Articles Tagged with estate planning

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Dear Carolyn,

My wife and I have been married almost two years. Recently, and unfortunately, her grandmother passed away. Her grandmother had no immediate means to pay for funeral and burial services. The costs were paid by my wife and me on our credit card. The family has considerable land assets in Guilford County, but it is in her grandmother’s and multiple siblings’ name. My wife will inherit a portion of her grandmother’s land (split with my wife’s uncle). No one in the family has the means to buy us out, and, as is often the case, there is no reachable agreement by the family to divide the land. Is there any way to sell off some or all of what my wife is entitled to help reimburse us for the costs of the funeral and burial services?

Thanks for your helpful insight,

Jon D.


Dear Jon,

We have a solution for you!  The property can be sold to pay funeral and burial expenses, but there are several steps you must follow.

The answer assumes there was no Will, as a Will was not mentioned.

First, your spouse will need to go to the Clerk of Court, Estates Division at the Guilford County Courthouse if the grandmother died in Guilford County and open an estate file for the grandmother. If the grandmother died in another county, you need to open the estate file in that county.  Someone is going to have to qualify as the administrator of the estate.  Your wife, as a granddaughter, may apply; others may also apply, but hopefully they will not.

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I.R.C. § 414(p) and 29 U.S.C. § 1056

Morris v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co., 751 F. Supp. 2d 955 (E.D. Mich. 2010)

(a) Facts: When the husband and the wife were divorced, the state court divorce decree extinguished all rights held by one in any life insurance of the other.  But the husband retained the wife as beneficiary of his employer-provided life insurance.  Upon his death, the plan paid the proceeds to the first wife, and the husband’s second wife sued to recovery the proceeds.

(b) Issue: Who is entitled to the proceeds?

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In North Carolina, estate planning can be difficult with the high divorce rate.  Most who are estate planning want the property to go where it is intended.  The gift tax annual exclusion for 2015 is $14,000 per donor per donee.   This means a married couple can, together, give $28,000 to a son.  If they also make a gift to the daughter-in- law, that means $28,000 times two or $56,000 can be transferred from a married couple to a son and his wife, for example.  Great estate planning, but what happens when the donees get a divorce.

Let’s take a Greensboro, North Carolina couple age 65 with a commercial building with equity of $56,000.  There is debt, but the rents, if the building is correctly managed, services the debt. The son of the couple manages the building.  The son is married.  Therefore, to utilize the maximum gift tax annual exclusion, the sixty-five-year- old couple must give the building to both their son and his wife–a noble estate planning goal, but…

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