Estate Planning Tips for U.S. Expats

Even though it might seem overwhelming and confusing, there are six key steps you can take to have a solid estate plan in place before you exit the U.S. Here’s what to do when you’re planning to leave. shutterstock_254895751

Review Your Estate Plan in Full

You’ll become subject to local laws about estates when you establish residency somewhere new, but you’ll still fall under the guidance of U.S. tax laws.

Understand Residence and Domicile Rules

Just because a document works in one country doesn’t guarantee the same in your new country. Make sure you get insight from your estate planning attorney when it comes to trusts.

Be Aware of Double Taxes

Estate taxes could be claimed by multiple countries if you have connections to more than one nation. You need to get specialized tax attorney help in this regard to determine if there’s another option.

Think Twice About Foreign Life Insurance

It can be difficult, if not impossible, to get life insurance from a U.S.-based company while you’re living in another country. Your foreign policy also might not comply with U.S. rules, so read all of the fine print.

Determine Where “Common Law” Versus “Forced Heirship” Applies

In the U.S. and the U.K., you’ve got common law principles to help you determine where your estate assets will go, but other countries might require you to distribute them in a different way. Get professional advice to determine what situation applies to you. Need help planning ahead? Contact us at (601) 925-9797.

The 5 Most Common Estate-Planning Questions

Estate planning can be a complicated issue. It’s not something you should attempt without the help of a professional. There is more to it than drawing up a will.

Today, I’d like to cover the five most common questions I receive regarding estate planning.

The five most common questions

  1. Do I really need an estate plan if I don’t own much?
  2. What is the most important estate-planning document?
  3. Are there any other important estate-planning documents?
  4. Aren’t trust funds only for really wealthy people?
  5. Will my estate owe taxes at my death?

Let’s Get Started

You Don’t Need to Do It Alone

I’m sure you have other, more specific questions. I am happy to help!

For more information on estate planning in Mississippi, visit my website or call my office at 866-925-9797.

~ Ronald Morton


Qualified Disposition in Trust Act: Why it Matters

This month, Morton Elder Law is dedicating the blog to all-things related to Estate Planning and trusts. If your research regarding these topics is just beginning, we recommend that you check out the previous articles online: Estate & Asset Protection Planning, To Trust or not to Trust, and Benefits of a Beneficiary Controlled Trust.

While trust rights and options vary from state to state, Mississippi has a new law that can protect you for creditors. It’s called the Mississippi Qualified Disposition and Trust Law (commonly referred to as the Domestic Asset Protection Trusts, in other states.) This trust is designed to protect the given assets for creditors, and also allows you to control principal and income.

Morton Law Secure Your Assets

History & Impact

The Qualified Disposition in Trust Act is most pertinent to professionals who are in a high-risk profession, such as a physician. Effective July 1, 2014 in Mississippi, sixteen other states have passed similar laws, and several additional states are considering.

Historically, states have not protected trusts from creditors. This change has been made, state by state, in accordance with the increase in liability concerns and lawsuits in recent years.

Bill Basics

  1. Under current Mississippi law, at least one of the trustees must be a Mississippi resident.
  2. The person who creates the trust cannot be the trustee. However, you can still retain certain rights in regards to the trust, such as receiving updates on the actual receipt of income or principal.
  3. There are several specific exceptions to this law that would allow certain creditors to obtain trust assets. For example, not paying child support.

For more specific details of the bill, check out this article by A Gannett Company

Feeling Confused?

Spend your time in other ways and let Morton Elder Law do the work. We’re experts, so give us a call and we will get you the information you need and the plan to execute it!

~ Ronald Morton


Benefits of a Beneficiary Controlled Trust

This month on the blog, Morton Elder Law is dedicating itself to all-things related to Estate Planning. Thoughtful planning is the only way to ensure your assets are going where you would like them to go, following your death.

A Beneficiary Controlled Trust might be the best option for you and your loved ones. This beneficiary controlled trust gives the trustee the ability to manage trust assets with extraordinary control.

Curious to know more? Read on.

Morton Law Inheritance Trust

What is a Beneficiary Controlled Trust?

While it sounds complicated, the concept of a beneficiary controlled trust is actually pretty simple. It is a trust in which the primary beneficiary of the trust is also the trustee or co-trustee. In short, the individual gaining the inherited assets is also in control of the assets.

