take away this use. When your spouse passes away, the remaining beneficiaries are guaranteed to get what you have designated to them.

Levine & Furman, LLC is a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys.

Estate Planning for the Young

May 20, 2013  /  By: Roger Levine, Estate Planning Attorney  /  Category: Estate Planning, Wills & Trusts

You may not think that estate planning has a place on a college campus outside of the university law school or the MBA program. You may wish to rethink that proposition. The vast majority of college students are adults and the remainder are on the cusp of adulthood. Keep in mind, not all estate planning is about protecting vast estates.

Realistically, your concerns in college will relate to getting into the classes you want at the least disruptive times. As a young, invincible college student, you have most likely given zero thought about what will happen if you are in an accident. You may not be able to state your wishes for care and because you are an adult your parents can no longer make the decision. This is why you need an advance health care directive appointing someone to make health decisions for you.

Another aspect of an advance health care directive is the living will. Simply put, this part of the document clearly states your wishes with regard to what life saving procedures you would want. It can also address the issue of organ donation if it has not been previously noted on your driver’s license.

The last thing you are thinking of as a young adult is your will. You may not need to worry about minimizing estates taxes, given that you more than likely would have a small estate.  In the event that you do pass away, your parents are already suffering from the most unspeakable tragedy- and, add to that the issue of dealing with the mess you left behind because you didn’t leave a Will.  You may not have very much right now, but anything you own, like your car, savings bonds from Aunt Edith, etc. must be left through a Will.

Levine & Furman, LLC is a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys.

Dying Intestate — The Government Estate Plan

Apr 25, 2012  /  By: Roger Levine, Estate Planning Attorney  /  Category: Estate Planning, Wills & Trusts

While you are alive, you have the option to create an individualized estate plan that reflects how you want your estate handled upon your death. If you fail to create an estate plan, then you have effectively acquiesced to the “government estate plan“. By not executing a Last Will and Testament prior to your death, your estate becomes an intestate estate. An intestate estate is handled according to the intestate laws of the state where the decedent was a resident at the time of death. So what does the government estate plan include?

For starters, the government estate plan typically requires your entire estate to be handled through the legal process known as probate. This can tie up your estate assets for months, leaving then inaccessible to loved ones.

Part of the intestate process requires the court to determine who the legal heirs to your estate are. Your legal heirs may not be the same people that you wanted to leave your assets to. For example, your girlfriend of 20 years is not a legal heir in most cases.

The government estate plan also requires an inventory and valuation of your estate assets. It could also include selling estate assets, even if they had sentimental value to you. Other decisions the court may make for you include who administers your estate (for a fee)and who is appointed as guardian of minor children.

Finally, the government plan will often cost more in administrative,  legal fees and often bonding fees  than you would have spent creating your own plan that could have avoided this entire process.

Your Estate Plan guarantees your choices.

Levine & Furman, LLC is a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys.

The Rich, Famous, and Intestate

Apr 24, 2012  /  By: Roger Levine, Estate Planning Attorney  /  Category: Estate Planning, Wills & Trusts

If you were rich and famous you would guard your money closely right? One of the first things you would do is create a comprehensive estate plan to ensure that your money would go to the people you want it to go to in the event of your death right? Most of us like to think so, but a shocking number of the rich and famous die intestate, without leaving behind even a simple Last Will and Testament to indicate how they want their estate assets handled after death. For example:

Bob Marley: The man who put reggae music on the map died after an eight month long bout with cancer, yet did not see fit to create a Will prior to his death. After his death, alleged children, mothers of those children and various relatives filed claims to his estate estimated to be worth $30 million at the time.

Michael Jackson: Although a Will was eventually located, it initially appeared as though the King of Pop died intestate. Jackson’s mother even filed probate documents claiming that her son died intestate (without a Will).

Howard Hughes: The eccentric billionaire who was worth in the neighborhood of $2.5 billion when he died in 1976 failed to leave behind a Will. Although one was produced after his death, it was later determined to be a forgery. Eventually, 22 cousins inherited Hughes’s fortune.

