Estate Planning for Your Kids

Estate Planning for Your Kids discusses some planning steps you can take for your children. No one likes to think about their death. But just like taxes, death is inevitable. So, when you meet your end, do you know who will inherit your possessions? If you have kids, how will you ensure they will receive and further know how to handle their inheritances? Don’t assume the answers to those questions unless you have an estate plan. Therefore, you think of personal estate planning as a benefit for your kids, and not just a subject to avoid or be put off.

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Plan to help make life a little easier for your children.
Your Lack of Planning Causes More Pain

When you fail to put your financial affairs in order, your children will deal with the consequences. If that’s what you want, quit reading right now. We can’t help you.

But if you want to ensure you’ve taken care of your kids, you need to know how to plan. Adult children in particular can face several common problems when their parents fail to plan properly. Such as the location of and title to the parent’s assets. Assets may be titled to be automatically distributed to a party or in a percentage to a party that you were unaware of; the adverse is possible as well.

Apart from that, they can also face unexpected inheritance taxes or not knowing where to find financial account information. Just placing someone’s name on an account doesn’t automatically mean they know it exists…or how to handle it.

To make matters more complicated, inheritance laws vary from state to state.

Communicate Wishes

Many parents do an amazing job teaching their children about budgeting, saving, and investing. Yet, they fail to communicate any information whatsoever about their inheritances. Consider this your final and most important financial lesson.

Parents often just assume children will know what they’ll inherit and how to handle the process to receive it. But this ambiguity can lead to some nasty consequences after your death if you don’t make your wishes clear.

Hold a good old-fashioned family meeting to share estate plans with everyone. If that’s not possible, make sure you have frank conversations with each of your heirs. Either way, provide written plans with specifics that spell out who gets what (and when, if applicable). Make sure they each know where to find copies of legal documents, too.

Many financial advisors also recommend their clients arrange a time for them to meet with their heirs. This allows your children to ask questions and meet the person helping with financial matters after their parent’s death. They’ve found that having a familiar face can ease the transition during a time of grieving.

Setting Your Kids Up

It doesn’t matter whether you are of modest means or have extensive asset holdings, put the right documents in place. This will ensure you’ve protected your loved ones and the property you’ve passed down to them.

Working with an experienced estate planning attorney can ensure you structure your assets in a way to minimize or even eliminate inheritance taxation. When you come to our office, we listen carefully to your values and your goals.

We can help with:

Will preparation

Advance health care declarations

Powers of attorney

Trust creation and administration

Business succession planning

Probate administration

Estate Planning for Your Kids. Closeup of a hand signing a will in black & white.

Set your finances up to protect your children’s interests. Our law office exists to protect your rights and your money. Call us at 724-216-5180 or complete our online form to learn how.

Seven Tax Considerations for New Businesses

Seven tax considerations for new businesses is our blog topic this month. Did you start a business in 2021? As we enter tax season, we see a lot of new owners make several common mistakes. Here’s seven tax considerations for new businesses to keep you out of hot water with the IRS.

Seven Tax Considerations for New Businesses. An image of a small white tablet with Small Business written on it. Business law and business tax.
Newer business owners need to know small business taxes.
1. Yes, You Have to File Taxes.

Above all, you’ll need to understand how rules changes if you’re new to running a business. As an individual, you only need to file taxes if your gross income exceeds $12,550. That number drops to a net income of $400 as a business owner. You also have to carefully monitor all your income and expenses, much more than as an employee.

2. And Yes, You May Have to Pay Quarterly Estimated Taxes.

When you work for someone else, they take takes out of your paycheck on your behalf. So, when you work for yourself, the IRS expects you to estimate your taxes and submit them quarterly. Failing to do so sets you up for underpayment penalties.

3. Claim Start Up Costs.

Even if you run your business from your kitchen table, it cost money to get set up. You can deduct anything you needed to pay to get up and running, including research and training (Subject to a $5K Limitation ). You can claim everything from marketing, website creation, office furniture and supplies, vehicle costs, and more.

