Publications: Trusts, Estates and Succession Planning


  • Use of Transfer on Death (TOD) Deeds Broadened Under New Statute

    May 18, 2018

    The Governor recently signed 2018 Wisconsin Act 332, which affects a method to transfer real property without going through a probate proceeding known as a transfer on death (“TOD”) deed. The new law gives clients more options to transfer real property without having to go through a probate proceeding. A TOD deed does not affect the current ownership of the property but essentially functions like a beneficiary designation would on a life insurance policy or retirement account – it designates who is to receive the property after the current owner’s death or upon the last death of multiple owners. Under...



  • Using Trusts to Protect a Beneficiary’s Inheritance From Creditors in the Era of Tax Reform

    February 15, 2018

    Now that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Acts has passed and the estate tax exemption has been doubled, trusts are no longer advantageous, right? And perhaps, we can look to terminate existing irrevocable trusts, as discussed in Fixing Irrevocable Trusts. The answers are not so simple. First, revocable trusts have many uses in estate planning, other than to save on taxes, including: Probate Avoidance and Savings. Keeping the estate of the trust creator (the “Settlor”) outside of probate. Going through probate means that the administration of a decedent’s estate will be subject to the oversight of a probate court. A properly...



  • Tax Reform: Key Planning Perspectives for Individuals and Businesses

    February 8, 2018

    Tax season is upon us. Individuals and businesses are collecting year-end tax statements and have begun the task of completing 2017 income tax returns. These returns will be filed under the “old” rules which predate the adoption of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that was passed by Congress and signed by President Trump in late December 2017 (the “2017 Act”). This annual tax reporting ritual may serve as an opportunity for taxpayers to consider the impact the 2017 Act will have upon their tax situation in 2018. Below is a brief summary of key provisions of the 2017 Act...



  • Fixing Irrevocable Trusts

    January 9, 2018

    When estate planners meet with clients to review their estate plan, it is very common to run across clients who created irrevocable trusts in the 1980s, 90s, or early 2000s. The goal in creating these irrevocable trusts was often to reduce the size of the client’s estate to avoid estate tax. Now that fewer people are subject to estate tax, these trusts are often no longer necessary to avoid estate tax. Under recent changes to the state statutes, we now have more flexibility to modify or terminate unwanted and unnecessary irrevocable trusts. Common Irrevocable Trusts Over the last 20 years, the unified...



  • IRS Announces 2018 Estate and Gift Tax Limits

    November 6, 2017

    While recent news reports focus on the potential for tax change as result of the introduction of the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” in the House on November 2, 2017, the IRS continues its job of administering existing law. Under the current rules, several key gift and estate tax exclusions are adjusted for inflation annually, including the estate tax exclusion, the annual gift tax exclusion, and the estate tax deduction for decedents dying with certain farm or closely held business real estate. The IRS has recently announced that the estate and gift tax exclusion will be $5,600,000 effective January 1,...



  • Tax Reform Update

    November 3, 2017

    Since the start of the new administration, there has been much speculation regarding potential tax law changes. Below is a comparison of revisions proposed by President Trump on the campaign trail, the House of Representatives in the House blueprint known as the “Better Way for Tax Reform,” and the Tax Cut and Jobs Act proposal released by the House Ways & Means Committee on November 2, 2017. Final legislation will depend in large part upon the budgeting process and various procedural rules that govern the passage of laws. However, the comparison may provide you with a flavor of potential things...



  • Estate Planning for Your Digital Property

    June 2, 2017

    Does your YouTube station with tutorials teaching the perfect contouring makeup technique have a million subscribers and significant advertising revenue? Probably not. Do you store music, documents, or photos on the Cloud? Possibly. Do you conduct online banking? Probably. Do you have a Facebook, Instagram, Google, Yahoo, or Twitter account? Most likely. You might not think that you have much “digital property,” but the vast majority of people now have digital property in one or more forms. As a personal asset, your digital property should be addressed as a part of your overall estate plan. The Wisconsin Digital Property Act (the...



  • Tax Reform In the Making: A Comparison of the Potential Revisions

    March 2, 2017

    With the coming of a new administration in Washington, D.C., there has been much speculation regarding potential tax law changes. Below is a comparison of various revisions being discussed by both President Trump and the House of Representatives in the House blueprint known as the “Better Way for Tax Reform.” Final legislation will depend in large part upon the budgeting process and various procedural rules that govern the passage of laws that are expected to create fiscal deficits. However, the comparison of the varying proposals will give you a flavor of potential things to come. Rest assured that the attorneys...



  • Increase in Safe Harbor Expense Threshold Creates Opportunity for Small and Medium-Sized Businesses

    December 3, 2015

    With the release of Notice 2015-82, the IRS has provided a valuable end of year tax-planning tool to businesses looking to expense tangible property purchases. The tangible property regulations have been in effect since January 1, 2014. The regulations included a safe harbor under which businesses may expense, rather than capitalize, certain tangible property. One such example would be the cost associated with computers and other technological hardware, but would not include any software or other intangible expenses. The safe harbor is intended to both ease taxpayer compliance and reduce a business’s administrative burden. Notice 2015-82 raises the safe harbor from $500...



  • Is Your Estate Plan Jeopardizing your S-Corporation?

    June 1, 2015

    Many of us are familiar with the basic S-corporation mantra – avoid the so-called double taxation of regular C-corporations, all while maintaining the limited liability and practical advantages of a corporation. While many business owners engage in detailed planning to ensure compliance with Subchapter S of the Internal Revenue Code in order to maximize the tax benefits of being an S-corporation, the same level of diligence is often ignored when it comes to that business owner’s personal estate plan, and ultimately, their business succession plan. For a corporation to maintain its S-corporation eligibility, it must have fewer than 100 total shareholders,...



  • Work Opportunity Tax Credit Extended; IRS Issues Guidance on Certification for 2014 Tax Year.

    March 10, 2015

    Private sector employers are now further incentivized for their efforts in hiring otherwise disadvantaged workers. The IRS recently issued guidance extending the time employers may claim a Work Opportunity Tax Credit (“WOTC”) of $2,400 or more for each qualified employee hired in 2014. Because the Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014 (see D&K’s Client Alert, President Signs Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014: Incentives for Employers and Individuals) extended the WOTC retroactively for the 2014 tax year, employers need additional time to comply with the certification requirements of WOTC. Notice 2015-13, summarized below, provides employers guidance on compliance aspects of...



  • President Signs Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014: Incentives for Employers and Individuals

    January 8, 2015

    On December 19, 2014, President Obama signed into law the Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014 (HR 5771). Otherwise known as the “Tax Extenders” Act, this law retroactively extended through the end of 2014, over 50 tax breaks that expired on December 31, 2013. While there were discussions of making permanent a number of these extenders, particularly the Bonus Depreciation and Section 179 deductions, Congress ultimately passed on making any of these provisions permanent and punted the fate of the extenders to 2015 and the incoming 114th Congress. So, yes, that means that these very same provisions expired as of...



  • IRS Form 1023-EZ: Nonprofits Rejoice – but is the Potential for Fraud Real?

    December 14, 2014

    On July 1, 2014, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released Form 1023-EZ, a streamlined alternative to the venerable IRS standard-bearer in the world of nonprofits – Form 1023 Application for Recognition of Exemption Under Section 501(c)(3). The original Form 1023, weighing in at a robust 26 pages (including 7 schedules), can be burdensome, especially for small, volunteer based charities. For such nonprofits, the potential benefits were, quite simply, trumped by the significant commitment of time, money and organizational resources necessary to file the original Form 1023. Yet, due to the administrative oversight needed to process the lengthy Form 1023 applications, the...



  • Year-End Strategies Pave the Way for Minimizing Your Tax Burden in 2015

    November 24, 2014

    The final months of 2014 are a great time to finalize your tax planning opportunities and set the stage for minimizing your tax outlay in 2015. As a business owner, please be aware that in the wake of the election, sources indicate tax extenders are likely to pass, with some differences between the two houses in Congress being characterized as “easily resolvable” — one house leaning toward passing tax extenders as one bill, the other addressing tax extenders as six separate bills. Broad tax reform, even if put on a fast track would not likely take effect until late 2015...



  • Wisconsin’s New Trust Code: Ten Important Aspects Impacting Estate Plans

    June 6, 2014

    On July 1, 2014, Wisconsin’s New Trust Code (“WTC”) takes effect making Wisconsin the 29th jurisdiction to adopt a version of the Uniform Trust Code (“UTC”). The UTC grew out of the realization that modern era trust business is now globalized like the economy, and that a uniformity of trust laws is necessary to provide administrative and statutory consistency among the states. The continuing movement of states, like Wisconsin, to adopt a version of the UTC reflects this national character of the trust business and the importance of keeping up with current developments or risk falling behind in the competition...



  • Are You Protecting Your Digital Assets?

    October 31, 2013

    Now more than ever, the Internet is a repository for information from all aspects of our lives – everything from essential financial and email accounts to social networks and your family photo albums. As more and more people transition their financial lives from the file cabinet to the cloud, what should you be doing to ensure that your digital life isn’t destined for a black hole in cyberspace? Recent studies (by Pew Internet and American Life Project) show that since June 2012, half of all American adults who are 65 and older are online, and since December 2011, 65 percent...



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