ORLANDO, FLORIDA – William “Bill” R. Lowman, Jr., Heidi W. Isenhart and Alexander “Alex” S. Douglas, II, partners with the law firm of ShuffieldLowman, have been selected as 2018 Florida Super Lawyers.
Super Lawyers, owned by Thomson Reuters, recognizes attorneys who have distinguished themselves in their legal practice. The selection process is multi-phased and rigorous. Peer nominations and evaluations are combined with third-party research and validation of the attorney’s professional accomplishments. The final published list represents five percent of the total lawyers in the state of Florida.
A founding partner of the firm, Lowman’s practice areas include corporate law, mergers and acquisitions, estate planning, high net worth tax planning, intellectual property, securities, tax advice, and non-profit law.
Isenhart practices in the areas of elder law, Medicaid planning, guardianship, probate and trust administration, probate, guardianship, and trust litigation, estate planning and special needs trusts.
Douglas practices in the area of fiduciary litigation with extensive experience in trust, probate and guardianship litigation.
ShuffieldLowman’s four offices are located in Orlando, Tavares, DeLand and Port Orange. The firm is a 45 attorney, full service, business law firm, practicing in the areas of corporate law, estate planning, real estate and litigation. Specific areas include, tax law, securities, mergers and acquisitions, intellectual property, estate planning and probate, planning for families with closely held businesses, guardianship and elder law, tax controversy – Federal and State, non-profit organization law, banking and finance, land use and government law, commercial and civil litigation, fiduciary litigation, construction law, association law, bankruptcy and creditors’ rights, labor and employment, environmental law and mediation.
In honor of Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 15th, ShuffieldLowman’s Alex Douglas was recently featured on The Florida Bar Podcast to speak about different forms of elder abuse and what people can do to protect themselves and their loved ones. Listen to this episode to hear about the different resources available, including the elder abuse hotline, and to learn about the complexities of guardianship. Alex practices in the area of fiduciary litigation with extensive experience in trust, probate and guardianship litigation.
To listen to the podcast visit the Legal Talk Network website: https://legaltalknetwork.com/podcasts/florida-bar/2018/06/2018-annual-florida-bar-convention-elder-law-update/
ORLANDO, FLORIDA – ShuffieldLowman recently announced that attorney Jordan J. Horowitz has joined the firm, working in the Orlando office.
Horowitz practices in the area of real estate law, assisting developers, homebuilders, lenders, and private and public entities on a wide-range of projects relating to commercial acquisitions, due diligence, land development and entitlements and commercial loan transactions. His experience with complex transactions includes the purchase and sale of office, multi-family, hotel, retail, entertainment, and healthcare facilities, as well as undeveloped land; structuring conventional, SBA, and USDA loans; and resolving title matters.
He received his J.D., cum laude, from the University of Florida Levin College of Law, where he served as the Senior Articles Editor of the Florida Law Review. During law school, he was the recipient of the Gertrude Brick Outstanding Board Member Award and a Teaching Assistant in the areas of Advanced Legal Writing and Appellate Advocacy. He also received his B.A. in Anthropology from the University of Florida.
Horowitz is a member of The Florida Bar’s Real Property, Probate and Trust Law Sections, the Orange County Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division and the Central Florida Real Estate Attorneys’ Council.
ShuffieldLowman’s four offices are located in Orlando, Tavares, DeLand and Port Orange. The firm is a 45 attorney, full service, business law firm, practicing in the areas of corporate law, estate planning, real estate and litigation. Specific areas include, tax law, securities, mergers and acquisitions, intellectual property, estate planning and probate, planning for families with closely held businesses, guardianship and elder law, tax controversy – Federal and State, non-profit organization law, banking and finance, land use and government law, commercial and civil litigation, fiduciary litigation, construction law, association law, bankruptcy and creditors’ rights, labor and employment, and mediation.
He was a pillar of the community, and generously contributed his talents as an attorney and astute businessman to a long list of civic organizations, including past service as President of the University of Central Florida Knights Boosters, Director of the Central Florida Red Cross Chapter, Board Member of the Central Florida Zoo and Trustee of his undergraduate and business school alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania. Tom’s service also included deep involvement in his church, the Catholic Church of St. Luke, where he served as a Senior Warden and as a trustee of the church’s endowment fund.
Admitted to the Florida Bar in 1975, Tom was a law school graduate of Florida State University. He worked primarily in the area of housing finance law and assisted numerous government agencies with their community development. His legal practice was one of complete service to his clients and he was known as a “resilient listener”. He will be greatly missed by many in the legal and business community, especially the people of ShuffieldLowman where he practiced law for more than 13 years.