4. The IRS Sees You As ‘Fresh Meat.’

Unfortunately, having your own business raises all sorts of interest from the IRS. Getting audited isn’t the end of the world, IF you’ve carefully followed directions on expenses and deductions with receipts. Keeping up with all the changes year to year can get overwhelming. And if you make a mistake, it can get expensive really quick.

5. Don’t Mix Business and Personal Finances.

If you’ve just started out, you may not have thought about having a separate business checking account yet. But this is one of the first things you should do as a new business owner. Even if you barely edge over that $400 net income line, have a separate account for business income and expenses. This makes things easier to separate for filing purposes and cleaner during any audits.

6. Self-Employed? Don’t Expect a Refund.

Most employees look forward to late spring every year when they receive a windfall as part of their tax return. We’ll leave for another conversation as to why you should minimize tax refunds that basically serve as free loans for the government. Most small businesses serve as a pass-through entity for the owner’s income. Owners pay taxes on that income as part of their individual taxes without any withholdings to absorb the additional taxes. ​

7. Learn from this Return.

Even with a tax specialist helping you, expect a few lessons on how to improve next year. Look closely at your return. Go over it with a tax expert and make sure you understand any penalties or additional deductions for next year. We like to say it’s not rocket science. But, when you’re just starting out, it can really feel like it!

Did you start a business in 2021? If you feel unsure on what to organize or how to get started, relax! We hope that our Seven Tax Considerations for New Businesses blog helped a little.

Still confused? Our, our experienced tax professionals can help you minimize any taxes you owe and ensure you comply with all applicable laws. Complete our online form or call us today at 724-216-5180 to learn more.

7. Learn from this Return Even with a tax specialist helping you, expect a few lessons on how to improve next year. Look closely at your return. Go over it with a tax expert and make sure you understand any penalties or additional deductions for next year. We like to say it’s not rocket science, but when you’re just starting out, it can really feel like it! Did you start a business in 2021 ? If you feel unsure on what to organize or how to get started, relax! O ur experienced tax professionals can help you minimize any taxes you owe and ensure you comply with all applicable laws. Complete our online form or call us today at 724-216-5180 to learn more.

Prepare for the Inevitable Upcoming Tax Season

Every year right between Christmas and New Year’s people start dreading tax season. That shoe box or receipt drawer may not close all the way anymore. Maybe you just found the statement for quarterly tax estimates (from June) in another pile of papers. Likewise, maybe your resolution list from January 2021 just resurfaced that included “stay on top of taxes” on the list. You already know that when you prepare for the inevitable upcoming tax season, it will suck so much less. So, let’s get started!

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Get Out Ahead of Crunch Time

Rather than pouring yourself another cup of cheer and making tax preparations next year’s problem, face it head on. You can pour that cup of cheer if you’d like. However, digging in now will make Future You so much less stressed come tax time.

Picture yourself the evening of April 14, 2022, what do you see yourself doing? Do you see yourself furiously adding up totals? Trying to find random tax documentations? Or would you rather have plans to join your buddies for a well-deserved thirsty Thursday at the local watering hole?

Get Organized

Most tax experts will say it matters less how you organize your paperwork but more that you actually do it. So long as you have materials in order so that you can produce documentation requested for tax purposes, you’re good. You will save money in preparation fees.

If you don’t currently have a system or experience exasperated looks from your tax professional each year, ask yourself why. Perhaps your current system or lack thereof could use a tune up? Rely on the advice of experts on how to create or improve on your current techniques. You’ll make everyone’s lives easier.

Check Your Information

Double check that all your information on file with the IRS is correct, including direct deposit information for refunds. Even something as simple as an address change can get forgotten during a busy year.

Closely examine everything from dependent information to retirement and investment accounts to income streams. This year remember to check Economic Impact Payments and Child Tax Credit Updates, too, if applicable. Spotting differences now can avoid potential problems after filing.

Ask Questions and Get Clarifications Early

Do some early research to see if you need to file differently or can add new deductions. Whether you work with an accountant or use a self-service tax filing tool, ask follow-up questions from the experts.

Get clarification on changes in tax deductions early in the season so you have time to do something about them. Finding out about a new deduction does no good if you didn’t save the proof necessary to claim it.