Pablo Picasso: The famous artist died at the age of 91 leaving behind homes, cash and artwork valued in the millions, but did not leave behind a Will. Six years later, at an estimated cost of $30 million, his estate was settled.

Certainly none of us would like to leave our families in this disarray.  That’s why it’s important consult with a qualified Estate Planning Attorney.


Levine & Furman, LLC is a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys.

Revocable Living Trust and Incapacity Planning

Mar 28, 2012  /  By: Roger Levine, Estate Planning Attorney  /  Category: Incapacity Planning, Wills & Trusts

A revocable living trust, is an inter-vivos trust, meaningit is created and takes effect while you are still alive. It has benefits and drawbacks. Although a revocable living trust does not offer the same estate tax avoidance and assets protection benefits that an irrevocable trust offers, it can be an excellent way to plan for your incapacity.

Creating a revocable trust requires you to appoint a trustee, name at least one beneficiary and allocate assets to fund the trust. A revocable trust allows you to appoint yourself as the trustee and beneficiary. In addition, you will need to nominate at least one successor trustee. This should be a spouse, child, parent or other loved one whom you wish to take over in the event of your incapacity.

After establishing the basic framework for the trust, you must decide on the trust terms. This is where you get to define what your own “incapacity” means. You could, for example, require a specific number of doctors to declare you incapacitated. You could also call for a panel of experts to make the decision or simply designate a family member or loved one to decide — it is your decision how you define the term.

Once you have been declared incapacitated, your successor trustee will take over control of the trust. The benefit to this arrangement is that there is no need to seek court approval. Your successor trustee has immediate access to the trust funds to be used for your care or the care of your family.

Levine & Furman, LLC is a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys.

Estate Planning and Charitable Giving — Key Points

Mar 21, 2012  /  By: Roger Levine, Estate Planning Attorney  /  Category: Estate Planning, Wills & Trusts

If philanthropy is an important part of your life, then you should consider making it an important part of your estate plan as well. Your estate plan allows you to provide for your family and loved ones in the event of your death. That same plan can allow you to provide for the causes that are important to you long after your death as well. Only a lengthy consultation with your estate planning attorney can determine how best to incorporate your charities into your estate plan; however, there are some universal key points about charitable giving that are important to understand.

You may choose to provide a direct gift through your Last Will and Testament to the charity of your choice; however, a trust frequently offers probate and tax advantages that a direct bequest does not as well as more flexibility than a direct gift.

A charitable trust can be either a living trust or a testamentary trust.

If you establish a living trust, and distributions are to be made while you are still alive, then the trust will typically need to be an irrevocable trust.

The most common charitable trusts fall into one of two main categories — lead and remainder trusts

A Charitable lead trust provides income to a trust for a specific period of time and then gives the remainder to non-charitable beneficiaries, such as family members.

A charitable remainder trust provides income to non-charitable beneficiaries, such as family members, for a specific period of time, or life, and then gives the remainder to a charity.

A portion of the value of assets used to fund the trust may qualify as a current deduction for income tax purposes.

The amount that passes to a charity may qualify for an estate tax deduction upon your death, decreasing estate tax exposure.

You may be able to avoid paying capital gains taxes on assets that are used to fund a charitable trust.

Levine & Furman, LLC is a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys.

Terms of Houston’s Estate Show a Trust Was Created for Daughter

Mar 19, 2012  /  By: Roger Levine, Estate Planning Attorney  /  Category: Wills & Trusts

The world suffered the loss of singer, actress and producer Whitney Houston at the age of 48 last month when she was found dead of unknown caused in her Beverly Hills hotel room. While fans responded by rushing to buy her work, her family braced itself for the possibility of a battle over control of Houston’s estate. Some of the fear of an impending battle over control of Houston’s fortune were quelled this week when it was revealed that Houston left behind a trust naming 18 year old daughter Bobbi Kristina as beneficiary.

