The Montana Estate Lawyer

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Estate Planning Isn't Just for Married Couples

Estate planning is not only for married couples - if you are single, estate planning can still be an essential financial tool. For example, you may want to:

• Arrange for your assets to be distributed after your death
• Pick someone to handle your financial affairs if you become incapacitated
• Select a person to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to communicate

As a single person, you will need many of the same documents as a married couple. People typically include the following documents in their estate plans:

• Durable Power of Attorney - allows you to carry on your financial affairs in the event that you become disabled. Unless you have a properly drafted power of attorney, it may be necessary to apply to a court to have a guardian or conservator appointed to make decisions for you during a period of incapacitation. This guardianship process is time-consuming, expensive, emotionally draining and often costs thousands of dollars.
Read more . . .

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Taypayer Bill of Rights

With the tax filing season having started on February 12, 2021, for individual tax return filers, here is a reminder to all filers that, in 2015, Congress enacted the Taxpayer Bill of Rights in Section 7803(a)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code to ensure that all taxpayers have rights in dealing with the IRS. Here is the link to the full description of these rights as set forth on the IRS website:  

As codified, these rights are as follows: 

Read more . . .

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Interview with Betsy Schaffer, Special Olympics Montana Athlete of the Year

As we have announced recently, we have partnered with Special Olympics Montana as our Charity Partner of the Year. Special Olympics is an organization that is important and impactful for so many people! Below is an interview with Betsy Schaffer, the 2020 Special Olympics Montana Athlete of the Year, where she explains why Special Olympics is important to her.

Why Special Olympics is Important to Me?
By Betsy Schaffer, Special Olympics Athlete

Info about Betsy:
-- 2020 Athlete of the Year
-- First Games 2009
-- 30 Games in the books!

Q: Betsy- you’ve participated in Special Olympics for over 11 years now. Congratulations! That’s a lot of hard work, perseverance and commitment. Why is Special Olympics important to you?
A: I get to participate in my favorite events in the State Summer Games.
Read more . . .

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Our Charity Partner of the Year

This year, Scott, Tokerud & McCarty will launch our Charity Partner of the Year program. The 2021 Charity Partner of the Year was chosen because they act with integrity and humility, and they show extraordinary dedication to transforming the community. 

The 2021 Charity Partner of the Year is the Special Olympics Montana.

Special Olympics was launched in the 1960s, born from Eunice Kennedy Shriver's outrage for the lack of inclusion for persons with intellectual disabilities...


Read more . . .

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Probate Administration - Frequently Asked Questions

(This blog has been updated from the post dated August 8, 2012)  

1. What is probate? 
Probate is the process of proving the Will, appointing the Personal Representative, paying the decedent’s debts, filing applicable tax returns, collecting any monies owed the decedent, and identifying, valuing, and transferring the decedent’s assets. 

2. When is probate necessary? 
Probate is required if the decedent owned any real property interests held in the decedent’s sole name, or, if the decedent owned more than $50,000 of personal property, such as vehicles, artwork, bank accounts, investment accounts, etc., with no beneficiary, POD, or TOD designations.
Read more . . .

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Giving to Charity

We are all blessed to live in a giving community. Over the years, I have had the privilege of serving on several non-profit boards in Great Falls, including Community Help Line, Children’s Museum of Montana, Montana School for the Deaf and Blind Foundation, Great Falls Public Schools Foundation, and Benefis Health System Foundation.  In addition, my wife works for Special Olympics Montana.  I have seen first-hand the difference that charitable giving makes to such organizations and the people they serve. Giving to charity in whatever manner or means you can has the potential to touch the lives of many others for years to come.
Read more . . .

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Estate Tax Exemption And Annual Gift Tax Exclusion For 2021

The Internal Revenue Service announced at the end of October the official estate and gift tax limits for 2021: The estate and gift tax exemption is $11.7 million per individual, up from $11.58 million in 2020. That means an individual could leave $11.7 million to heirs and pay no federal estate or gift tax, while a married couple could shield $23.
Read more . . .

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Montana Transfer on Death Deed

Montana has replaced the Beneficiary Deed with the Transfer on Death (“TOD”) Deed. Both are intended to allow owners to transfer, effective upon death, their real property located in Montana to one of or more beneficiaries or grantees. The new TOD Deed is now the proper deed form to accomplish this result because the 2019 Montana legislature adopted the Uniform Real Property Transfer on Death Act which allows for and provides guidance for the use of a TOD Deed.

Just like with the former Beneficiary Deed, the TOD Deed allows an owner of real property located within the state to avoid the probate process for such real property by transferring the owner’s interest in the property to the beneficiaries named in the deed. To be effective, the deed must be recorded in the appropriate recording office prior to the death of the owner.
Read more . . .

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Our 2020 Reminder to Relax and Enjoy Life (Whenever & However You Can)

This year has been hard for so many of us. The pandemic has changed the way we live in dramatic ways, while adding both worry and loneliness to the stress of a major election year. As the year comes to a close, however, we are so grateful for our health, for each other and for our clients and our trusted advisors. We'd like to take a moment to remind you to care for yourselves by sharing some of our favorite ways to unwind and decompress.

Read more . . .

Thursday, October 22, 2020

How to Own Your Real Estate in Montana

Real estate encompasses not only one’s primary residence but also other real estate such as a vacation home or a rental property. The ideal form of ownership varies depending on the type of real estate you own. Below, we take a look at the different types of real estate and offer options for ownership for each.

Primary Residence

Because you can sell your primary residence exempt of capital gains taxes on the first $250,000 of gain if you are single and $500,000 if married, you should carefully consider how your home is owned. In Montana, joint tenancy with rights of survivorship allows couples to take advantage of the tax benefits for primary residences.
Read more . . .

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Estate Planning Terms to Know

Estate planning—it is an incredibly important tool, not just for the wealthy or those thinking about retirement. On the contrary, estate planning is something every adult should do. Estate planning can help you accomplish any number of goals, including appointing guardians for minor children, choosing healthcare agents to make decisions for you should you become ill, minimizing taxes so you can pass more wealth onto your family members, and stating how and to whom you would like to pass your estate on to when you pass away.

While it should be at the top of everyone’s to-do list, it can be an overwhelming topic to dive into. To help you get situated, below are some important terms to know as you think about your own estate plan.
Read more . . .

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