Nervous about this upcoming tax season? How will you prepare for the inevitable upcoming tax season? Relax! Our experienced tax professionals can help you minimize any taxes you owe and ensure you comply with all applicable laws. We help our clients avoid legal issues with their taxes while providing peace of mind. Complete our online form or call us today at 724-216-5180 to learn more.

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Making Charitable Donations Part of Your Estate Plan

As you create an estate plan ( yes, you need one ), consider how your assets will be divided upon your death. Most people don’t consider charitable donations as a way to minimize estate/inheritance taxes. However, did you know that making charitable donations part of your estate plan could lessen the tax burden for your heirs? Read on to learn more.

Making charitable donations part of your estate plan. Estate planning law books on a white background.
Why Designate Charitable Donations in Estate Plans?

For example, some people decide they don’t want to leave all their assets to their children or other beneficiaries. Likewise, others don’t have beneficiaries to leave their assets to but want to ensure their estate contributes to a lasting legacy.

For anyone passionate about a specific cause, making charitable donations part of your estate plan may be the right choice for you. Leaving funds or other assets to a designated charity could make the most impact. Tax-exempt charities are set up to maximize the effectiveness of gifts they receive, planned or otherwise.

Any funds given to a recognized public charity are not taxable. While this may decrease the overall amount any named beneficiaries receive, most people appreciate the sentiment during their grieving period. Making charitable donations part of your estate plan may be a good choice.

What Charities Count?

Any charity recognized by the IRS as a 501(c)(3) can receive tax-exempt donations as part of an estate plan. These include charitable organizations, churches and religious organizations, private foundations, and other non-profits.

In addition, depending on the size of your gift, you should contact the charity to inform them of your plans. They may need time to prepare for a large gift (over $10,000). They can also provide basic information to list in the estate plan to streamline the process. If you do name other beneficiaries in your estate plan, you should probably let them know your plans, too. This can minimize hurt feelings and contested wills upon your death.

Making charitable donations part of your estate plan. Typewriter image with estate tax, PA Inheritance tax, and estate planning written out.
How to Get Started.

There are a number of ways to plan gift to charities, foundations, or others as part of your estate plan. Estate/inheritance tax rules seem to change every year. So, your estate attorney can work with your designated charities to determine which options make the most sense for everyone. By making your wishes clear in your estate plan, you leave little room for misinterpretation. You can minimize additional work for your heirs and maximize their tax benefits while supporting organizations important to you.

In conclusion, are you not sure how to name a charity in your estate plan? RELAX! Our estate planning experts can walk you through options. Each will fit your unique circumstances. We help with will preparation, trust creation and administration, probate administration, and more. Call us today at 724-216-5180 or complete the online form to schedule a free consultation.

What Makes a Great Estate Attorney?

When a person dies, what happens to their stuff? If they have an estate plan, they will have everything outlined. Preparation is key. Estate attorneys can help someone put together a will, set up trusts, and schedule charitable donations on the deceased behalf. A great estate attorney will also make arrangements for other common issues after a person passes. So, what makes a great estate attorney?

What makes a great estate attorney? An image of an estate planning questionnaire and business card.
Desk-Side Manners

Medical patients will often seek out doctors with great bedside manners. Clients should expect the same thing, courtesy, and explanations from their estate attorney. Desk-side manners if you will. An estate attorney that cares will take the time to fully understand your family’s needs and your personal wishes. They will help you sort out your options. In addition, they will also help you fully understand each option before making those decisions.

Efficient and Thorough Preparations

Nobody likes thinking about their demise. Occasionally time just simply isn’t on the client’s side. Meanwhile, a good estate attorney will do a thorough job preparing estate documentation to minimize anxiety. Experienced and caring estate attorneys will do the same thorough preparations, but also turn things around quickly. You should never have to chase down an estate attorney for the status of paperwork if time is of the essence. Once you have discussed everything you want prepared, they should give you a timeline and meet it without issue.