Bobbi Kristina is the child of Houston and her former husband, singer Bobby Brown, and is Houston’s only child. Bobbi was expected to inherit most, if not all, of Houston’s estate. Leaving a fortune to any 18 year old is generally not a good idea; however, it was of particular concern in this case as rumors are that Bobbi Kristina suffers from some of the same drug and alcohol problems that plagued her mother for the last half of her life. Adding to that, Houston and Brown had a tumultuous relationship that ended in divorce in 2007. Houston’s family was reportedly concerned that Brown would attempt to gain control over Houston’s fortune by seeking conservatorship over their daughter.

With the news that Houston left behind a trust, concerns over who will control her fortune can be largely put to rest. Houston did, indeed, leave her entire estate to Bobbi Kristina; however, by creating a trust, Houston was able to appoint someone she trusted as the trustee who will manage the trust assets until Bobbi Kristina is older and better able to handle them herself.

Levine & Furman, LLC is a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys.

Are Online Wills Reliable?

Nov 18, 2011  /  By: Roger Levine, Estate Planning Attorney  /  Category: Wills & Trusts

When people start looking for information about making their own will, they are often bombarded by internet offers that claim you can make your own will cheaply, easily and quickly. While some of these offers are legitimate, they are no substitute for the expertise and experience of a qualified attorney.  Though an online will may be legally valid, that doesn’t mean it is the best document suited to your needs and your particular situation.


All states have very specific laws that govern what has to be included in your last will and testament for it to be legally valid. Most of these laws are quite simple and only require you to meet a few basic hurdles, such as being of age, mentally competent and having your will witnessed by two adults. However, there are many other factors that go into creating a will that, even though not required by law, will ensure that you are able to pass on as much property to your heirs as possible.


When considering an online legal document company or will provider, it’s important to note that these companies may not be reliable or completely up-to-date with changes in the law. Also, online document preparers cannot give you legal advice about what decisions to make when creating your will or whether doing so is in your best interests. You may, for example, be much better off by first creating a trust to which you can transfer ownership of all of your property.


Online will preparation services or will creation software may seem like it is a great idea because it offers a cheap and easy solution, but it will never be able to take the place of a skilled attorney who can carefully evaluate your estate planning situation. Even if you do choose to go with an online option, always have an attorney review the document. You may be surprised at what you missed.


Levine & Furman, LLC is a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys.

Charitable Remainder Trusts Provide Income, Enable Philanthropy

Jan 31, 2011  /  By: Roger Levine, Estate Planning Attorney  /  Category: Estate Planning, Wills & Trusts

When you are planning your estate you need to identify an attorney who is focused on this particular area of specialization because of the fact that there are so many financial instruments involved. It takes time and dedication to this aspect of the law to fully understand all that is available to you and when you should implement one strategy rather than another.

With this in mind we would like to take a look at a very effective device that can achieve multiple estate planning goals simultaneously: the charitable remainder trust. Through the creation of such a trust you can gain tax efficiency, provide yourself with a source of income for life, and satisfy your philanthropic urges all in one fell swoop.

The way that these instruments work is that you fund the trust and name yourself as the beneficiary (if you want to receive the income rather than naming a different beneficiary). You can also serve as the trustee if you so desire, but many people engage a bank or trust company to serve this function. If you fund the trust with appreciated securities they will not be subject to capital gains tax and this is one of the primary appeals of the charitable remainder trust.

You as the beneficiary have to receive at least 5% of the fair market value of the trust annually, but your distribution may not exceed 50%. The charity that you choose must wind up with a remainder of at least 10% of the original value of the contribution into the trust at the end of its term. Your are entitled to a charitable deduction on your income tax return for the year in which you fund the trust, but IRS tables will determine the amount you may deduct.

In addition to the charitable deduction and the capital gains break, when you create a charitable remainder trust you also remove the value of the contribution from your estate for estate tax purposes.

At the end of the trust term, which can be for the life of the donor or for a specified period of time not to exceed 20 years, the remainder is passed on to the charitable or tax exempt organization named in the trust agreement.

Levine & Furman, LLC is a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys.