SSB
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In This Issue
Message from the Partners
Five Facts You Should Know About Planning to Protect Your Children
To Roth or Not to Roth
Update on Federal Estate Tax Repeal/Reinstatement
Staff Update
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Samuel Sayward & Baler 
 
 858 Washington Street, Suite 202
Dedham, MA 02026
 
Phone: (781) 708-0115
Toll Free: (866) 323-3440
Fax: (781) 461-0916
 
www.ssbllc.com
News from
Samuel, Sayward & Baler LLC

April 2010

Attorneys Suzanne Sayward, Maria Baler, and Steven Joshua Samuel 
group attorney photo
Message from the Partners
 
Dear Clients and Friends, 
 
We hope you are enjoying the first few weeks of spring! 
 
In this issue we are featuring the article, "Five Facts You Should Know about Planning to Protect Your Children." This article, written by Attorney Maria Baler and recently featured in The Dedham Times, outlines the most important steps in making sure your children are cared for by the guardians you choose and are protected financially should a tragedy occur. While no one wants to think about the unthinkable, it's imperative for all parents/guardians to legally formalize their wishes.
 
We also provide you with important financial information regarding recent changes affecting Individual Retirement Accounts. More consumers are now eligible to convert a Traditional IRA to a Roth IRA, raising questions about who can benefit from this opportunity. Attorney and Financial Advisor Steven Joshua Samuel outlines the pros and cons and helps you sort out the new information.
 
Attorney Suzanne Sayward provides an update on legal news we discussed in our last newsletter regarding the federal estate tax. She breaks down how estates will be taxed if Congress does not act and the federal estate tax is reinstated in 2011. We will keep you posted on this important issue in future newsletters.  
 
Finally, we would like to extend heartfelt congratulations to Janine Cronin and her husband on the recent birth of their daughter. Janine has been with SS&B for almost seven years and is currently on maternity leave. Meanwhile, we would like to welcome Joanna Zehme to our firm. She brings 20 years' experience as a legal assistant and paralegal. More information about Joanna is included in our Staff News, as is other information regarding the continuing education classes our partners recently attended.
 
As always, we appreciate any feedback you may have on how we can continually improve our newsletter to bring you the information you need. We also welcome new subscribers so please feel free to send us email addresses or forward this newsletter to a friend.
 
Best wishes for a happy and healthy spring,  
 
 
Steven Joshua Samuel
Suzanne Sayward
Maria Baler
Five Facts You Should Know About Planning to Protect Your Children 
 
 
By Attorney Maria Baler 
 
Although we all know we should have an estate plan, many of us are too busy to take the time to create one.  This is especially true for parents.  However, taking the time to plan is one of the most important things parents can do for their children.  Planning will ensure your children will be cared for and decisions will be made for them by people you choose and trust.  It will also ensure assets your children inherit can be used for their benefit and managed responsibly until they are able to handle their own finances.   Planning will also allow you to continue to protect your children in their young adult years if they need your assistance.
 
Here are five facts you should know about planning to protect your children.
 
1.  If you are going to be unavailable for a period of time you can appoint a person to make decisions for your child in your place. Let's say you and your spouse will be out of town at the same time.  A provision of the new Massachusetts Uniform Probate Code allows you to appoint a person to temporarily make decisions for your child, in your place, on matters such as the child's care or property, including health care decisions that may be required during your absence. This appointment must be made in writing, signed with certain formalities, and is effective for a period of up to 60 days. 
 
2. It is important to create a Will that names a guardian who will care for your children if you are incapacitated or deceased.  One of the most important reasons for parents to create a Will is to name a legal guardian for minor children (under age 18). The guardian will have legal decision-making authority about where the children will live, where they will attend school, what type of health care they will receive, and other day-to-day decisions regarding the children's care and upbringing. If you do not have a Will naming a guardian for your children, family members or others may "petition" the court to be appointed the child's guardian, and the court will have the difficult job of choosing among those who ask to be appointed. Under the new Massachusetts Uniform Probate Code, the guardian named in your Will would also serve as guardian for your children should you become incapacitated. 
 
