– How Will the New Tax Law Signed by President Trump Affect Your Estate Planning?

With respect to Estate Planning, some things change, and some things remain the same, under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act recently signed by President Trump.

Some Things Change

  • The Federal estate, gift and generation-skipping transfer (“GST”) tax exemption amounts increase from $5 million to $10 million per individual, with additional inflation adjustments as under prior law.
  • The increased, inflation-adjusted exemption amounts – $11.2 million for an individual, or a combined $22.4 million for a married couple – are effective January 1, 2018.The Act also provides for future inflation adjustments for 2019 and beyond.
  • The increases are set to expire on December 31, 2025, at which time the Federal estate, gift and GST tax exemption amounts will revert to the current $5 million amounts, (as adjusted for inflation).

Some Things Remain the Same

  • The highest Gift and Estate tax rate is still 40%.
  • Beginning January 1, 2018, the annual gift tax exclusion is 15,000.
  • Unlimited gifts between US Spouses
  • There are still gift tax exclusions for qualified direct payments of tuition and medical expenses.
  • Stepped-up basis for property passing at death remains.

Amanda and I would be happy to meet with you to explore how these changes impact your estate plan.


– Does My Will Override a Beneficiary Designation?

Episode Video

Episode Podcast

Tom explains why if there is a conflict between a beneficiary designation on your bank account (naming one child) and what you say in your Will (divide your estate between all 5 children), the beneficiary designation wins, and your bank account goes to the one child, not to all 5. This also applies to other assets such as life insurance, annuities, retirement accounts and jointly owned real estate.

– Proposed Changes To Federal Gift And Estate Taxes Just Released

Under today’s just released tax proposal from the House of Representatives, the basic Federal Estate Tax exclusion amount is doubled from $5 million (as of 2011) to $10 million, which is indexed for inflation. This provision would apply to tax years beginning after 2017. Furthermore, beginning after 2023, the estate and generation-skipping taxes are repealed while maintaining a beneficiary’s stepped-up basis in estate property. The gift tax is lowered to a top rate of 35 percent and retains a basic exclusion amount of $10 million and an annual exclusion of $14,000 (as of 2017), also indexed for inflation.

– Protect Yourself From Popular Real Estate Scams

Last week four people were charged for running a real estate scam in Detroit. Victims believed they were purchasing vacant properties in the area at bargain prices. After victims sent payment they would receive false or forged deeds to a property. The false deeds were illegally filed with the Wayne County Register of Deeds. Victims later found out that the transactions were done without the legal property owner’s knowledge. Early numbers suggest that it happened to over 20 victims involving 19 different properties. Surprisingly, this isn’t the first scam involving real property that we’ve seen in Michigan over the last several years. Sadly, it probably won’t be the last. But there are a few things that property owners can do to help avoid these traps.

In past years, scammers have also mailed or phoned potential victims offering to retrieve important property records for a fee. The fees charged were anywhere from $50 and up. However, the Register of Deeds office will provide property owners copies of documents for a nominal fee. For example, most counties only charge $1-2 for a copy of a deed.

In light of these scams, many Michigan counties are making changes. Some counties now offer an alert system for real estate to help fight against property fraud. It’s designed to alert property owners of any filings or recordings under their name or their business’s name. So if a property owner signs up to receive alerts they will be notified, with a brief description, any time the county records a transaction connected to their name. Most alert systems are offered at little or no charge. Property or business owners should check with the Register of Deeds office in their county to learn more or register for alerts.

Property and mortgage fraud are two of the fastest growing crimes according to the FBI. There are some general tips that property owners can follow to help avoid property scams. Beware of someone asking you to pay large sums of money up-front for their services before you have any written documentation. Sometimes scammers will insist that you wire money up-front. They may even go as far as asking that the money be sent abroad because they are out of the country. It’s also important to visit the property in person. Often times you can also cross check a real estate listing at different websites if a property is actually for sale.

If you’re asked to sign documents that you don’t fully understand seek out an attorney or real estate professional who’s independent from the transaction. Consider using a professional to represent you. Buyers should also consider requiring title insurance or hiring a title company to perform a title search on a potential property. A title search should identify the legal owner and can reveal any liens attached to the real estate. Spending the money on title work could far outweigh losing thousands of dollars purchasing a property without ever gaining legal title. Most importantly, do your due diligence, and if you have questions don’t let them go unanswered.

by: Amanda Bevel

– Changes to HUD Reverse Mortgage Program

A number of changes to the HECM reverse mortgage program have taken effect today, October 2, 2017, that might impact your ability to obtain a federally insured home equity loan. The changes are in response to a recent actuarial report showing the FHA’s cost of running the program.

▪ The Mortgage Insurance Premium (MIP) that is charged at the time you take out the mortgage is now a flat 2% regardless of the amount borrowed. The MIP rate was based upon the amount that was borrowed relative to the value of your home.
▪ The ongoing annual MIP rate has been reduced from 1.25% of the outstanding loan balance to 0.5%.
▪ The total amount that you can borrow will likely be reduced because of changes in the interest rate floor from 5% to 3%. Because of this change, the average borrower, at current interest rates, will be able to borrow approximately 58% of the value of their home, down from a previous 64%.

– The Many Roads To A Professionally Prepared Personalized Estate Plan

Episode Video

Episode Podcast

In today’s episode, Tom discusses the various ways that he and Amanda can help you with your estate plan wherever you happen to be in Michigan. From personal consultations in Lansing or Grand Rapids, or consultation with us by telephone, to working with a financial professional who is authorized to utilize our Express Estate Planning Service.