Your Guide to Forming a Charitable Trust

If you love the idea of contributing to society through philanthropic donations, consider setting up a charitable trust. Not only will giving back make you feel great, but you can also snag some considerable estate and income tax benefits.

The more money you give, the more you save. In fact, wealthy estates could save hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

Want to know more about charitable trusts? You are in the right place.

What Is a Charitable Trust?

A charitable trust is a group of assets that a person creates or signs over to a philanthropic foundation. The charity holds the money for a specific amount of time and uses the interest that the funds produce for their charitable purposes.

U.S. charitable gift trusts are not tax exempt. They are considered private foundations unless they qualify as a public charity.

Donors can choose from many different types of charities when creating this type of trust. If you are interested in setting one up, choose a subject that is close to your heart.

Now that we know a little more about them, let’s explore the two main types of charitable trusts.

Charitable Remainder Trusts

The first, and most common, is a charitable remainder trust. There are two kinds of charitable remainder trusts.

Charitable Remainder Annuity Trust

In this trust, the donor chooses a specified amount of money to pay their chosen charity at least once per year. The amount has to be equal to at least five percent of the assets and never changes. This happens for at least twenty years.

Charitable Remainder Unitrust

In this trust, the donor pays a fixed percentage, which changes each year based on the total value of the assets. This also happens for at least twenty years.

Charitable Lead Trusts

In a charitable lead trust, a donor sets up a schedule to make fixed donations to their charity of choice. After the term finishes, the assets go back to the donor, or to other chosen recipients.

For example, you could set up a charitable lead trust to make payments to your chosen charity for the duration of your lifetime. After the end of the term, you could ensure that your assets pass on to your children or another relative of your choice.

How to Set up a Trust

The best way to set up a trust is to hire an estate planning attorney. They will make sure your trust is set up correctly.

An attorney will give you individual attention, remove the risk of errors, and ensure that you get the most efficient tax breaks possible. Without the help of a professional, your assets could end up in the wrong hands.

Feel Good About Your Charitable Trust

A charitable trust will keep your assets safe and help you secure considerable tax breaks. But, most importantly, it will change the world for the better.

If you have the means to set up a philanthropic trust, do not delay. Use the information above to figure out which option is best for you.

Want to get started? Contact us today. We are here to help!

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Estate Planning Advice for Starting Difficult Family Conversations

Do you have aging parents, or are you worried about what you may be leaving behind? Dreading having that hard conversation about estate planning?  

Nobody wants to think about the possibility of their loved ones passing away but preparing for these kinds of things in advance can provide everybody with some much-needed peace of mind.

Know you need to have a conversation about estate planning, but not sure where to start? In this article, we are sharing estate planning advice for starting difficulty family conversations.

Estate Planning Advice Tips

Estate planning is not easy, but there are ways to take some of the stress and heartache out of it. Here are some useful tips for approaching the estate planning process in the easiest and most efficient way possible.

Be Sensitive

Death can be a scary subject to many people, as can the idea of aging in general.  Be sensitive by showing the sincerity of your intentions.  Remind your family that you are having these conversations because you want everyone to be on the same page about what the plan is.

It is also best to be respectful of when and where to have this conversation. Try to choose a positive and comfortable environment to chat.  Also, aim to have this conversation during a time of relative calmness.

The last thing you want to do is wait until a time of crisis to chat about this topic. If you hold the conversation at the wrong time, you run the risk of people not being emotionally ready or available to have this critical conversation.

Try to schedule a conversation in advance, so people know what to anticipate. Or, if you would prefer to do it more organically, bring it up while you are doing a relaxing or calm activity like going for a walk.

Stress the Importance of Estate Planning

Many people will shut down when estate plan conversations are brought up, so it is important to stress the importance of having it. Try to do this by using current events or an anecdote to highlight how sudden and unexpected death can be, and how much hardship can be caused by not having an estate plan ready.

And if you have done your estate plan, or have talked with a lawyer about services, bring up how you went about it with your loved one. Planning can also help you avoid the common mistakes associated with the process.

Find the Approach That Makes the Most Sense for Your Family

Delicate issues like estate planning do not have a one-size-fits-all approach. That is because the circumstances and personalities involved can significantly differ.

If you think your parents may respond to the conversation in a hostile manner, try to talk to them one-on-one rather than as a couple. And if they are very much against the conversation, try to plan a series of smaller talks to warm them up to the idea. This will help you keep things calmer and more focused.