3.  It is equally important to name a person to manage your children's assets. In addition to naming a guardian who will care for your children, a parent's Will can also name a conservator, who is a person the Court will appoint to manage the assets of minor children and make decisions about how those assets will be used for the children's benefit while they are young. When a child reaches age 18, he or she is legally entitled to receive control of assets held by a conservator. For most children, age 18 is too young to take control of money and spend it responsibly, especially a potentially large inheritance that may include real estate, retirement benefits and/or life insurance proceeds. 
 
For this reason, a good estate plan to protect young children includes a Trust that will receive and manage a child's inheritance until the children reach an appropriate age to assume control of the inherited assets. The Trustee of the Trust will invest and use the assets for the benefit of the children based on the instructions in the Trust. For example, the Trust may permit the Trustee to make payments to the children's guardian for their living expenses, or to use Trust funds to pay for a child's private school or college tuition, travel, books, computers and other education expenses. Finally, the Trust will instruct the Trustee when to distribute any assets remaining in the Trust to the child, or may direct those distributions be made over time or at particular ages. A Trust can be very flexible, and the instructions parents include in a Trust for their children's benefit can and should be tailored to the specific needs of the family.
 
4. Don't forget to name appropriate people to take control of your child's UTMA and Section 529 Plan Accounts. A parent who is the custodian of a Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (UTMA) account may name a person in his Will to become successor custodian of the account if the parent dies. Similarly, parents who establish education savings accounts (sometimes called "529 Plan Accounts" or "Qualified Tuition Programs") are often permitted by the plan agreement to name a successor custodian or owner of the account who will have control over these funds for the benefit of the child if the parent is not able. These designations should be coordinated with the provisions of the parent's estate plan. 
 
5. Young adults can create documents that allow their parents to help with decision-making in the event of a child's illness or incapacity. When your child turns 18, she is an "adult" in the eyes of the law. If your child is ill or cannot handle her own financial matters, the law will not allow a parent to automatically step in and take control of the situation. However, if a child is 18 or older, she can create a Power of Attorney and a Health Care Proxy that will permit a parent to make financial and health care decisions for the child in appropriate circumstances. Before your child heads off to college this fall, make sure these documents are in place to allow you to continue to protect your child if something unanticipated happens. 

Too often, parents may neglect or postpone estate planning because they are young and healthy and feel as though they cannot afford to spend the money to create a Will.  Estate planning also brings up feelings and attitudes that many parents prefer to ignore, and may require difficult discussions about which family members are or are not suitable to be a child's guardian or manage a child's money. But by failing to plan, parents leave the court with no guidance on who should care for their children should a tragedy occur, and may result in young children taking control of a large inheritance before they are ready to do so. In thinking about planning for your children, consider a plan that is appropriate for your children's current circumstances. As time passes and circumstances change, the plan can also change. It is always better to have a plan in place than to postpone this important decision altogether.
 

Attorney Maria Baler is an estate planning attorney and a partner with the Dedham firm Samuel, Sayward & Baler LLC. She is also a director of the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (MassNAELA).  For more information, visit www.ssbllc.com.

To Roth or Not to Roth
 
 
A new law, effective January 2010, allows all consumers to move money from a traditional Individual Retirement Savings Account (IRA) to
a Roth account. To help consider whether converting to a Roth IRA is a good idea for you, let's start with a reminder about the pros and cons of each account:
 
  • Traditional IRAs: Contributions are deductible but withdrawls are fully taxable (i.e., reduce current taxes, but pay taxes in retirement).
  • Roth IRAs: Contributions are not deductible but withdrawals,  even of earnings, are tax free (i.e., pay taxes now; avoid taxes in retirement).

