Estate Planning | Asset Protection

The Federal Estate Tax exclusion amount is currently $11.58 million per person or just over $23 million per married couple.  The Connecticut State Estate Tax exclusion amount is currently $5.1 million per person or $10.2 million per married couple.  With numbers this high, many attorneys who do not focus their practice exclusively on Estate Planning tend to minimize the number of trusts created at the death of a client.  In New London County, general practice attorneys commonly provide that spouses receive their inheritance outright. Children receive their inheritances at the death of the surviving spouse at age 35.  

As an attorney who learned to practice complex estate planning and estate administration as a member of the Individual Clients Department of Cummings & Lockwood, I do not espouse that view.  Cummings & Lockwood is one of Connecticut’s largest law firms and known as one of the leading trusts and estate firms nationally. It has over 100 attorneys in its trust-and-estate department. 

Estate planning has been described as the transfer of assets from one generation to the next. It takes into consideration transfer taxes (estate, gift, and generation-skipping taxes) and asset protection. Asset protection can be thought of as a method of arranging access, control, management, and ownership of assets. The goal: preserve value for an individual because of the risk of potential claims by creditors. 

Multi-generational family with estate plans and asset protection in place smiling at park.

A properly drafted estate plan will typically include wills, living trusts, powers of attorney, living wills and designations of conservator.  The estate planning process involves ensuring that a client understands the meaning and effects of those documents.

Asset Protection and Litigation

During this process, the client and the attorney should be focused on asset protection as well as transfer tax avoidance.  Divorce is common, and we live in a very litigious society. Thus, asset protection planning should be a major consideration in almost every estate plan.  Other reasons to consider asset protection include:

As noted above, most general practice attorneys terminate trusts for the benefit of children at or about age 35.  Most sophisticated trust and estate attorneys will not end trusts for the benefit of children at such a young age.  The reason is simple:  asset protection.  One of the most important qualities of trusts is that they can protect trust assets from the creditors of the trust beneficiary.  

Dangers of divorce to asset planning

Woman on bed near husband should change will, revocable trust post-divorce, says Stonington estate attorney Paul G. Holland Jr.

Statistically, most people who get divorced do so within the first 20 years of their marriage.  With divorce rates as high as 50%, the most likely creditor one’s children will have is a spouse who becomes an ex-spouse.  Why then, would an attorney draft an estate plan whereby the trusts for the benefit of the children terminate at age 35?  

A more reasoned approach would be to keep assets in trust for the benefit of children until they reach an age at which it is unlikely that they will get divorced.  For this strategy to succeed, the trust must be drafted with asset protection as a primary goal.  An attorney should draft estate plan which takes into account both transfer tax avoidance and asset protection. This person should limit his or her practice to this specific area of the law.   

You may not be subject to federal or Connecticut estate taxes due to the high exclusion amounts.  However, your children could be subject to a very costly divorce.  If so, shouldn’t their inheritance be protected?  Let’s say that the divorce occurs after the child attains age 35 and after the death of you and your spouse. In this situation, the child’s inheritance may not be protected.  Only an attorney who focuses on estate planning and asset protection can help you devise an plan that will protect your children from divorce.

Holland Law Offices has extensive experience in Estate Planning and Asset Protection tailored to the particular needs of individuals and families. Contact Paul G. Holland Jr. for an initial consultation at 860-415-0075 or pholland@hollandprobatelaw.com.

Transcript

Is asset protection part of your estate plan? If not, it should be. Estate tax thresholds are in the millions (of dollars), so most general practice attorneys in Connecticut don’t worry much about those so-called transfer taxes.

They often advocate giving a surviving spouse their inheritance outright and setting up a trust for the children until they reach the age of 35.

But Stonington estate planning attorney Paul Holland says that could be a huge and costly mistake. Here’s why. If your child goes through a divorce, who do you think will be the most likely creditor? That’s right, it’s the soon to be ex-spouse.

Now consider this: 50% of all marriages end in divorce. And most divorces happen in the first 20 years of marriage.

So, if your estate plan does not include asset protection and your son or daughter is over the age 35 of when you die, their inheritance is unprotected in a divorce, and all those assets are fair game.

But there is a better way. Paul Holland learned the intricacies of estate planning and asset protection from the best of the best, at the nationally recognized firm of Cummings & Lockwood.

He can provide you with the best possible estate plan for asset protection. Tax consequences may never impact your kids’ inheritance, but an ugly divorce could. Call Paul Holland today or visit hollandprobatelaw.com.


We are in our mid-70s. It was now time to select an attorney that would help us set up our estate for the distribution of our assets to our five daughters when we were no longer alive. He took the time to explain everything so thoroughly that we hardly had any questions that we had thought of left unanswered.

John B. Dionne
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