Tax Savings, Estate Planning, Charitable Giving

How Charitable Giving Can Impact Your Estate Plan


Charitable giving is a meaningful way to leave a lasting legacy while also benefiting causes that are important to you. Beyond the immediate impact on the organizations you support, charitable giving can also play a significant role in your estate planning. In this article, we'll explore how charitable giving can impact your estate plan and why it's an essential consideration for many individuals.

Understanding Charitable Giving

Charitable giving involves donating money, assets, or property to nonprofit organizations, charities, or other philanthropic causes. This generosity can take many forms, including one-time donations, regular contributions, and planned giving strategies. Regardless of the method, charitable giving allows individuals to support causes they are passionate about and make a positive difference in their communities and beyond.

Tax Benefits of Charitable Giving

One of the key benefits of charitable giving is the potential for tax savings. When you donate to qualified charitable organizations, you may be eligible to receive a tax deduction for the value of your contribution. This can result in lower taxable income and potentially reduce your overall tax liability. Additionally, certain types of charitable gifts, such as donations of appreciated assets or contributions to charitable trusts, may offer additional tax advantages.

Estate Planning Considerations

Charitable giving can also play a significant role in estate planning. By including charitable provisions in your estate plan, you can support causes you care about while also achieving your financial and philanthropic goals. Common estate planning strategies involving charitable giving include:

  • Charitable Bequests: Including charitable organizations as beneficiaries in your will or trust, allowing you to leave a portion of your estate to support their work.
  • Charitable Trusts: Establishing charitable trusts, such as charitable remainder trusts or charitable lead trusts, to provide ongoing support to charities while also benefiting your heirs or yourself during your lifetime.
  • Donor-Advised Funds: Setting up donor-advised funds, which allow you to make contributions to a charitable fund and recommend grants to specific charities over time.

The Impact of Charitable Giving

Beyond the tax benefits and estate planning advantages, charitable giving offers the opportunity to make a meaningful impact on causes that matter to you. Whether you choose to support education, healthcare, environmental conservation, or other charitable endeavors, your generosity can help organizations thrive and make a difference in the lives of others.

In Conclusion

Incorporating charitable giving into your estate plan can have a profound impact on both your financial legacy and the causes you care about. By working with an experienced estate planning attorney, you can explore various charitable giving strategies and develop a plan that aligns with your values and goals. 

If you're interested in learning more about how charitable giving can impact your estate plan, we invite you to contact Donohue, O’Connell & Riley today to schedule a consultation. Our team is here to help you navigate the complexities of estate planning and create a plan that reflects your wishes while also supporting the causes you believe in.

July 11, 2024

Estate Planning, Wills & Trusts

9 Planning Considerations for the Surviving Spouse


Losing a spouse is devastating. To help reduce stress on the legal and financial front, we are sharing practical tips to consider for a surviving spouse. You can start by gathering important documents including your spouse’s death certificate, will, marriage certificate, property deeds, vehicle titles, tax returns, bank account and credit card statements and insurance policies. Having these documents ready will help make the most of your time with our attorneys.

1. File the Will

It’s always a good idea, and in some states a legal requirement, to file the will of the first spouse to pass away with the the local court. Even though the will might not be probated, having it on file with local court ensures its safe-keeping if assets are later discovered which require probate. Some examples might be an unanticipated income tax refund, an inheritance, or a life insurance policy or retirement account without a beneficiary designation.

2. Who’s in First?

It’s a good idea to update existing planning documents and remove a deceased spouse from first position on such documents as a will, healthcare proxy, and power of attorney. This can avoid the need to present a death certificate of the deceased spouse when these documents are used; and save time, hassle, and money. A fresh set of documents can also provide for a backup to the person who is now named first.

3. What is the Basis?

Adjustments to cost basis may be available for investment accounts, real estate, and business holdings owned by the decedent. It’s always good practice to obtain appraisals for any businesses or real estate assets, even if jointly owned, as this will provide clear documentation of cost basis adjustments due to the death of a spouse that may end up saving substantial amounts in capital gains taxes, whether that be from repositioning securities in a portfolio, or from the sale of a closely held business interest or real estate. IRS regulations require an appraisal of business or real estate interest to be done by a qualified appraiser; a broker valuation or property tax assessment are not sufficient.

Particular attention should be paid to LLCs and partnerships as a timely, section 754 election may need to be made to allow assets owned by the company to benefit from a step up in tax basis.

4. Change in Tax Status 

Surviving spouses should be able to file as a qualifying widow or widower in the year of their spouse’s death, but thereafter, may be looking at a very different set of tax brackets. Thought should be given as to whether or not assets can be sold, or retirement accounts converted to Roth IRAs in the year of the first spouse’s passing so as to avoid bracket creep when the surviving spouse files as a single taxpayer.