Before 2010, taxpayers earning more than $100,000 were excluded from converting Traditional IRAs to Roth IRAs. While income tax must still be paid on the money that is converted from a Traditional to a Roth IRA, it's an attractive choice for some people because: 

Tax-free withdrawals:  Withdrawals from Roth IRAs are free of federal taxes. If you are at least 59 you may start withdrawing even earnings from the new Roth after five years. 

No Required Minimum Distribution (RMD):  Roth IRAs do not require annual distributions, while Traditional IRAs do, beginning at age 70. 

No Income Taxes for Heirs:  Spouses who inherit a Roth do not pay federal income taxes on voluntary withdrawals and are not required to make minimum annual withdrawals. Children and grandchildren who inherit a Roth must make annual withdrawals but they are federal income tax free. 

Converting money from a Traditional to a Roth is not for everyone.  If you answer yes to one or more of the following, consult with a trusted financial advisor to see if this is a good move for you : 
 
  • Do I expect my tax rates to increase in the future?
  • Do I have most of my investment assets in Traditional IRAs?
  • Do I have enough money outside IRAs to pay taxes now on the amount I convert from a Traditional IRA to a Roth?
  • Am I sure I will not need to withdraw earnings from the Roth for at least five years?
  • Do I have enough other money for my current needs and retirement and want to leave tax-free income to my heirs? 

For a more detailed article on this subject, visit www.samuelfinancial.com and always consult with a qualified, trusted advisor about important financial decisions.

 
Update on Federal Estate Tax Repeal/Reinstatement
 
As we mentioned in our last newsletter, Congress failed to act at the end of last year to extend the federal estate tax that was in effect in 2009.  The result of that failure is that for this one year, 2010, there is no federal estate tax.  It also means that for this one year there is no step-up in basis for inherited appreciated assets.

 

Unless Congress acts this year, the federal estate tax will be reinstated on January 1, 2011 with a $1 million exemption.  This will mean that estates in excess of $1 million will be subject to the very burdensome federal estate tax rates. These rates start at 41% for estates in excess of $1 million and quickly increase to 55% for estates in excess of $3 million.

 

To give you an idea of what this means dollar-wise, here are a few examples:

 

Size of Estate

MA Estate Tax

Fed'l Estate Tax 2009 and 2010

Fed'l Estate Tax 2011

$1.5 mill

$64,400.00

$0.00

$145,600.00

$2.0 mill

$100,000.00

$0.00

$335,000.00

$3.5 mill

$229,000.00

$0.00

$991,000.00

 

 

Although many have speculated that Congress will act to reinstate the $3.5 million exemption for estates that was in effect in 2009, as of right now, no such action has been taken. We will keep you updated on any changes, or lack thereof, as the year progresses.

Staff Update   
 
Joanna Zehme joins Samuel, Sayward & Baler
                                                                                          
joanna
Joanna Zehme recently joined the firm, bringing with her 20 years of experience as  legal assistant and paralegal.  Joanna schedules appointments for Attorneys Sayward and Baler and also assists them with estate settlement and trust administration matters, trust funding, and drafting and finalizing estate plan documents.  Joanna can be reached at zehme@ssbllc.com or at 781-461-1020 ext. 212. 
 
 
 
It's a Girl!
   
 
Paralegal Janine Cronin, who has been with the firm for almost seven years, gave birth to her first child in March and is now on maternity leave.  Our best wishes are with Janine and her family! 

 
Partners Attend Estate Planning and Elder Law Programs
 
 
Attorneys Sayward and Baler recently attended the Massachusetts Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (MassNAELA) programs on Medicaid Post-Application Issues and The Attorney's Role and Responsibilities as a Witness in Will and Trust Litigation. Both attorneys also attended the day-long Suffolk Law School continuing education program on Understanding the Elder Law and Medicaid Consequences of Estate Planning. They also attended the Wealth Counsel quarterly meeting on Estate Planning which focused on the 2010 federal estate tax and related changes. 

In addition, Attorney Baler attended MassNAELA's recent program on Local Aging Service Access Points - Programs, Availability and Qualifications, and Attorney Sayward attended the 2010 Estate Planning Conference at Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education in Boston.