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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Planning for a Record Lottery Payout …

By merv,

  Filed under: Blog, Estate Planning

Someone has won $590.5 million in a record Powerball drawing.  So far, there are only two certainties about the winner: the person bought the ticket in Florida and the person has a lot of brand new tax issues to consider.  In addition to the large chunk of money seized from the winnings for income tax, the estate tax, and planning around it, is certainly necessary for the lucky  1 in 175.2 million.  Indeed, a lottery spokesman stated: “If they know they won, they’re going to contact their attorney or an accountant first so they can get their affairs in order.” 

Among the issues for individuals who have won (and those planning on winning) is the “use it or lose it” benefit of portability.  As part of the new estate tax law, which became permanent this year, surviving spouses may file an estate tax return after the death of their spouse.  The estate tax is due on estates over $5.25 million, which is now adjusted for inflation annually.  For married couples with large estates, it is common to create an A-B trust in order to preserve the deceased spouse’s exemption and effectively double the amount that may be passed to heirs free of estate tax to $10.5 million.  For those who don’t, using portability is another option.

The vast majority of individuals do not need an A-B trust for estate tax purposes anymore, although there are still other reasons it may be worth having.  Additionally, in these cases the estate tax return is not required and, if filed, will report an estate tax amount due of $0.  However, filing a timely estate tax return can preserve the deceased spouse’s exemption amount to cover a sudden, dramatic increase in the surviving spouse’s wealth, such as the case with lottery winnings.  The portability feature of the new estate tax law “ports” the deceased spouse’s exemption amount to the surviving spouse, giving the surviving spouse the ability to exclude $10.5 million from estate tax in his or her own estate.

Additionally, for married couples who do not have a large enough estate to require an A-B trust to plan for estate tax but may experience an increase in wealth due to receiving an inheritance, an extremely profitable investment, or even winning the lottery, portability may actually be better.  Filing an estate tax return does not require funding a second trust on the first spouse’s death and segregating those assets or respecting the terms of that trust in order to preserve the tax benefit.  A second trust is also not subject to ongoing administration and annual tax returns.  On the second spouse’s death, all assets will receive a “step up” in basis.  For these reasons, portability offers more flexibility and less ongoing expense than an A-B trust.

Unfortunately, in order to take advantage of the portability exclusion, the estate tax return must be filed on time.  For that reason, you cannot wait to see what happens in the future before deciding to make the election.  There are a number of other fact-specific considerations to discuss with your attorney as well.

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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