Colorado Probate Blog - Wade Ash Woods Hill & Farley, P.C.

Joint Income Tax Returns and Common-Law Marriage in Colorado

Colorado is one of about ten states that recognize common law marriage. In a 1987 case, People v. Lucero, the Colorado Supreme Court held that “common law marriage is established by the mutual consent or agreement of the parties to be husband and wife, followed by a mutual and open assumption of a marital relationship.” The couple’s agreement to be married need not be explicit and may be inferred from the couple’s conduct. Under Lucero, “[t]he two factors that most clearly show an intention to be married are cohabitation and a general understanding or reputation among persons in the community in which the couple lives that the parties hold themselves out as husband and wife.” The court listed a number of behaviors that a court may consider in analyzing those two factors: joint bank or credit accounts, joint ownership of other property, the woman’s use of the man’s surname, the use of the man’s surname by children born to the parties, and the filing of joint tax returns.

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Who Has the Right to a Decedent's Remains

Probate and estate litigation is fraught with emotion. We often see families divided over a deceased loved one’s property. And while each dispute is different, there are commonalities; one of which is that the disputes are often “not about the money.”

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Overview of 2018 Tax Act

President Trump signed the 2018 Tax Act into law on December 22, 2017. Most of the provisions apply only to taxable years starting January 1, 2018 through December 31, 2025. The changes in the corporate tax rates are permanent. Wade Ash intends to send out a newsletter in February that will summarize more fully the provisions of the Act, especially as affecting estate planning. The following is a list of some of the major provisions:

    • The estate, gift and generation-skipping transfer tax exemption is doubled from $5 million to $10 million and still indexed for inflation since 2011. The 2018 exemption will be about $11.2 million.
    • The individual standard deduction is also nearly doubled to $24,000 for married filing jointly, and $12,000 for single taxpayers; the income tax rates are slightly reduced.
    • No more deductions for personal exemptions on individual returns (although they apparently do still apply for trusts and estates).
    • Many itemized deductions for individuals were eliminated or reduced:
      • $10,000 limit on the deduction for state and local taxes
      • no deduction for interest on home equity loans, including current loans
      • the deduction for mortgage interest on new loans is only allowed up to $750,000 in indebtedness
      • No deduction for alimony on divorces finalized after 12/31/2018 (and the receipt of alimony will not be taxable income)
      • medical expenses may still be deducted over 10% of AGI
      • charitable contributions may still be deducted (up to 60% of AGI instead of only 50% for cash contributions to public charities)
      • NO miscellaneous itemized deductions, including investment advisor fees, accountants’ fees, attorney fees
    • 529 plan accounts may make qualified distributions for elementary and high school education up to $10,000 per year per student
    • C corporation changes are permanent and include:
      • corporate tax rate reduced to 21% from 35%
      • corporate Alternative Minimum Tax repealed
      • 100% expensing of new and used property used in the business, except for buildings
      • Business expense deductions include state and local taxes without the $10,000 limit
    • New 20% deduction for "qualified business income" under pass-through entities such as partnerships, LLCs and Sub-S corporations
      • Must be income earned in a "trade or business"
      • Deduction excludes income from capital gains, dividends, interest
      • If total income is less than $315,000 for married filing jointly ($157,500 for single taxpayers), no further limit on the deduction.
      • If more than the threshold, subject to limitation of greater of (a) 50% of taxpayer’s share of W-2 wages, or 25% of taxpayer’s share of W-2 wages plus 2.5% of depreciable property
      • If income is over the threshold, no 20% deduction for income from pass- through service companies, including health, law, accounting, performing arts, athletics, financial services, "reputation/skill-based" services, investment management
    • Many issues have not been addressed in the Act, and will need to be clarified in regulations
  • no deduction for business entertainment expenses (except if employees are included, like holiday parties)
  • changes to fiduciary income tax (trusts and estates):
    • miscellaneous itemized deductions (subject to the 2% floor) are NOT deductible
    • items that are deductible are those NOT subject to the 2% floor and include trustee fees, attorney fees to administer the trust or estate, preparation of estate tax returns and fiduciary income tax returns (but not gift tax returns), and administrative expenses such as probate filing fees, appraisals and preparation of accountings
    • state and local taxes up to $10,000 are deductible
    • charitable contributions are deductible if required by the governing instrument
    • trusts and estates still have the personal exemption ($600 for estates, $100 for simple trusts and $300 for complex trusts)
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Selecting Your Trustee

Selecting your trustee is one of the most important decisions to make when creating a revocable trust. The trustee is a fiduciary with the legal obligation to carry out the directions set forth in the trust agreement. The responsibilities and duties include collection and management of assets, preparing tax returns and distributing the income and principal of the trust as the document sets forth.

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631 Hits

Beneficiary Designations May be Dangerous to Your Estate Plan

Traditionally, the central document in an estate plan was a will or revocable trust. For many people, that continues to be true, but it is now possible to pass almost any kind of property outside the terms of your will. For example, this can be done by adding the beneficiary as a joint owner on a bank account, by naming the beneficiary as a “pay on death” (POD) or “transfer on death” (TOD) payee on a stock or securities account, or by signing a “beneficiary deed” that names a beneficiary to become the owner of real estate when you die. Colorado recently added automobiles to the list of assets that can pass by a TOD beneficiary designation. These arrangements, which I refer to generically as “beneficiary designations” can be useful, but they can also seriously disrupt a careful estate plan if they are done without care and appropriate advice.

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Planning for the Apocalypse

Your options for preparing to survive a zombie apocalypse or other collapse of civilization as we know it now include some rather luxurious possibilities. According to a January 30, 2017 article in The New Yorker entitled “Doomsday Prep for the Super-Rich”, highly affluent citizens of the United States have been quietly planning their survival strategies by hoarding rations, gold coins, and weapons and building state-of-the-art underground bunkers stocked with years of supplies.

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Minority Interest Discounts in Family Controlled Entities

On August 2, 2016, the Treasury Department proposed a series of regulations to Section 2704 of the Internal Revenue Code. If these proposed regulations are made final, this could greatly limit the ability of family controlled partnerships, limited liability companies, and corporations to transfer interests in a manner that takes advantage of minority discounts.

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1081 Hits

Colorado's New Trust Decanting Statute

Effective August 10, 2016, the Colorado legislature enacted C.R.S. § 15-16-901 et seq., the Colorado Uniform Trust Decanting Act (the “Act”). “Decanting” generally refers to the distribution of trust property from one trust to another trust pursuant to a trustee’s discretionary power to make distributions for beneficiaries. New York was the first state to enact a trust decanting statute in 1992; now, nearly half of the states, including Colorado, have specific statutes addressing and authorizing trust decanting in various forms.

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3259 Hits

Is It Time to Update Your Estate Plan?

We recommend that our clients review their estate plan every few years to make sure that it remains current. Here is a list of “life events” and other things that should trigger a review of your estate plan.

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Funky Holographic Wills

Since the beginning of recorded history, people have created plans for testamentary disposition of their property. The drafting and execution of wills were codified and formalized in the Statutes of Wills of 1540, the Statutes of Frauds (1677) and the Wills Act of 1837. The formalities demanded by those laws are still observed in the current law of wills. Nonetheless, cognizant of the fact that some wills are made in haste and in the testator’s own handwriting, the law of wills historically has included provisions for validation of handwritten (holographic) wills.

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1572 Hits