Congress recently passed the Tax Cut and Jobs Act (“TCJA”) earlier this year, the largest revision to the tax code in thirty (30) years. Among the many changes are significant increases in the Estate, Gift, and Generation-Skipping Transfer (GST) tax exclusion amounts. In effect, this means that fewer families will be subject to such transfer taxes and that many estate plans will need to be updated to properly address the new law. The changes under the TCJA present an important opportunity for high net-worth individuals and families to review their current estate planning documents and ensure that their plan is properly tailored to achieve their goals.
Overview of Changes
The most significant change is the doubling of the unified Estate and Gift tax exclusion amount – the combined amount that individuals can give away during life or at death before paying transfer taxes – from $5.59 million to $11.18 million per person. The new tax law also preserves “portability,” a surviving spouse’s ability to retain any estate or gift exclusion unused by a deceased spouse, meaning that for married couples, the exclusion is effectively $22.36 million. This exclusion is inflation adjusted, but current law provides that this doubled exclusion sunsets December 31, 2025, after which estate taxes are slated to revert to current levels.
The new law also increases the amount each person can make exempt from the GST tax. As with the estate and gift tax exclusion, the new GST exclusion will increase from $5.59 million to $11.18 million per person (in 2018 as indexed for inflation). Unlike with the estate and gift tax, however, there is no “portability” for GST taxes. Thus, each spouse must use their own GST exclusion before they pass.
In addition to the changes made by the new tax bill, 2018 also brings a routine increase in the annual exclusion from the Gift tax to $15,000 per person, per year. This annual exclusion allows each individual to make a gift of $15,000 to any other individual (and in some cases trusts) without reducing their lifetime Estate and Gift tax exclusion amount.
Review of Your Estate Plan
The changes in the Estate, Gift and GST tax law mean that many estate plans should be revised to take advantage of tax changes, ensure existing tax formulas still achieve the intended results, or simplify complex planning that is no longer necessary and shift a focus towards income tax planning for beneficiaries. There are also certain planning opportunities that you may want to explore.
First, the increased exclusion amount may be an opportunity to unwind complex planning that may no longer be needed to minimize transfer taxes. For instance, many estate plans created under assumptions of prior law provide that at the death of the first spouse, the deceased spouse’s assets are divided into two (2) separate trust shares: a Marital Trust for the benefit of the surviving spouse and a Credit Shelter Trust that may benefit the surviving spouse, your children and/or grandchildren, or combinations of those people. For married couples with large estates, this technique defers payment of any Estate tax until the passing of the second spouse. The trade-off is that the Credit Shelter Trust may not benefit the surviving spouse solely and the income tax basis of the Credit Shelter Trust is locked into place upon the first spouse’s death. Many couples who used such techniques to minimize Estate tax prior to the new increased exclusion amounts will prefer for the surviving spouse to retain greater control of assets and plan for the remainder beneficiaries to receive a step-up in income tax basis for all of the assets upon the surviving spouse’s passing. ShuffieldLowman can assist you with weighing that control over the asset protection and the certainty of the Credit Shelter Trust to determine what is best for each family.
As mentioned above, another scenario involving Marital and Credit Shelter Trusts may play out in other plans containing “formula gifts.” Certain estate plans leave assets up to the Estate tax exclusion amount to a Credit Shelter Trust for the benefit of children or grandchildren and leave assets in excess of that amount to a Marital Trust for the benefit of the spouse. Because the Estate tax exclusion amount is now so large, this could mean unintentionally disinheriting the spouse and leaving all assets to the Family Trust or just leaving significantly less to the surviving spouse than intended.
Next, we do not know if the federal increased exclusion amounts will not be extended and will in fact expire in 2025, which is what the TCJA provides. Under a subsequent administration the exclusion amounts may even return to the lower levels of the past that existed for most of the 2000s. If either of these events does indeed occur, then the current increase in the exclusion amounts provides a temporary, “use it or lose it” opportunity to transfer assets outside your taxable estate, thereby “locking in” the current exclusion amount before it is reduced and freezing values from future appreciation. This estate tax planning might involve increased contributions to Irrevocable Trusts such as Irrevocable Life Insurance Trusts, Intentionally Defective Grantor Trusts (IDGTs), sales to these types of trusts, forgiveness of intra-family promissory notes, or other wealth transfer vehicles. You may want to consider further planning using the increased exemption amounts to remove assets from the estate.
Finally, some clients may even wish to use the increased exclusion amount to unwind prior planning and bring assets back into their gross estate to obtain a step-up in basis in those assets to fair market value at the time of their death. This type of planning is geared toward reducing income tax liability of your beneficiaries upon the sale of the inherited assets.
These are just a few examples of the many ways in which the TCJA may affect your estate plan. The TCJA makes significant changes to the Estate, Gift and GST tax regimes. If your estate plan was implemented under previous law, it would be beneficial to review your plan to ensure it accomplishes your current goals in light of these changes. If you would like a comprehensive review of your estate plan, contact ShuffieldLowman today.