Does All the Things

Sometimes estate attorneys will specialize in a few specific areas like probate or will creation. Exceptional estate attorneys can be your one-stop shop for a variety of legal issues. You can trust them to execute on everything related to estate planning and provide better results over engaging multiple attorneys. If they’ve been doing it long enough, an estate attorney should have the experience setting up and administrating trusts, finding ways to avoid probate, or minimizing tax implications.

Great estate attorneys can help their clients navigate a very complex legal system. They provide their clients peace of mind during planning and also during execution.

Do you have a great estate attorney? If you need assistance planning, updating, or executing on an existing plan, relax! Call our office at 724-216-5180 or complete the online form to schedule a free consultation.

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August is National Make a Will Month

If you’re like me, you’re wondering why we need to say August is National Make a Will Month. Why do we need to be reminded of the importance of having a will? Also, wills aren’t just for “rich” people. As responsible grownups shouldn’t we have already done this? We understand that talking about death – namely YOURS – can feel uncomfortable. But it’s worth a bit of discomfort today to save your loved ones the double heartache after your passing.

Image of a Last Will & Testament document and a hand with a stamp.
A thorough legal will and estate plan matters to those you care about.
Making a Will

Did you know only an estimated 46 percent American adults have a will? That means more than half the adults in this country are letting the government decide how to divide up their assets after their death. A court will not know (or care) about your wishes. If you didn’t write them down in a will, they don’t matter. And if they should leave behind minor dependents, they are also leaving their future care decisions up to strangers. I can think of nothing more heartbreaking than a child losing their parent then being shipped someplace they’re not comfortable. Making a will also means your heirs pay estate taxes quicker and may receive the inheritances faster. So, yes, regardless of whether you consider yourself wealthy or not, you do need a will.

Updating a Will

Even if you already have a will, this National Make a Will Month can remind you to review it. It triggers a reminder to be responsible. Kind of like the time change triggers folks to check their smoke detectors batteries (another responsible adult thing to have). Situations change, sometimes frequently. Periodically reexamining the language in your will can remind you to update beneficiaries or remove assets you no longer have. If your kids have grown, maybe they should take more responsibility over your assets than another less-reliable family member. You really don’t have to review your will annually – unless you live a particularly chaotic life. But recognizing National Make a Will Month can be the prompt you need when necessary.

Ready to Make a Will?

Hopefully this prompted you to think more about what happens to your possessions and your loved ones after your death. If the thought of dying and leaving your loved ones stranded stresses you out, relax! Yes, August is National Make a Will Month. However, we can help you make or update a will any time of the year, not just during the month of August. Call our office at 724-216-5180 or complete the online form to schedule a free consultation.

What Makes a Good Guardian?

What makes a good guardian? Creating a will and estate plan means thinking about those you leave behind after you die. If you have young children, wards or even beloved pets, your will should also include naming a guardian. So, what do you look for in a guardian?

What makes a good guardian? An image of a person writing a will and estate with a quill pen.
Find the right guardian.
A Guardian’s Role

Firstly, after your death, a guardian will bear responsibility for the care of those named. Most commonly this refers to minor children under the age of 18. A guardian provides basic necessities, medical care, education and support until the child reaches 18 years old. They must act in the best interests of the child.

Common Guardian Nominees

Usually, the other parent or a stepparent may be named as guardian of young children. While tempting to name your parents (after all, they raised you), consider the likelihood of them outliving you. More commonly siblings, close friends, or other adult children make good nominees to serve as guardians. In the best scenarios, the adult already knows the child and their personality well.

Important Attributes

Most importantly, a prospective guardian should have the physical and mental abilities as well as the financial stability to care for a child. They should also be dependable and trustworthy. In addition, beyond that baseline, you’ll have to consider who would best fill your role in your absence. Who shares your core values and beliefs? Who would parent your child in a manner similar to how you would? Guardians should also have the patience to support a child through the traumatic experience of losing their parent.

Consent to Serve as Guardian

This should go without saying. However, we’ll just put this right here: you should always ASK someone before naming them guardian of your child. In the event of your untimely death, named guardians should be aware of their new responsibilities. Having a named person unable or unwilling to serve as your child’s guardian could be doubly devastating for them.

