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Nathan VinsonBelieve it or not, the end of 2020 is quickly approaching (insert collective sigh of relief). While I think most of us are ready to start looking forward to 2021 and would prefer to not even have to utter the words 2020 anymore, now is the time to finish off the year strong by reviewing simple, yet important, year-end tax planning and wealth transfer tips.

When most people think of tax planning and wealth transfer, they may have in mind complex estate planning documents and an overload of legal and accounting advice.  But that doesn’t have to be the case.  Here are three simple tips that you can implement with relative ease, though you will want to consult your tax advisor first.

1. The Annual Gift Tax Exclusion. The simplest tax planning and wealth transfer technique involves the all-too-familiar annual gift tax exclusion.  The annual gift tax exclusion is an amount that a person may give to another person without having to file a gift tax return or otherwise report to the IRS.  The current exclusion is $15,000 per person receiving the gift.  The exclusion is indexed for inflation, but it may only increase in $1,000 increments.  Further, married taxpayers may elect “gift-splitting,” which basically doubles the amount of the gift that they may make to one person using the gift tax exclusion; for each person receiving the gift, the limitation would be $30,000 rather than $15,000.  For example, if a married couple has two children and four grandchildren, they can give up to $30,000 to each of these people tax-free and without having to report it to the IRS.  Therefore, the married couple may transfer $180,000 total to the children and grandchildren.  Going further, if the children are also married, the taxpayers may give an additional $30,000 to each child’s spouse, which may be desirable if the child and the spouse hold a joint checking or investment account.  Note, however, that a gift tax return would need to be filed if the taxpayers elect gift-splitting.  The gifts are not taxable at all, but the IRS would like to know that the $30,000 was gifted via gift-splitting.

Nathan Vinson

Nathan Vinson

By Nathan Vinson

Right at two years to the date, Kentucky has again changed its power of attorney law by adopting parts of the Uniform Power of Attorney Act that it did not adopt as part of the changes that went into effect on July 14, 2018.  The new law went into effect on July 15, 2020, and applies to a power of attorney created before, on, or after July 15.  However, acts done before July 15, 2020 are not affected by the new law.

The biggest change created by the 2018 law was the requirement that the power of attorney be witnessed by two disinterested persons, though a power of attorney validly executed before that law went into effect remained valid.  The new law brings about three major changes – one of them being no more witnesses required!  Just two years after that requirement came into effect, it is again changed to take us back to prior law.  However, practitioners may decide it is best practice to continue to require two witnesses.  Further, some states require that the power of attorney have two witnesses, especially when used to transfer real estate.  On the flipside, the new law makes executing a power of attorney in urgent situations much easier.

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By Brett Reynolds, Partner

Brett Reynolds

Brett Reynolds

In April 2018, The Trump Administration  signed an Executive Order entitled, “Buy American, Hire American”. The policy directs the Department of Homeland Security to issue H-1B visas to only the most-skilled foreigners or highest-paid beneficiaries.  While this is a laudable purpose, according to new data acquired by the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP), the USCIS has begun to increase H-1B visa denials and the number of Requests for Evidence (RFEs) issued to H-1B visa. As a result, employers have reported that the time lost due to the increase in denials and Requests for Evidence has cost millions of dollars in fees and delays, while often aiding competitors that operate exclusively outside the United States.  Since the Trump Administration has taken office, the RFEs for H-1Bs have skyrocketed:

By Aaron Smith, Partner
English, Lucas, Priest and Owsley, LLP

Just a few short weeks ago, attorneys Buzz English and J.A. Sowell from our firm took a case to trial because our client felt it was the best option, and we concurred.

In that case, we were defending a truck driver and the company he worked for against a lawsuit filed by a pedestrian he struck at night while driving. Our observation from that case is that sometimes it is best to go to trial — and we had that lesson reinforced for us and our clients again this week in Simpson Circuit Court.

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By Sarah Jarboe, Partner
English, Lucas, Priest and Owsley LLP

lead paintLast month, news outlets reported that HGTV stars Chip and Joanna Gaines’ company would pay a $40,000 fine for violating the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule (“RRP Rule”) on work sites. The fines are a result of an Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) review of the HGTV show, Fixer Upper, which showed workers on their renovation sites violating EPA regulations.

Magnolia Homes, the Gaines’ company, took immediate steps to rectify problems when first contacted by the EPA in 2015, the EPA said in a statement. Beyond the $40,000 fine, Magnolia Homes will spend $160,000 to abate lead paint in homes in Waco, Texas, where the couple and Magnolia Homes are based.

This large expenditure could have been avoided with good legal advice and sound work practices.

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By Leah Morrison, Attorney
English, Lucas, Priest and Owsley, LLP

Leah Morrison

Leah Morrison, attorney

One of the most frequent reasons clients tell me they want to create a will, trust, or other estate documents is to avoid probate. People have come to see probate as an unduly burdensome process that can cost a lot of money and time, but in Kentucky, it’s not as bad as you might fear.

Before we delve into it, let’s take a moment to review what probate is. Probate is the legal process by which the financial affairs of a deceased person are concluded. It is a court supervised process in which assets are accumulated and distributed in accordance with the decedent’s will or pursuant to the statutory plan of descent, and debts are gathered for payment. Although, in Kentucky, the supervision provided by the court is often times very minimal.

While Kentucky’s probate laws are sufficient to ensure the deceased person’s assets are properly managed and distributed to the appropriate person, the requirements of the probate process are minimal enough that most people navigate it smoothly without incident.

The one thing, though, to know is that probate does make your will public. Your will becomes a public document that is recorded in the court system, and is available to anyone who wishes to view it.

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