5. Spousal IRA

Spouses often name each other as beneficiaries on their retirement accounts, so the surviving spouse will need to roll over any such retirement accounts and designate new beneficiaries. The rules that govern required minimum distributions for surviving spouses can be complex. Your attorney, accountant, or financial advisor should be consulted to make sure that that minimum withdrawals are taken annually in a timely fashion.

Also, spouses often name each other as beneficiaries on their life insurance, annuities, and other accounts that may flow via beneficiary designation. These beneficiary designations should be updated to reflect the death of the first spouse, and consideration may be given to cashing in accounts and closing or consolidating them if the account is of relatively small value, for example, $10,000 or less.

6. Social Security Benefits 

Surviving spouses who receive a lower Social Security payment than their deceased spouse may be eligible to take the greater of the two benefits. Adjustments may be made, however, if the surviving spouse took his or her benefit prior to reaching full retirement age. You should consult with your regional Social Security representative to determine the substantial benefits to which you may be entitled.

7. Time to Simplify  

As attorneys, we often tell clients that whether an account has $5,000, $50,000, $500,000 or $5 million in it, the work needed to be done to close out the account is about the same. The reality is that each account requires interfacing with financial institutions, each of which have their own rules and forms, and then subsequently accounting for the funds in that account to beneficiaries and the tax authorities. 

We estimate that each account incurs somewhere between $1,000 and $2,000 in legal and accounting fees to close and report the account. Thus, if you have a number of accounts at different institutions, consider consolidating them to the greatest extent possible. 

Ideally, we like to see clients having one retirement account, one after -tax investment account, and a checking account. Other than insurance products, such as life insurance and annuities, this is all that is necessary for 99% of our clients. Having multiple accounts at multiple institutions only makes executor’s task more complex, and often unnecessarily so.

them. 8. Involve the Next Generation  

When your spouse dies, recruit help from the next generation to assist you with day-to-day tasks. Having a second set of eyes to help avoid senior scammers, keep tax records straight, and assist with paying bills can be a godsend in your golden years. It’s also a good idea to have paper statements mailed, even if there is a small fee, as this will help assist your family members if they need to step in on an emergency basis.

9. Avoid Risks and Potential Scams

Family members need to pay particular care when a senior remarries later in life, or brings in a live-in romantic partner, or hires more help around the house. Unfortunately, in our experience, seniors often fall prey to those who aim to exploit the elderly. It’s always a good idea to make sure that personal financial and electronic records are secured in a locked room; that finances are not discussed with people who are new in the senior’s life, and that easily movable valuables, such as the family silver or valuable jewelry, are placed under lock and key.

Similarly, if major work or renovations are to be undertaken, contractors should be carefully vetted, and insurance certificates obtained prior to any major work being commenced. Having a child nearby to check in on the senior, or having a trusted friend or neighbor stop by on a regular basis can be a great way to make sure that your newly single family member is not being victimized.







July 8, 2024

Asset Protection, Estate Planning, Wills & Trusts

The Importance of Regularly Reviewing Your Beneficiary Designations


Life is a journey marked by significant milestones: marriage, the birth of children, career advancement, and retirement, among others. Each of these milestones not only represents a personal achievement but also prompts a need for financial reassessment and planning. One critical aspect that often goes overlooked in this process is the regular review of beneficiary designations. At Donohue, O’Connell & Riley, we emphasize the importance of keeping these designations up to date to ensure that your estate planning aligns with your current wishes and life circumstances.

Why Beneficiary Designations Matter

Beneficiary designations are a crucial component of financial and estate planning. They dictate who will receive the assets of accounts such as life insurance policies, retirement funds, and brokerage accounts upon your death. What makes beneficiary designations unique is their ability to bypass the probate process, allowing for direct transfer to the named beneficiaries. This immediacy and simplicity underscore the importance of ensuring that your designations are always current.

Life Changes and Their Impact

Changes in your life can significantly affect your financial planning. A marriage or divorce, the birth of a child or grandchild, the death of a previous beneficiary, or changes in your relationships can all prompt a need to update your beneficiary designations. Failing to do so can result in assets being distributed to someone other than your intended recipient, potentially leading to family disputes and legal complications.

For example, in many jurisdictions, a divorce may not automatically revoke the designation of a spouse as a beneficiary on a life insurance policy or retirement account. Imagine the potential conflict and distress this could cause if the assets were inadvertently passed to an ex-spouse instead of the intended heirs or current spouse.

