How to Avoid Probating a Will

Probating wills is time-consuming and a public affair; however, there are steps you can take now to avoid these situations for your heirs at your time of death. Yes, there are times when the complexity of the financial situation for an individual requires one to execute a will to be properly vetted and probated. But that’s not always the case. 

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This can save untold stress – emotional and financial – on your loved ones while they grieve. Having to worry about sorting out assets and paying inheritance taxes, among other fees can be reduced. 

Of course, the quickest and most extreme way to avoid probating your estate is to sell or otherwise get rid of all property in your name. Without any assets, there is nothing to probate. But let’s be real. This isn’t really practical in most cases. You need cash to live on until you die. You can also use a revocable living trust that covers you now (while you’re presumably alive and well), if you should become mentally incapacitated, and finally after your death. This isn’t as easy as it sounds either. All your assets need to be transferred into the name of the trust fund. You would then name beneficiaries to own the trust upon your death.

Another possibility is to use joint ownership with rights of survivorship. Basically, you’re adding a joint owner to a bank account or retirement fund, and registering it transfer on death (TOD). There are limitations to how effective a joint ownership can be in your circumstances. For example, Pennsylvania law does not permit TOD for real estate or vehicles. 

You can also use beneficiary designations on common assets like life insurance or retirement funds. This is probably one of the easiest ways to avoid probate. When you sign up for the account, simply designate a beneficiary at the same time (make sure to revisit these designations from time to time to ensure they’re still accurate!). 

While there are multiple ways to reduce the impact of estate taxes, only a tax attorney can help determine the best options for you. With more than 35 years of experience helping families minimize taxes and fees associated with collecting inheritances, we can help! Contact our office at 724-216-5180 or use our online form for more information. 

Taxman Disputes Solved

This is the time of year you typically start to see those thick letters come from the U.S. Treasury Office. Congratulations! You’re being audited!

Your first response may be to release a stream of creative explicatives. This is normal.

Say what you need to and get it all out.

Your next response should be to carefully review what the IRS or PA Department of Revenue is accusing you of having misstated. Gather up all your information and supporting documentation for the items in question, then call an experienced attorney for a consultation on your situation. Today.

Do not respond to the letter until you have spoken to a professional. BUT, do not ignore it either. I promise you, it won’t go away if you put it in a drawer and forget it. Delaying can add interest to any outstanding debts and further complicate your case. 

If you’re a business owner, you may think your first call should be to your accountant, but generally these are not the best resources as there is only limited accountant-client confidentiality. The taxman could potentially could gain access to your communications with your accountant or financial adviser and use them against you. However, any communications between you and an attorney are protected by attorney-client privilege.

With extensive experience in all types of tax disputes, I can help you resolve your problems and minimize your tax exposure. Call my office at 724-216-5180. 


Taxes Filed-Return Paid: Now Plan for Next Year

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Preparing now for next tax season is worth the peace of mind! We can help you get organized.

Congratulations! You filed your taxes on time and your payment (or refund!) is being processed as you read this. For some, this is an annual feeling of accomplishment. However, for many – maybe even you – it was a time of great stress, filled with blood, sweat and tears. 

But it doesn’t have to be that way. By having a solid plan for next year, you won’t be scrambling to get your material together when tax time rolls around again. 

Does your income fluctuate throughout the year? It’s possible to lower or even avoid the penalties by annualizing your income and making unequal payments. Even better, as a business owner, if you properly estimate your quarterly taxes, you save money by not paying late or underpayment penalties. It can also lower your risk of being audited by the IRS.

I know many business owners who start off each year with what seems like a great plan for keeping an organized system. You know what they say about the road to (tax) hell… it’s paved with good intentions. Losing your way isn’t just frustrating, it can be expensive!

Need a little help organizing your payroll and bookkeeping, or sorting out penalties from past mistakes? We can help you get on the road to recovery and not approach tax payment with the same sense of dread. 

As an experienced CPA and tax attorney, I can help you comply with both the IRS and Pennsylvania state tax laws. We can even minimize your taxes through effective use of deduction, credits and other tools. 

Schedule a consultation with us today, by calling 724-216-0704 or emailing at john@jacochranlaw.com.

Control Your Landing: File before Found

In the aviation industry, pilots are taught that if they experience problems during their flight, they need to minimize the damage by controlling as much of the situation as possible. In the worst possible scenarios, pilots look to make a controlled flight into terrain (CFIT) instead of an uncontrolled crash. Less concerned about the integrity of the airplane, a CFIT instead places an emphasis on survival. 

If you’ve not filed your taxes, you’ve placed yourself in a similar scenario. Whatever the reasons, you didn’t file your taxes last year, possibly the year before, or even for the last several years. Why you didn’t get around to filing doesn’t matter anymore. Right now, you need to take control of your financial flight. 

