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    Joshua and Laura Meier Newport Beach Trust and Estate Planning Attorneys Focused on Helping Families with Young Kids
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    Category Archives: Taxes

    10 Tips for Charitable Giving This Holiday Season

    According to a recent Forbes article, Americans donated more than $316 billion to charity last year – and most of that came from individuals.  Holidays are a traditional time of giving, and not just because we like to get in those year-end tax deductions!tax

    Forbes provided 10 tips for getting the most out of your charitable giving this year:

    1.  Be sure to itemize.  The IRS requires that you itemize your charitable deductions each year on your 1040 so be sure to keep careful records.

    2.  Get a receipt.  If you are giving property, be sure you get a written receipt from the organization and that it lists the items you have donated.  If you are giving cash you need a receipt as well – either from the charity or a cancelled check or credit card receipt that includes the name of the charity.

    3.  Choose wisely.  Not every charity is recognized by the IRS as an exempt organization.  You can check by name at the IRS Exempt Organizations Select Check website.

    4.  Remember payroll deductions.  If you give via a payroll deduction, your employer should furnish you with a record of your annual deduction.

    5.  Deduct value of incentives.  If you receive something in exchange for your donation – even a coffee mug or a t-shirt – you are required to deduct the value of that item from the value of your donation.

    6.  Consider giving appreciated assets.  You can receive a double benefit if you donate an appreciated asset like stock or real estate.  If you have owned the asset for at least a year, you can deduct the fair market value and avoid paying any capital gains tax.

    7.  Understand what you can deduct.  If you provide services to a charitable organization, you can deduct things like mileage or supplies, but you cannot deduct your time.

    8.  Document gift value.  Non-cash items need to be documented in terms of the item’s condition in order to assess a fair market value.  If your donation is worth more than $500, the IRS requires a written appraisal for fair market value.

    9.  Be aware of limits.  Many people are not aware that there are limits on charitable contributions, which are tied to your adjusted gross income (AGI).  If you give more than 20 percent of your AGI, then you may run up against these limits, which vary according to the gift (cash, non-cash items, appreciated assets).

    10.  Give by year-end.  You will only receive deductions for those items or cash you give during the calendar year, so be sure you make your donation by Dec. 31.  If you gift via check or credit card, you will receive the deduction as long as they are recorded by Dec. 31 – even if you don’t pay the credit card or the check isn’t cashed until 2014.

    If you would like more information about protecting your assets, call our office today to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk. We normally charge $750 for an Achieve Your Dreams Planning Session, but I’ve made space for the next two people who mention this article to have a complete planning session at no charge. Call your Newport Beach Trust and Estate Attorney today at 949.718.0420 to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk.

    Why Estate Planning is for Life, Not Death

    We know that no one likes to think about death, especially their own.  Which is why many people procrastinate when it comes to estate planning.  Because it’s for when you die, right?  Wrong!  When done with a Personal Family Lawyer, creating an estate plan makes your life better.planning

    Here are some of the things that estate planning does for you while you are alive:

    • Gets you thinking about the real meaning of your life, what you want to pass on beyond your life and what’s most important to you to do now;
    • Gets you thinking about how you want to be cared for at the end of your life and lets you name someone to make those good decisions for you;
    • Has you think about your money, who you want it to go to, how you want it handled, what you want it to do in the world after you aren’t here;
    • Names someone to care for your children in case you can’t;
    • Helps you minimize taxes;
    • Lets you provide for a special needs child or other loved one without disrupting their governmental benefits;
    • Protects your assets from divorce – yours or your children’s – as well as lawsuits and creditors;
    • Enables you to gift portions of your estate to your children or charities while you are still alive in a tax-advantaged way that inspires wealth creation instead of depletion;
    • Helps you plan for your own long-term care in a way that won’t deplete your estate

    Of course, having an estate plan also offers you peace of mind that you have done what you could to protect loved ones and pass on your assets efficiently after death.  Having an estate plan in place before you pass guarantees that:

    • Your personal property and assets will pass to the people you want to have them
    • You spare your family the expense and pain of having to go through the probate process
    • Your minor children are provided for in the way you choose, with a guardian named to raise them with your values and a trusted adviser in place to manage their finances until they come of age
    • Your assets are protected for your heirs by setting up a trust with a distribution option for when they reach adulthood (or other milestones of your choice)
    • Beneficiaries have been named for retirement and other financial accounts as well as life insurance policies so the assets in these accounts go to the people you choose
    • The financial privacy of your family is protected

    If you’d like to talk about Estate Planning, call your Newport Beach Trust and Estate Attorney today at 949.718.0420 to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk. We normally charge $750 for an Achieve Your Dreams 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.