Backup Plans

To lessen the anxiety of finding THE guardian, parents should consider naming additional adults to serve as backup guardians. Things happen and even a well-informed, amenable first choice may have to bow out. Having multiple options can lessen the burden on someone who may no longer be in a position to serve as guardian.

Periodically Review

As with most aspects of an estate plan, it makes sense to revisit guardian selection on a regular basis. Divorces, fallings out, or other unfortunate events could make previously ideal guardians no longer the best choices. Of course, you should make those impacted by your changes aware of them. ​

Every parent of young children should include guardianship as part of their estate planning. Knowing what makes a good guardian is only part of the equation. We know that every client has unique situations, and we take the time to understand your needs and wishes. Then we’ll offer advice on your best options. Call John A. Cochran, Esquire, in Greensburg at 724-216-5180 or use our online form to schedule a free consultation.

What Makes a Good Executor?

We’ve been telling people for a while now that you need a will.

Read more here—> https://www.jacochranlaw.com/reminder-you-need-will

Don’t just take our word for it. Here’s even more: https://www.thebalance.com/why-you-need-a-will-1289264

Likewise, you can find many more reasons why you should have a will anywhere on the web.

For those trying to do the right thing, after beneficiaries, the next question becomes who will serve as executor? This is an important decision. But before you decide, we’ve created this post to help you think about what makes a good executor.

Image of a hand stamping a last will and testament.
Family

Most people automatically select a reasonably responsible family member to serve as executor of their will. Usual suspects include spouses, siblings, parents, children or close cousins. One word of caution: you should select at least one person younger than you. After all, not to be rude, but your executor might not outlive you if they are older.

Close Friends

Not everyone has family they can trust. This makes “families of choice” a more viable option to execute a will. Sewing up a clear will and executor clause becomes even more important if there are next of kin. The good news a will can cover that base for you.

Attorney or Other Trusted Professional

Sometimes for a variety of reasons, a person does not have trusted family or friend to name as their executor. Sometimes they just want to minimize any squabbles by putting an independent third party in charge of executing the will. The downside of this arrangement is that your estate will pay a fee for their services.

Limitations

If the person you name as the executor lives in another state, you may need to check state laws. Some states have special requirements about family members, bonds to protect heirs from mismanagement, or the appointment of in-state agents. Each state will also set executor fees for third party management, depending on the size of estate.

Replace Only if Necessary

The bottom line is you want to choose an executor who is mentally and financially stable to do the job. You have to be able to trust they will carry out your wishes as outlined in your will upon your death. If a situation changes that no longer makes your named executor the best option anymore, you can create a codicil. A codicil serves as an amendment to the original will which could name the new executor. You must have it validated just like the original will with two legal witnesses. Placing your trust in an executor to carry out your wishes after your death is no small matter. If you need help putting together a will or want advice on selecting an executor, relax!

What makes a good executor? An image of two hands signing a will document.

Finally, we know that every client has unique situations. However, we take the time to understand your needs and wishes. Then we’ll offer advice on your best options. Call John A. Cochran, Esquire, in Greensburg at 724-216-0704 or use our online form to schedule a free consultation.

Reminders on Tax Preparations for the Year of COVID

The effects of the global pandemic and economic crisis will be felt for years to come. But this year, finalizing year-end accounting for businesses has special challenges in 2020. Special considerations, losses, business closing, and accounting for government relief programs will likely amplify the usual stressors of tax season. Before getting started on the particular aspects for businesses this year, it helps for taxpayers to cover the basics. So, below we offer a list of basic reminders on tax preparations for the year of COVID.

a photo of someone doing taxes
Confirm Records of All Business Expenses

Maybe you legitimately paid for a new business computer but cannot find the paper trail. You can usually replace missing receipts with a bit of research. Reviewing credit card statements or order histories from the store can provide proof of purchase. Also avoid claiming untraceable income to family members, lavish gifts, and other expenses outsized for the level of income generated.

