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Estate Planning: It's Complicated, But Participation and Training Can Unlock the Mysteries

Posted Tuesday, March 19, 2013 by Michael A. Larson

alt textFormed in the early 1940s, the Estate Planning Council of Seattle is a nationally-recognized coalition which holds quarterly meetings and hosts notable speakers on the latest estate planning news and practices. Members primarily include those who are actively engaged in the field of estate planning, including attorneys, trust officers, certified public accountants, and life insurance professionals. The focal point of the council is its annual estate planning seminar, a two-day conference which regularly convenes dozens of speakers, nearly 1,000 attendees, and over 40 vendors. Sponsored by the Estate Planning Council of Seattle in conjunction with the Washington State Bar Association, the seminar draws estate planning professionals from across the nation to discuss developments on issues such as intra-family transactions, tax compliance issues, and long-term healthcare planning.

For an estate planner, membership in this type of group is essential for staying up-to-date on estate planning trends and developments. I have been a member of the Estate Planning Council for a number of years and have benefitted from the wealth of resources it provides to estate planning and taxation professionals, including access to speakers, presentations, and an extensive professional network.

The most recent meeting’s presentation, for example, focused on retirement accounts and estate planning, specifically converting IRAs to Roth IRAs. Although there is an initial income tax hit when converting an IRA to a Roth IRA—due to the fact that the tax gains on the account are realized—future gains will not be taxed and mandatory distributions are not required.

Another issue addressed in the council’s most recent meeting concerned the dilemma created when one spouse owns an IRA or retirement account while the other spouse has only a community property interest in the account. In this situation, it is important to be wary of transferring the retirement account or IRA to a trust in case the retirement account would need to be liquidated all at once, resulting in a potential income tax obligation.

After nearly 30 years of estate planning work, I am well-versed in not only the basics of estate planning but also its nuances and subtleties, which cannot be overlooked. Participating in highly-regarded professional organizations such as the Estate Planning Council of Seattle is an integral part of addressing a client’s legal needs, and at Pivotal Law Group, PLLC, we strongly encourage staff involvement in similar organizations and training opportunities.

For more information on the Estate Planning Council of Seattle or for general estate planning inquiries, contact Michael Larson at (206) 340-1131.

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