    Supreme Court Decision Makes Inherited IRAs Fair Game in Bankruptcy

    A recent U.S. Supreme Court decision has changed the way inherited IRAs are viewed when it comes to bankruptcy, and calls for those who inherit these retirement account assets to find new ways to protect that inheritance.supreme court

    In Clark v. Rameker, Heidi Heffron-Clark inherited an IRA from her mother. She received distributions from that inherited IRA for several years before filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Ms. Heffron-Clark relied on the Bankruptcy Code, which states that IRAs are exempt up to $1.245 million from bankruptcy, to claim that her inherited IRA qualified for the retirement account exemption.

    In a unanimous ruling, the Supreme Court disagreed, distinguishing inherited IRAs from other IRAs established by an individual for his or her own retirement. Because the beneficiary of an inherited IRA cannot make contributions to that IRA, an inherited IRA does not provide any tax incentives, which is an important purpose of other IRAs. Since the beneficiary of an inherited IRA has different rules for taking distributions than other IRA owners, this also establishes inherited IRAs as different from other IRAs. These differences, the Court reasoned, are enough to disqualify an inherited IRA from qualifying for the federal bankruptcy exemption.

    Even though some states offer protection for inherited IRAs in bankruptcy, a move to another state that does not offer this protection can endanger inherited IRA assets. IRA owners who wish to provide their heirs with valuable protection should consider naming a trust as beneficiary of IRA assets instead of heirs, who could instead be designated as beneficiaries of that trust.

    The Court did not address spousal inherited IRA beneficiaries; however, since a spouse is allowed to roll over an inherited IRA into his or her own account, this may qualify a spousal inherited IRA for the bankruptcy exemption for retirement funds.

    We can help you plan for the safe, successful transfer of wealth to the next generation. Call your Newport Beach Estate Planning Attorneys today to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk about an Achieve Your Dreams Planning Session, where we can identify the best strategies for you and your family to ensure your legacy of love and financial security.

    Hollywood Legend Lauren Bacall Leaves Large Estate and Two Potentially Large Headaches for Heirs

    Legendary Hollywood actress Lauren Bacall died on August 12, 2014, leaving behind an estate estimated at $26.6 million and three children who face a couple of potentially serious problems that could have been avoided through effective estate planning. Home estate

    Bacall, who was married to Humphrey Bogart and Sam Robards, passed away in her New York City apartment, which at a $10 million valuation constitutes a sizeable part of her estate.  Bacall used a will as the governing document of her estate plan instead of a revocable living trust, so the division of her estate is public record.

    Her will was made public a mere 10 days following her death because her children plan to auction off her artwork this fall.  As a resident of New York, Bacall’s estate will be subject to both state and federal estate taxes.  A trust left to her by Bogart will also be subject to tax based on its valuation.

    Unfortunately, her estate only included $100,000 in liquid assets at the time of her death, so her heirs face a potentially serious liquidity problem when it comes to paying these taxes. This is probably the reason behind the rush to auction her artwork. Her family has only nine months from the date of her death to pay estate taxes.

    Although Bacall directed in her will that her apartment be sold, there is no guarantee that it could sell in time to pay the estate taxes. Life insurance is one of the most common ways to ensure there is sufficient liquidity to pay taxes and other expenses.

    Besides the financial assets, Bacall left her children the right to her likeness and other intellectual property associated with her illustrious career.  (She did request that her children not sell her personal effects, letters and memorabilia in her will.) This could be of significant value in future years, and the IRS could come after the heirs for taxes based on that value.

    There could also be issues that arise regarding the management of this intellectual property in the coming years, which could lead to litigation as it has in the cases of other Hollywood greats, like Michael Jackson. To help avoid this, the family could establish a trust or family entity to manage these assets and make decisions on how they will be used in the future.

    One of the main goals of our law practice is to help families like yours plan for the safe, successful transfer of wealth to the next generation. Call your Newport Beach Estate Planning Attorneys today to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk about an Achieve Your Dreams Planning Session, where we can identify the best strategies for you and your family to ensure your legacy of love and financial security.