Only Claim Actual Business Expenses

A personal laptop you bought your kid for remote learning does not count as an actual business expense. Tempting as it sounds, you cannot justify your business improved by no longer having them borrow your computer for schoolwork. The IRS will figure out that’s not an actual business expense. Make several little ‘they’ll never notice’ claims and you could expose yourself to costly penalties. Other areas that raise red flags include claiming unusually high utility costs for a home office, or unrelated professional development. 

Procrastination Pain

Forget whatever you told yourself in school about working better under pressure by waiting until ‘later’ to do your work. When you wait until the 11th hour, you risk not having enough time to pull all your documentation together accurately. Mad scrambles fueled by adrenaline can also leave money on the table. You increase your chances of maximizing your deductions when you take time to consider all possible deductions thoughtfully.

Clueless Accounting

Going through the entire period unaware of tax liabilities spells disaster for business owners. Being blissfully unaware does not exempt you from repercussions and avoiding proper accounting will only make things worse. Aside from the shock of owed taxes when filing, you can also accrue serious penalties for filing late or underpaid quarterly estimates.

Stay on Top of IRS Correspondence

As we’ve mentioned in other blogs, if you receive a letter from the IRS, do not ignore it! We cannot stress this enough: avoiding whatever is in the correspondence, won’t make it go away. If they request additional information, provide it in a timely fashion. If they question your filing and you do nothing, they assume they’re correct  and move forward with billing. Expect them to start charging interest and late fees.

By starting at a better baseline, you can better prepare for the specifics of the 2020 tax preparations. The good news: you have enough time to find lost receipts, respond to IRS letters, and get yourself organized. You also have time to ask questions about allowable expenses and the best way to attack your unique tax situations. That’s where we can help. Contact our office at 724-216-5180 or use our online form

Tax Implications of Closing a Business in 2020

An unfortunate side effect of the global pandemic and economic impact has been the closing of small businesses. But just closing the doors doesn’t end the story. Depending on business structure and number of employees, closing your doors forever can hold additional costs if not done correctly. Today, we’ll discuss the tax implications of closing a business in 2020. 

Structure Complexity Impacts Your Tax Implications

How you structured your business will determine the steps you’ll need to take for a full closing. In addition to filing annual returns and related forms, you will need to pay final wages or compensation to employees. You will also need to cancel your employer identification number (EIN) and close your IRS business account. 

Sole Proprietorships with zero employees, especially when operated from your dining room table, come with little issues when closing. Businesses operations with contractors, employees, or storefronts will need to follow a run-out strategy for payroll, contracts, and leases as well as additional book-closing steps. 

Partnerships operate like sole proprietorships when closing for good. Owners will need to account for dissolution and personal tax impacts. 

C-Corporations, because of their complexities, require far more processing. It includes selling off assets or liquidating stocks. Owners will also need to petition the State for dissolution and various clearance certificates.

Business Requirements

If your business had employees or used contractors, it should go without saying that you need to pay them. You also need to issue their final income statements for their tax filing purposes. 

If you provide a pension or benefit plan for your employees, see how to Terminate a Retirement Plan. If you provide Health Savings Accounts or similar programs for your employees, see About Publication 969.

When you close your business, you will still need to pay final taxes. (You don’t think they’d forget, do you?) This includes n any gains you may have had on selling the business or selling off its remaining assets. 

Keep Records of Everything when Closing a Business
Closed sign for business.

Careful bookkeeping helps business owners and their tax pros through the entire life cycle of a business. An audit by state or federal authorities is never fun, especially if the business activity that spawned the audit is now shut down. Then you incur additional cost and relive the closing experience without the benefit of any new money. If you destroy all supporting documentation on a closed business, you have just compounded that bad experience.

So please, hold onto your tax returns, unemployment records, and other business documents. Digitizing files can make it easier to store them without shoeboxes taking up precious real estate in your hallway closet.

This year has been difficult enough, get peace of mind now by addressing the tax implications of closing a business in 2020. Then you can begin the next chapter of your life with a clean slate. Need help pulling together your material or filling out necessary paperwork? Relax! We have years of experience providing efficient tax return preparation services and business minimizing tax liabilities, even after closure. Call John A. Cochran, Esquire, in Greensburg at 724-216-0704 or use our online form to schedule a free consultation.