Reviewing and Updating Designations

Given the potential consequences of outdated beneficiary designations, it's advisable to review them regularly—at least every few years or following any significant life event. This review should encompass all accounts with beneficiary designations, including:

  • Employer-sponsored retirement plans like 401(k)s
  • Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs)
  • Life insurance policies
  • Annuities
  • Payable-on-death (POD) and transfer-on-death (TOD) accounts

When reviewing your designations, ensure that each reflects your current wishes. If updates are necessary, contact the account custodian or insurance company to request the appropriate change forms. Additionally, consider the benefits of naming contingent beneficiaries, who will inherit the assets if the primary beneficiaries are unable to do so.

Coordination with Your Estate Plan

It's also vital to ensure that your beneficiary designations align with the broader goals of your estate plan. Discrepancies between your will or trust and your beneficiary designations can create confusion and potentially undermine your estate planning objectives. Working with an experienced estate planning attorney can help you navigate these complexities, ensuring a cohesive and comprehensive estate plan.

Professional Guidance

The process of reviewing and updating beneficiary designations, while seemingly straightforward, involves careful consideration and planning. At Donohue, O’Connell & Riley, we are committed to providing our clients with the expert guidance needed to navigate these decisions. Our team can help you understand the implications of your choices, ensuring that your estate planning reflects your current life situation and future goals.

In Conclusion

Regularly reviewing your beneficiary designations is more than just a best practice; it's a crucial step in safeguarding your legacy and ensuring that your assets are distributed according to your wishes. Life’s changes are inevitable, and your estate plan, including beneficiary designations, should evolve to reflect these changes.

If you have questions about your beneficiary designations or any aspect of estate planning, Donohue, O’Connell & Riley is here to assist you. Contact us today to ensure that your estate planning needs are met with professionalism, compassion, and expertise. Together, we can ensure that your financial legacy is protected and passed on according to your wishes.

June 20, 2024

Estate Planning, legal planning

How to Start the Estate Planning Conversation with Your Family


Estate planning is a crucial aspect of life planning that many people tend to postpone, often because the topic can be uncomfortable or difficult to approach. At Donohue, O’Connell & Riley, we understand the sensitivity and importance of this conversation. Starting the estate planning conversation with your family is a significant step towards ensuring your wishes are honored and your loved ones are taken care of in the future. Here are strategies to help you initiate this essential dialogue.


Choose the Right Time and Place

The setting for this conversation should be private and comfortable, free from distractions. A quiet environment where everyone feels at ease to express their thoughts and concerns is ideal. Timing is also critical; choose a moment when there is no immediate stress or family tension. A calm weekend at home might be more appropriate than a holiday dinner.


Educate Yourself First

Before initiating the conversation, take some time to educate yourself on the basics of estate planning. Understanding the key components such as wills, trusts, powers of attorney, and healthcare directives will make you feel more confident in explaining these concepts to your family. Donohue, O’Connell & Riley offers resources and expert guidance to help you grasp these fundamentals.


Start with Your Why

Communicate the purpose behind your desire to discuss estate planning. Explain that it’s not just about distributing assets but also about making things easier for your loved ones during difficult times. Share your values and the legacy you wish to leave behind. Making it clear that this is an act of love and care can help ease into the conversation more smoothly.


Be Open and Honest

Transparency is key in these discussions. Be open about your wishes, concerns, and the reasoning behind your decisions. This openness can encourage other family members to express their thoughts and concerns, making it a two-way conversation. Remember, the goal is to ensure that everyone’s on the same page and that there are no surprises in the future.


Address the Importance of Everyone Having an Estate Plan

Highlight that estate planning is not just for the elderly or the wealthy; it’s something everyone should consider. Use this conversation as an opportunity to encourage all family members to think about their own estate plans. This is particularly important for adult children and even for younger family members who have recently started their own families.


Seek Professional Guidance

Emphasize the importance of professional advice in estate planning. A qualified estate planning attorney can provide personalized guidance based on your family’s unique needs and circumstances. At Donohue, O’Connell & Riley, our experienced team is here to help navigate the complexities of estate planning, ensuring that your plan aligns with your wishes and provides for your loved ones.


Include Everyone in the Process

While you might initiate the conversation, it’s essential to include all relevant family members in the process. This includes your spouse, adult children, and anyone else who might be impacted by your estate plan. Involving everyone ensures that there are no misunderstandings and that each family member feels considered and respected.


In Conclusion

Starting the estate planning conversation with your family might seem daunting, but it’s a necessary step in safeguarding the future of your loved ones and ensuring your wishes are fulfilled. By choosing the right moment, educating yourself, and approaching the conversation with openness and honesty, you can make this important dialogue productive and positive.

