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The Law Office of Jane Frankel Sims
YOUR Estate Matters
October 2015

October is a great time to review your current estate planning documents or to start the estate planning process. The end of the year is fast approaching, and often it makes sense to plan in advance of any tax changes that may occur in 2016.  

When reviewing the information that I wanted to share with you this month, I realized that many of my clients come to me with the same questions. In this issue and those that follow, I will begin sharing one of these common questions per month, as well as the answer. I hope that this approach will help you and your family to clarify any confusion that you may have about your estate planning concerns.

As always, we are interested in YOUR insights to subjects found in each issue. Please send us any comments by replying to the email.


Our Latest Blog Post
 Joint Ownership Just for Convenience Can Be Perilous
It is common to see an asset transferred into joint name solely for the convenience of the original owner. The unintended consequences of joint ownership, however, can lead to unpleasant surprises.

The fact pattern is familiar: an aging relative may ask you to be a co-owner of her bank account so that you can help write her checks or can access her money if she becomes disabled. Or, a parent may transfer his or her residence into joint name with a child so that ownership will pass to the child upon the parent's death without having to go through probate.

The pitfalls, however, are as unfamiliar as they are perilous.

First, a transfer into joint name may unintentionally result in a completed gift to the co-owner. For federal gift and estate tax purposes, adding a child's name as a joint owner of a house results in a taxable gift of one-half of the current fair market value of the house. The original owner may be required to file a gift tax return and, in extreme cases, pay gift tax.

Second, adding a co-owner exposes the asset to the co-owner's creditors. If the child who co-owns your house is forced into bankruptcy or loses a hefty lawsuit, the child's creditors can take the child's half of your house.

Third, if a child co-owns your bank account and later becomes disabled, the child's attorney-in-fact or guardian steps into the child's shoes. The bank will not be able to prevent the attorney-in-fact or guardian from drawing your account down to $0.

Fourth, joint ownership may unintentionally interfere with your estate plan. You may have wanted nothing more than assistance from the child who lives closest to you, but if you add your child to your bank account as a joint owner with right of survivorship, you have also just given the entire account to that child, effective upon your death.

The account will not be divided equally among your children upon your death, even if your will specifically calls for that result.

So before casually adding a child's name to one of your assets, make sure you understand the options and know what you are getting yourself into.

Click this link if you missed our previous blog post:

Jane's Q&A Session

Top 10 Estate Planning Misconceptions

During my years as an estate planning attorney, I have noticed that there are common misconceptions voiced by many of my clients. I have decided to share one misconception with you each month, starting with #10. I would be happy to explore these questions with you in more detail. Just give me a call. 


Q: I am not a millionaire. Do I really need an estate plan?

A: No matter how much money you have, you need a will and powers of attorney to appoint guardians of minor children and decision makers in the event of death or disability. 

Help us to congratulate o ur Founder and Managing Attorney, Jane Sims, who was sworn in as a member of the Virginia Bar in September! If you have friends, family or clients in Virginia, we can now work with them on their estate planning matters. 
We thank you for your business and support for our firm.  Feel free to call us at 410-828-7775 with any estate planning questions or concerns, and as always we are most grateful for your referrals.  


Thank you,
Jane's Jane

Jane Frankel Sims
Founder/Managing Att orney

The Law Office of Jane Frankel Sims


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