Online resource center to help you explore these key issues, and others, regarding your estate.

Practice Areas

Mr. Miller has many years of experience in designing and implementing a comprehensive variety of Trusts, Wills, and other estate planning documents, as well as settling estates in the most expedient and appropriate method. Further, he counsels and assists clients on becoming eligible for VA benefits and Medi-Cal.

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VA Pension/Aid & Attendance/Medi-Cal

Mr. Miller has been active in the area of VA Pension and Medi-Cal for well over a decade. He uses various specialized types of Trusts as well as non-trust strategies to gain eligibility for his clients and save the family money.

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Probate & Estate Administration

Mr. Miller has been settling estates (both simple and complex) for well over 40 years. The starting point is always to create a strategy to settle the estate in the most efficient manner possible with a minimum of taxes. Often times the strategy created allows the family to bypass Probate Court proceedings.

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Have Yourself a Merry Little Cliff-mas II…


By merv,

  Filed under: Blog, Estate Planning

With the fiscal cliff finally upon us, it is time to review and renew your estate plan.  For the last decade, estate taxes have been a limited factor in estate plans for the vast majority of families.  With applicable exclusion amounts increasing steadily, fewer and fewer families were likely to be faced with the possibility of estate tax liability.  However, beginning January 1, 2013, the estate tax exclusion amount returns to $1 million (currently $5.12 million) and the highest estate tax rate returns to 55% (currently 35%).  Fortunately, this is largely a tax on those who are not paying attention.  Depending on your particular financial circumstances, there are certain actions you can take right now that will avoid all or substantially all of this tax increase.

Restate Your Trust
If you are married and have a simple family trust, you could consider restating the trust as a Disclaimer Trust or an A-B Trust.  By doing so, you effectively double the amount of money you and your spouse may pass estate tax free.  Remember that the concept of “portability,” which allowed a surviving spouse to use both applicable exclusion amounts, may expire as well.  Without proper advance planning, both spouses may not be able to maximize their estate tax exemptions, which could result in significantly more estate taxes due!  By restating your trust, you do not need to retitle all your assets in order to significantly alter your plan.

Plan Your “Step-Up”
Many assets receive a “step up” in basis upon death, which often reduces the income taxes due when certain assets are sold.  The balancing and calculations involved can be complicated and should not be undertaken alone.  However, you may be able to achieve significant savings for yourself and your heirs by collaborating with your estate planning attorney and tax advisor to determine how to title, hold, and sell your assets.

Consider Life Insurance
Life Insurance can be a valuable way to provide for the payment of estate taxes that will be due.  However, life insurance is also subject to estate tax!  With careful planning and the right policy, you may be able to structure your plan to eliminate the estate taxes due on proceeds from life insurance and provide some financial security to your heirs.
Consider Charitable Beneficiaries
In cases where your estate plan has already necessarily done a significant amount of estate tax planning, but some estate taxes are still likely to be due, consider leaving some of your estate to charity.  Charitable organizations receive bequests tax free and, when certain qualifications are met, no estate tax is due on the bequest.  If your family heirs are only going to receive 45% on the dollar while the IRS is the main beneficiary, maybe an organization you support would be a better use of funds.

Estate planning is a process and your documents should be reviewed regularly in order to ensure that they are still working for you and your family’s needs.  Now is the perfect time to determine whether any changes ought to be made in light of the highest tax rates we have seen in years!

Estate Planning: The Price of Organization, Rewards, Gifts, and Wondrous Tax Things… FREE REPORT: This complimentary report, focused on Estate Planning, is comprised of many of Mr. Miller’s articles from his long running column for the largest regional newspaper in San Diego County. This report will guide you through the questions surrounding getting your estate planning in order.

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About Living Trusts

About Living Trusts is hosted by the Law Offices of Merwyn J. Miller, as your online resource center to help you explore these key issues, and others, regarding your estate.

Merwyn J. Miller, J.D.

  • Board Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust & Probate Law
  • Co-Author of legal text book and of “Don’t Go Broke in a Nursing Home
  • Teacher of law courses at public and private colleges
  • Continuing Education Instructor for attorneys
  • Columnist for largest regional newspaper in San Diego County and professional journals for 15 years, Contributing author to the book “In Your Service: The Veteran’s Friend”
  • Masters Degree in Financial Services - Estate Planning
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