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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Where the Lottery Meets the Estate Tax…

By merv,

  Filed under: Blog, Estate Planning, Probate & Estate Administration

There are several newly minted millionaires as a result of Wednesday’s Powerball drawing who now have a number of new estate planning considerations on their plate that may not have been relevant before, including estate tax.  For married individuals with high net worths, the A-B trust has long been a staple of their overall estate plan.  Effectively, the A-B trust allows the surviving spouse to insulate the deceased spouse’s share of assets up to the estate tax exclusion amount (currently $5.25 million) by placing it in a “B” trust.  When the surviving spouse dies, the trust allows $10.5 million in assets to pass to beneficiaries estate tax free!

However, in 2010, Congress introduced a new concept to the estate tax regime: portability.  This concept allows a surviving spouse to exclude $10.5 million in assets (the deceased spouse’s unused exclusion plus the surviving spouse’s exclusion amount) without the need for an A-B trust.  However, the surviving spouse must file a timely estate tax return.  This means that within 9 months of death, an estate tax return complete with appraisals and a complete list of the decedent’s assets must be filed.

Even though your chances of winning the lottery are lower than your chances of most things (see, becoming President, picking a perfect NCAA bracket, or dating a supermodel for example), it still may be wise to file an estate tax return if you believe you might have a change in fortune in the future.  For example, if you start a business or have wealthy family members from whom you might inherit, an estate tax return may help you preserve your higher exclusion amount.  Also, if you have certain types of assets, such as collectibles, it may be useful to get the appraisals that would be required for an estate tax return, even if you don’t file one in order to establish the value for capital gains purposes in case you later sell the item.  It is important to speak to your tax advisor soon after a spouse’s death to get advice about your particular situation.  In fact, we typically tell people who call to report a death of a loved one not to do anything other than the funeral until they sit down with us.

As with any tax return, there is a statute of limitations against assessment and collection that typically begins once the return is filed.  If you are serving as an executor or trustee, you may be liable for failing to file a return and, possibly, for the tax due.  For that reason, it is important to carefully investigate whether a return is necessary and whether it is advisable to request prompt assessment.  If you know an estate tax return was due and you received an inheritance of any kind, including life insurance or 401k benefits, it is important to proactively verify that the tax was paid.  Otherwise, you could be left holding the bag for up to the entire amount of the inheritance you received as much as a decade after the fact!

Receiving competent advice about whether you should file an estate tax return, just get appraisals, or neither is an important part of the process when administering an estate or trust.  If you ignore the potential for estate tax, it could be very costly!

A Survival Guide for Those Left Behind: The Price of a Loved One’s Dying Done Right…
FREE REPORT: This complimentary report, focused on what do you do when you find your husband expired on the floor, 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 is written in easy to understand, plain English, and will guide you through the questions surrounding the death of a loved one.

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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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