At Donohue, O’Connell & Riley, we are committed to guiding families through the estate planning process with compassion and expertise. Whether you are just beginning to consider your estate plan or are looking to update an existing plan, our team is here to provide the support and advice you need. Contact us today to start the conversation about your estate planning needs, and take the first step towards a secure future for you and your loved ones.

June 6, 2024

Estate Planning, legal planning

Legal Planning for Newlyweds: Starting Your Marriage on Solid Ground


Embarking on the journey of marriage marks a significant milestone that introduces a blend of dreams, partnership, and new responsibilities. Among these responsibilities, legal and financial planning is crucial yet often overlooked. At Donohue, O’Connell & Riley, we emphasize the importance of starting your marriage with solid legal foundations. This approach not only protects both partners but ensures a secure path forward, regardless of what the future may hold.

Navigating Legal Aspects Together

The transition from single to married life brings with it a series of legal changes and considerations. Understanding and addressing these early can prevent complications down the line, providing peace of mind for both partners.

  1. Joint Financial Planning: A crucial first step for newlyweds is to engage in comprehensive financial planning. This includes setting budgets, saving goals, and understanding each other's financial habits. It's also a time to discuss larger financial objectives, such as buying a home or planning for retirement.
  2. Estate Planning Essentials: Often perceived as something for older adults, estate planning is equally vital for newlyweds. It’s about ensuring that your assets are distributed according to your wishes in the event of an unforeseen circumstance. Key components include wills, trusts, and healthcare directives, which articulate your wishes regarding medical treatment should you be unable to make decisions yourself.
  3. Updating Legal Documents: Marriage requires updates to legal documents to reflect your new status. This includes changing beneficiaries on life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and ensuring that property titles are correctly designated. Failure to update these can lead to unintended outcomes that may not align with your wishes.
  4. Understanding Marital Property Rights: Different states have different laws regarding marital property. It's important for newlyweds to understand how marriage affects property and asset ownership, and how these laws apply in the context of inheritance and property division in the event of divorce or death.
  5. Pre and Postnuptial Agreements: While not the most romantic topic, prenuptial (before marriage) or postnuptial (after marriage) agreements can provide clarity and protection for both partners. These agreements can outline financial arrangements and responsibilities, offering protection and preventing conflicts should the marriage face challenges.

it’s crucial for newlyweds to recognize that marriage not only unites two hearts but also intertwines their legal and financial lives. Proper planning and open communication about these matters lay a strong foundation for a healthy partnership.

Incorporating Digital Assets into Your Plan

In today's digital age, assets are not only physical or financial but also virtual. Digital assets, including social media accounts, digital currencies, and online businesses, are an integral part of your estate. Newlyweds should discuss how these assets are managed, accessed, and distributed. Assigning digital executors can ensure that your online life is handled according to your wishes.

Navigating Name Changes and Legal Identifications

If one or both partners decide on a name change post-marriage, it’s essential to update all legal identifications and documents, from driver’s licenses and passports to social security cards and bank accounts. This process can be time-consuming and requires attention to detail to ensure all records accurately reflect the name change.

Considerations for Blended Families

For couples entering a marriage with children from previous relationships, estate planning takes on added layers of consideration. It’s imperative to balance providing for the new spouse and ensuring children from prior relationships are also taken care of as intended. Trusts, in particular, can be valuable tools in delineating assets and ensuring that all family members are supported according to your wishes.

Regular Reviews and Updates

Life is dynamic, and changes are inevitable. Regularly reviewing and updating your legal documents ensures they always reflect your current situation and wishes. Milestones such as the birth of a child, acquisition of new assets, or even changes in relationships within the family warrant a review of your legal plans to ensure they remain relevant and effective.

Seeking Professional Guidance

Given the complexity and importance of legal planning for newlyweds, seeking professional guidance is advisable. An experienced attorney can provide valuable insights, help navigate the intricacies of state laws, and ensure that all documents are correctly prepared and filed. At Donohue, O’Connell & Riley, we specialize in assisting couples with personalized legal and estate planning solutions. Our expertise ensures that your marriage starts on solid ground, with protections in place for both partners and any family members.

In Conclusion

Marriage is a significant life event that brings with it the joy of shared futures and the responsibility of planning for all eventualities. Legal planning for newlyweds is not just about preparing for the worst; it's about ensuring a secure, clear path forward for all the adventures that lie ahead. From estate planning to financial management and updating legal documents, starting your marriage with these legal considerations in mind is a true act of love and partnership.

If you’re newly married or planning your wedding, Donohue, O’Connell & Riley is here to assist you in laying the legal groundwork for your life together. Contact us today to explore how we can support your journey into this exciting new chapter with confidence and peace of mind.

May 23, 2024