Benefits of an Estate Planning Conversation

Estate planning is about more than asset protection and explaining intentions. It is about bringing your family together and taking control of your collective future instead of leaving it up to a court-appointed administrator. It also inspires other members of your family whether they are your parents, siblings, or children to connect with a lawyer and develop a responsible plan for when something happens.

Need Help Planning?

Estate planning is important. It helps you protect your intellectual, spiritual, and human assets. Now that you have some estate planning advice in hand, you can approach the topic in the smartest and most sensitive way possible.

Need estate planning services? Not sure where to start? Contact us to to see how our family-friendly law firm can help you with the process.

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My Veterans Service Connected Disability Claim Was Denied. Now What?

Though Veterans are entitled to service-connected disability benefits, studies have shown that the Department of Veteran Affairs (DVA) rejects up to 70% of claims for various reasons. 

If you have had a service-connected disability claim rejected and you disagree with the decision, you need to file an appeal. It will not be a simple process, but we’re here to help.

Keep reading to find required forms, tips, and advice on how to make the appeal process as painless as possible. 

Step One in Appealing a Service-Connected Disability Decision

Getting rejected is not fun. Especially when your health is on the line. Before you get frustrated, keep in mind that a lot of Veterans’ disability claims are denied because of simple processing errors. It could be as simple as that. 

The first step in the appeal process is to file a notice of disagreement (NOD). When completing this form, it is best not to go into too much detail about why you disagree with your decision.

While it is tempting to take out your frustration on the readers of this form, all you need to include is the date of the denial letter, the rating decision, and a statement saying you disagree with the decision and intend to appeal. 

Keep it as general as possible. If necessary, you will have time to go into detail later in the appeal process.

Direct or Traditional Review?

Once the NOD is submitted, you will have to make the decision to request a direct review (DRO) or a traditional review.

Traditional reviews are conducted by staff who analyze the claim and check for completeness, but they can only change the original decision if a clear administrative error in processing is detected. 

The benefit of selecting a DRO is that the reviewer will be a senior claims examiner who has the authority to make a decision on your claim, right then and there. 

The drawback of a direct review is that if the reviewer denies the claim, you may have to wait longer to proceed to the next step: the Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA). 

Appeal to the Board of Veteran’s Appeals 

At this point, you have submitted a notice of disagreement (NOD) and the VA is sticking to their decision. You should now submit a VA Form 9 (Appeal to the Board of Veteran’s Appeals). 

This is when & where you can/should go into more detail about why you disagree with the decision and present new evidence. Keep in mind, any new evidence submitted may draw out this process further, especially if it is new and material to your case.

Working with a good advocate or attorney will help you at this point if you have not already retained one. 

Judgement Day

Perhaps the best part of a VA Form 9 is that it means you are going to get your day in court.  If the VA continues sticking to their guns, you will get to argue why they are mistaken in front of a judge.  The judge at this point has several options. 

1) Grant your appeal in full.  Yay, you won and should be getting a check soon for back-due benefits. 

2) Deny your appeal.  You can appeal this denial through a federal lawsuit. 

3) Remand all or part of your claim.  The judge thinks the VA should take another look based off evidence they have seen in the review of your claim or that you presented at the hearing.  They will direct VA staff adjudicators what they want them to review again and why.  The result will be a new determination, which if found to still be a denial of benefits, will give you the option to file a new VA Form 9 and go through another hearing (your case is still alive – but it is going to take more time!)

4) Grant part of your appeal.  Often appeals include multiple items, the judge may find parts of your claims reasonable, and others not supported by current precedent or law.  In this case, yay – you will be getting at least a little compensation. 

But there is also the potential to have a mix of items 2 & 3 above.  It is getting complicated at this point! 

The Best Advice We Can Offer

While the service-connected disability process is long, arduous, and dated, it is in place to make sure the money is going to the right people. 

To avoid extreme delays, submit your paperwork correctly in the first place. While this does not eliminate the risk of processing errors, it will save time down the road if you submit all your evidence together and meet the deadlines.

Send paperwork using certified mail and keep copies of proof of delivery. Keep copies of everything and do routine follow-ups. 

If you are really fed up with the system, you can write to your local state representative and ask that they review and improve the antiquated appeals process.

In the meantime, reach out to us if you need excellent legal assistance with your claim!

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