Stepping Up

Julian Block  |  Oct 24, 2018

LONG EMBEDDED IN the federal tax code is a provision that provides important advantages for people who sell inherited stocks, real estate or other investments that have appreciated in value and are held outside retirement accounts.
In tax lingo, the basis (the starting point for measuring gain or loss) of inherited assets “steps up” from their original basis (cost, in most instances) to their date-of-death value. It’s as if the inheritors had bought the assets that day.

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Execution Matters

Julian Block  |  Jun 6, 2018

TWO CHORES THAT most people gladly put off: The first is writing a will—and the second is updating it to reflect changed circumstances. Either way, it’s crucial to name the right executors.
Regarding the first chore, my client roster includes recalcitrant individuals who’ve yet to write their wills. I regularly remind them how badly things could turn out if they fail to do so. For instance, their assets might wind up with individuals whom they never intended to benefit or they consider less deserving of their largess than others.

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No Substitute

Julian Block  |  Mar 13, 2018

FOR REASONS THAT make lots of sense to my clients, many of them place their homes, securities and other assets in joint ownership with their spouse or children. A characteristic of joint ownership is the right of survivorship—the co-owner who dies first loses all ownership in the property and the surviving co-owner acquires all ownership.
Many individuals mistakenly believe that joint ownership relieves them of the need to write a will. To be sure,

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The Last Word

Julian Block  |  Jan 25, 2018

I FREQUENTLY FIELD inquiries from people who know they ought to get a will. Others have wills, but may need to revise them because they’ve moved to a new state, entered into a marriage or ended one. But either way, most folks—in my experience—never get beyond that simple first step.
And those who do often overlook an additional step that’s almost as necessary: drawing up a “letter of final instructions” that provides their heirs with an informal personal financial inventory.

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Courtside Seat (II)

Robert C. Port  |  Dec 12, 2017

EVERYTHING I KNOW about personal finance I learned in court. As part of my law practice, I represent individuals in estate, trust, and probate disputes. Many of these cases have common themes that teach important lessons about personal finance—lessons that aren’t covered in the usual commentary about saving for retirement, paying off credit card debt, and so on. In particular, six crucial lessons stand out.
Lesson No. 1: Know where your assets are.

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Giving: 10 Questions

Jonathan Clements  |  Oct 4, 2017

HAVEN’T GIVEN MUCH thought to estate planning and charitable giving? Here are 10 questions to jumpstart your thinking:

Can you afford to give away money now? You shouldn’t gift large sums to your children or charity unless you’re confident you have enough for your own retirement. There’s no limit on gifts to charity, though your annual tax deduction may be capped. For gifts to family members, you might take advantage of the annual gift-tax exclusion,

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Where There’s a Will

Jonathan Clements  |  Feb 11, 2015

ESTATE PLANNING is easy for most folks—but many don’t bother. Surveys regularly find that half of all adults don’t have a will. Yet a will, the right beneficiaries listed on retirement accounts and life insurance, and correct titling on property (such as the house you own jointly with your spouse with right of survivorship) are all most of us need.
Sure, there are other niceties, like drawing up durable powers of attorney for financial and health-care matters,

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