    Date night on us!

    What will you do with your tax refund?



    Something Fun?



    or Something Fundamental?



    Meier Law Firm will help you do both!



    Meet with Josh or Laura Meier between now and April 30th
    for a Free Achieve Your Dreams planning session (a $750 value) and
    we'll give you a gift card to an awesome reastaurant for a fun date
    night on us, plus, we'll show you how you can:


    • Make sure your children never spend even one moment in the care of strangers (or anyone you wouldn’t want) if anything happens to you.
    • Avoid the expenses and delays of a long, drawn-out court process that would make life difficult for your loved ones if you were in an accident.
    • Protect your children’s inheritance from creditors, lawsuits, and failed marriages.
    • Make sure your hard-earned money is immediately and privately available to your chosen guardians.
    • Leave behind more than just your money.
    • Learn how to reduce taxes and get an even bigger tax refund next year!

    Limited Sessions Available. Reserve Now!


    Call 949.718.0420



    Forward this invite to your clients, friends, and family!


    P.S. Have a will or trust already?  Meet with us and we'll show you if it will work!


    P.S.S. Make sure to reserve your session now so you can meet with us before April 30th and get a dinner on us!

    Tax Time Bomb Ticking for Small Business Owners

    Last week a colleague and I were discussing a C Corporation with nearly three-quarters of a million dollars in retained earnings, with owners who want to get the money out. The owners wondered about any “fancy tax ideas.” My colleague immediately stated, “Yeah; distribute it.” He was right. No muss; no fuss. Just sound advice.

    Planning is one thing, but taking action is another. Right now, when it comes to taxes, the time may be right for small business owners to take action.

    Forbes recently wrote an article titled, “Taxes are Low – Move it or Lose It!,” explaining that taxes may take a turn for the worse – and soon – once the calendar rolls over to 2013!

    Right now capital gains and dividend taxes max out at 15%. After the year’s end, however, these rates are set to lapse and skyrocket to 23.8% on long-term capital gains and 43.4% on qualifying dividends. So, what is a small business owner to do?

    The original article in Forbes provides some practical actions to take, including:

    • If you are selling all or part of your business, do it now.
    • If you have any qualifying dividends available for distribution, do it now.

    What else should be done? Certainly the original article offers some additional pointers, but the specific actions depend on your unique circumstances.

    Regardless, this is a perfect time to schedule that consultation with your financial, tax and legal advisory team, sooner rather than later.

    Contact Meier Law Firm to discuss all of your small business needs.

    Reference: Forbes (July 24, 2012) “Taxes are Low – Move it or Lose It!


    As the tax-code debate heats up this election season, one cherished break for taxpayers in upper brackets—the deduction for charitable contributions—is under fire.

    The bridge is out. As the current tax code barrels down the track there seems to be no one in the engine room. If, or when, the tax code pitches (“sunsets” on December 31, 2012) over the edge, one major casualty will be the current charitable deductions.

    In many ways, charitable deductions are the common point of unity between savvy tax planners of all income levels. There are so many ways to give, and give wisely. This said, if the current laws change for the worse, either by expiring or by getting twisted in an unfavorable way, it could spell trouble in a host of ways for a host of people.

    To get a better handle on some problems that may arise and the kinds of steps to take in 2012 while there’s time, you will find plenty of resources to research. Want to get the 2012 deduction, but still have some extra time to think about which charities to benefit? If yes, then consider a “donor advised fund.” Read more about this approach in The Wall Street Journal article titled “Invasion of the Charity Snatchers!”

    So, you are concerned about facing a maximum cap on your eligible deductions read another WSJ article titled “Charitable Deductions Under Fire.” And, finally, if you are hoping to mitigate the tax burden of taking a required minimum distribution from your IRA by contributing it to charity instead, then don’t miss the Forbes article titled “The IRA Charitable Donation in 2012.”

    In conclusion, although there remains great uncertainty regarding the future of charitable tax planning, there is plenty of information to keep you informed.

    Contact Meier Law Firm to discuss how you can make charitable deductions before it is too late.


    Reference: The Wall Street Journal (June 8, 2012) “Invasion of the Charity Snatchers!”

    The Wall Street Journal (June 8, 2012) “Charitable Deductions Under Fire

    Forbes (May 26, 2012) “The IRA Charitable Donation in 2012

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