The above stipulation includes the ability to eliminate potential interferences by more distant beneficiaries. Because the trustee is given these rights, the more remote beneficiaries are more likely not to interfere, as their rights to any inheritance could be eliminated in its entirety.

It’s important to note that this trust is significantly different from the classic trust format. A classic trust format typically pays a beneficiary a portion of the assets at specific ages until the trust has dried up. Generally, it doesn’t end during the beneficiary’s lifetime.

State to State

Keep in mind, trustee laws vary state to state. So be sure to read up on your state’s guidelines.

You are able to create a trust according to the law of a different state than the one with which you currently reside, but an inheriting trustee must live there. For example, a person following by Alaskan trustee laws will need to have a trustee who is currently living in Alaska.

Trust Designs

Once it’s decided that the Beneficiary Controlled Trust is the best way to go, there are a number of trust designs that are possible to put it into place. Consulting with a professional is the best way to guarantee that everything required by law is as it should be.

Contact Morton Elder Law for more information!

~ Ronald Morton


Even though there are often situations where these two practices blend into one another, talking about estate planning and elder law does not always mean exactly the same thing. One key way to look at what makes these two kinds of practice unique is to consider the critical questions that each aims to answer:

  • What happens if I die?
  • What happens if I live?

Invariably, both elder law and estate planning in some ways address both life and death. Increasingly, estate planning tools help individuals capitalize on plans while they are still alive. Estate planning, however, has a much sharper focus on what happens when you die, especially when it comes to the transfer of your assets. A lot of the questions addressed in elder law, however, have to do with helping people plan for the future within their own life. As longevity is a major concern for today’s elderly, planning in advance for aging and long-term care are just as important as factoring in estate planning. shutterstock_196636610

Estate planning and elder law work together. Imagine it this way: what benefit is putting so much effort into planning for the transfer of your assets on death when you pass away if all of those assets are put in jeopardy by one major health event? Elder law works to protect those assets and get you thinking about these concerns early on so that you can meet your estate planning goals. Contact us today to get help: (601) 925-9797.

Estate Planning Parent Fears: Passing On Assets Without Spoiling Children

This is an issue that many of our clients express during their first meetings with us. Parents with wealth are concerned about leaving just enough to their children to allow the children to succeed without leaving too much so that the heirs would become “spoiled”.  shutterstock_113853856

When it comes to setting children up for success without making them too spoiled, parents can do a lot to install traits and virtues that promote behavior the opposite of spoiled. These virtues include generosity, thriftiness, patience, curiosity, perspective, and perseverance. How can parents promote this from birth? According to financial columnist Ron Lieber, who developed this list, parents can select balanced vacation options, reduce materialism on a daily basis, provide allowances that are not based on chores, and have clear conversations about money with children from an early age.

It’s not just about selecting the right estate planning tools, but determining what tools will work in combination with the example set forth for children. The first stage of doing this involves putting in the time and the effort to think about this fear of having spoiled children and what can be done to avoid it. The second stage is in developing clear statements about goals and values for the children. Once you have accomplished this, it’s time to put together an action plan that lays out how these goals can be achieved.

Working together with establishing goals and confronting fears, estate planning can be an empowering process that puts parents in the right perspective to think about their legacy. We can help you accomplish this process- call us today at (601) 925-9797.


These Four Childfree Prospect Tips Will Grow Your Business – And They’re Not What You Think

Child-free individuals and couples often face choices, decisions, and questions, which you are uniquely qualified to address.  Like many allied financial professionals, you may focus on helping clients pass the maximum amount of wealth to their beloved children.

Along with buying a house and doing better than your parents, handing down your accumulated wealth to your children is a long-held tradition that many consider the cornerstone of the American dream.  But what about those individuals who do not have direct descendants?

For a myriad of reasons, childfree individuals and couples are a steadily growing percentage of those seeking planning and financial services today.  You may assume that counseling and guiding childfree clients has less opportunity or is more difficult than working with clients who are parents.  If so, you’re not alone.

However, in actuality, childfree clients are not so different than your parenting clients.  And, the fact that most professionals think they’re different creates your opportunity.  The opportunity is to market directly to your ideal childfree client, make her feel important, and communicate that you are uniquely qualified to empower her.