To avoid an uncontrolled crash of your own: you’re going to need to file your taxes, no matter how old, and minimize the damage before the Internal Revenue Service makes this discovery on their own. Waiting to see ‘if’ they find you is never a good decision. I can tell you without question: eventually the IRS will catch up with you.

The now famous Captain Sully, made an emergency landing in the middle of the Hudson River in 2009. Instead of an uncontrolled crash, he avoided fatalities. Make no mistake: Flight 1549 was unsalvageable, but all 155 souls aboard were saved.

The same goes for your finances. You’re in a pretty bad scenario of your own right now, but by coming clean with the IRS, you can minimize your damage. Make no mistake: failing to file your taxes will not come without consequences, but by taking control of your future by coming clean now, you are helping your case. You will avoid an uncontrolled financial crash. 

You need an experienced tax expert guiding your landing. We can help! With more than three decades of experience helping others in your situation, we can help you come up with your financial CFIT. 

Reporting Foreign Bank Accounts Isn’t a Choice

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Maybe you binge-watched too many seasons of Miami Vice. Maybe you have a friend at work who gave you poor advice. Maybe a less-than-scrupulous preparer suggested you forget to mention it in your returns. Or possibly you just weren’t sure if you had to file reports.

But, here you are. The owner of a foreign bank account that you have not reported to the Internal Revenue Service. Although previously certain accounts were exempt, with the adoption of the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA), every American with direct or indirect ownership or control over a foreign financial account must report those accounts to the U.S. Treasury Department. 

Coinciding with the April 15 tax return deadline, owners of foreign accounts must remit a Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts Report for the previous calendar year. 

If the IRS finds out about a foreign account that you have willfully not reported this becomes a very serious problem that could result in penalties in the hundreds of thousands of dollars and even prison time.

If you’re finding yourself in this situation and you’re ready to voluntarily disclose your accounts, there are a few legal options to get you on the right side of your past mistakes. While you’re still likely to experience financial pain, you need someone with experience on your side to help minimize the damage.

We can help. The best time to deal with these situations is now. With decades of experience helping tax payers settle their debts with the IRS, we can help you navigate these tricky times. To review your options, call us at 724-216-0704 or email us at john@jacochranlaw.com.

Yes, You Need an Estate Plan

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Estate Planning

You don’t have to be part of the ultra-rich living in Beverly Hills to think about how to preserve your family’s wealth. Careful planning can ensure that your estate can be dispersed to your wishes after you’re gone, regardless of how much you own. It can also ensure that funds are not tied up in uncertainties over the administration of a probate or worse lost in taxation and other expenses.

Although it can be a difficult conversation to talk about plans for after your death, an estate plan will minimize confusion and stress for loved ones after a death. Your clear plan will provide a path for them with the least amount of delay for transfer of assets without involving costly court fees. Media coverage of high-profile court cases can give you a taste of what would lie in store for your estate without proper documentation.

Even a basic will would protect your wishes. While you’ll want to revisit these documents after important life changes (marriages, births, divorces, etc.), you should still periodically review them with a trusted attorney to ensure they are still accurate reflections of your wishes.

Most importantly, you should not wait to create these documents until you’re “old.” Without this becoming an Oprah rerun about every day being a gift, you don’t need me to tell you there are no guarantees on how long you’ll live.

We can help provide the peace of mind that comes with comprehensive estate planning. There are many different ways to preserve wealth and avoid as many federal and state taxes on the transfers as possible. To review your estate planning options, call us at 724-216-0704 or email us at john@jacochranlaw.com.

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Business Taxes

Business taxes. Are you prepared? The government shutdown is over just in time for tax season. Find that timing kind of convenient? Yeah. Me, too.

No matter how you feel about ‘building the wall’ chances are you aren’t interested in sending more tax dollars than necessary to the federal government from your business’s income. The pop-up booths in the aisles of big box stores are fine for people with basic W-2 incomes and simple deductions like interest paid on mortgages and student loans. But you’re not basic.

You have complex business situations that can create problems if you don’t know which forms to complete and how the rules change from year to year. As a business owner, you need someone with years of experience fighting for your every dollar. Someone who will be with you the entire year and who fully understands your special situations, and solves any discrepancies should they arise. Maybe you need to file an extension to get all those receipts in shoeboxes sorted out, or want advice on if you can write off any portion of that new vehicle you bought last year.

The best time to get started is before you’re contacted by the Internal Revenue Service. Already have an issue that needs resolving? That’s okay, we can help with that, too!

We’ll make sure you pay the minimum necessary to settle your financial obligations to the IRS. Schedule a personalized assessment of your tax health today. Call us at 724-216-5180 or email us at john@jacochranlaw.com.