Four Key Takeaways
Childfree individuals and couples are often left out of marketing conversations and made to feel as if they’re second best.  By ignoring them and focusing solely on parent clients, marketing messages send notice that something is wrong with being childfree.

To grow your business, keep in mind:

1.      Being childfree is not second best.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with not having children and it’s none of your business why a client doesn’t have children.  Don’t ask.

2.      Childfree clients may have had children who have predeceased them.  Be sensitive to that fact.

3.      Childfree clients likely have someone they love and would like to benefit, such as grandchildren, nieces, nephews, siblings, friends, partners, and pets.

4.      Childfree clients have many of the same goals and fears that your parent clients have.  Those goals and fears may or may not have the same emphasis and priority and, thus, create your opportunity to distinguish yourself through counseling and service.

Dealing with childfree clients is more about positioning than substance.  Unless your client cares about no one and doesn’t want to stay in control of his or her finances, health care, and life, she needs an estate plan, financial plan, insurances, and tax advice just as parent clients do.

What You Need to Know:
Childfree clients may need all of the services their parenting counterparts need and when you acknowledge them as valuable, worthwhile, and important, you, your planning team, and your clients all win.

Actions to Consider:
1.      Add a marketing message, speaking directly to childfree prospects.

2.      Don’t assume that your childfree client isn’t interested in planning traditionally sought by parent clients, such as educational   planning, educational trusts, 529 plans, life insurance, and beneficiary trusts.

3.      Show your client how you, along with your allied professional team, can help to ensure that she can:

o   Create and build her ideal business
o   Create, equalize, or liquidize an estate
o   Avoid running out of money, even if she gets sick
o   Get the health care she needs
o   Appoint trusted helpers, empowered to make good decisions
o   Reduce the risk of audit
o   Minimize or eliminate assets lost to taxation and lawsuits
o   Fund the buy-sell agreement for her business
o   Gift to charities she believes in
o   Protect her assets both during her lifetime and after they pass to beneficiaries
o   Care for those whom she loves
o   Live with peace of mind, while raving about you and your team to her friends and family

There is no shortage of insurance, financial, tax, charitable, asset protection, disability, long-term care, pet, and estate planning for childfree clients.  Your business will grow when you pull your team together and let childfree individuals and couples know that they are important to you, while showing how you can empower them with smart planning.

Not All Property Can Be Left through a Will | Will Lawyers and Estate Lawyers in Mississippi

With much experience behind them, will lawyers in Mississippi often feel like they’ve “seen it all.”  This is good news for clients, because it means that the attorney can help you prepare for situations  you might never have expected otherwise.  One surprise that people hear from their estate planning lawyers is that you can’t use your will to pass on all types of property.  While it seems like you should just be able to put it all down on paper and be done with it, there are some things that must go through different channels.

  • Living Trusts – Property you have put into a living trust must remain with the trust and be administered according to that trust.  It can’t then be named in a will with an expectation that the will can supersede the trust.
  • Joint Tenancy – Property that is owned with someone else can not be passed on.  In these cases, the surviving co-owners will receive your share.  This can be a major concern, so you want to work with your will lawyer in Mississippi to fully understand state laws regarding this type of property.
  • Life Insurance – Of course you want your life insurance policy to pay out to one or more beneficiaries, but that is handled through the policy itself, not with the will.  If your insurance policy names a beneficiary, the will cannot be used to leave the funds to someone else.
  • Other Property with Beneficiaries – Basically, if you have a payable-on-death bank account, vehicles or stocks held in beneficiary, or some kind of retirement plan where a beneficiary is named, you do not use the will to pass these on to someone else.  If you want to change the beneficiary, this needs to be done through the institution that holds the account or policy.

You will want your heirs to know about these items, of course, and your will lawyer in Mississippi will make sure that they are all included in your plan; however, they won’t be passed through your will.  If you have questions or concerns about this fact, we invite you to schedule an appointment at our Mississippi law firm to ensure that your end-of-life wishes are honored.

Mississippi Trust Lawyer Reveals Additional Types of Income to Include in Your Estate Planning

There are some forms of income that obviously need to be discussed with your trust lawyer in Mississippi.  When putting together your plan, you’ll want to consider your current employment, retirement plans, bank accounts, and possibly your own business.  As you work through the estate planning process, it will be clear that these are all things that need to be considered.

But, there are other, less obvious types of income that you will also need to take into consideration.  Working with a Mississippi trust lawyer, you can determine how these different forms of income will be treated when it comes to taxes, inheritance, and other applicable Mississippi and federal laws.

What are these not-so-obvious types of income? Actually, they can come in many forms.

  • Royalties:  Are you collecting royalties on work that you created at some point in the past?
  • Lottery Winnings:  What becomes of your winnings if you should pass away?
  • Sale of Property:  The proceeds from sales like this can be considered as income and will be subject to treatment in that way.
  • Gifts from Others:  There are times when certain “gifts” would not be passed to your beneficiaries, but would go to the benefactor’s alternate beneficiary.
  • Annuities:  If you are receiving payments from a charitable annuity, this can be considered income.

In order to make sure that your executor has the easiest access to information regarding your finances, your trust lawyer in Mississippi will likely encourage you to gather up all of the relevant information.  Include the source of income, contact information for that source, and a description of what it is and where it comes from.  If future payments are expected from that source, then you will want to be sure to make note of that, as well.

Expected Property

Along with these sources of income, you may also want to note if there is property that you expect to receive.  Whether or not this is considered part of your estate is a question you will want to cover with your Mississippi trust lawyer.  For example, if you are the beneficiary of an insurance policy, are named in a will, or have your name on a transfer-on-death title of someone else’s vehicle, you’ll want to be clear on what will happen to this property should you pass away or become incapacitated in some way.

Medicaid Planning: Caring for a Blind or Disabled Child

John and Mary Bell live in Jackson, Mississippi. They are now in their mid-70’s and they just celebrated their 50th anniversary. The Bells have been blessed with three wonderful children. One is a nurse, one is a school teacher, and their youngest child, Tim, is not able to work. Tim is now in his late 40’s and lives in a group home. He receives Social Security (SSI) of about $650 a month and his parents have always supplemented his income.

Mr. and Mrs. Bell lead a modest life style. Mr. Bell receives Social Security of about $900 per month and Mrs. Bell gets about $650 per month. In addition, he has a pension of $350 per month. They are able to live on this and continue to save about $250 per month. Like most of their generation, the Bells are excellent savers. In fact, they have accumulated a nice little nest egg. Their assets are as follows: Residence $60,000, 1998 Buick $2,500, Certificates of Deposit $50,000, Mr. Bell’s IRA $8,000, Savings bonds $22,000, Money market $20,000, Total Countable Assets $100,000.

Unfortunately, Mr. Bell recently had a stroke and won’t be able to come home. He moved to the nursing home right up the street. Mrs. Bell is satisfied with the care he is getting… but her worst fears are coming to pass. That’s because she can’t care for herself…her Parkinson’s Disease has progressed to the point where she can’t stay at home either… and now that she has joined her husband in the nursing home, who will care for their son, Tim? And most of all, Mrs. Bell is concerned about the money. Mrs. Bell frets over the fact that the nursing home will cost about $10,000 a month for both of them… and that doesn’t count the cost of the medication.

You have good news for the Bells. You explain to them that under the Federal and State laws, Tim is considered to be permanently and totally disabled. Since that is the case, the Bells can give all their assets to Tim… or to a trust for Tim’s benefit… without incurring any transfer penalties. In other words, normally with both spouses in the nursing home, they would pay the cost of the nursing home out of their funds until their assets were down to $6,000. Under this scenario, their $100,000 in liquid assets would last about ten months … and they would end up spending all of Tim’s inheritance.

Fortunately, the news is even better than that. Under the “transfer to a blind or disabled child” section of the Medicaid law, Mr. and Mrs. Bell can transfer all of their assets to their son with a disability and incur no penalty whatsoever. Thus, she and her husband can make a gift of the entire $100,000 and qualify for Medicaid right away! Because Tim is receiving public benefits, they would need to give Tim’s money to him in a special type of trust that would not disqualify him for public benefits. The Bell’s feel better knowing that their son, Tim, will be cared for and they have preserved their life savings. To learn more, click here.