Estate planning requires awareness of here and now

People are often advised to put their affairs in order to prepare for contingencies. Estate planning can ensure that a person's wishes are honored and help minimize future tax implications. When transferring assets according to an estate plan, however, it is important to keep current obligations in mind.

The race for Orange County Property Appraiser has heated up with allegations made by the incumbent, Bill Donegan, that the challenger, Rick Singh, has misled voters on his candidate disclosure form. Donegan alleges in his campaign advertising material and subsequent interviews that Singh transferred properties he owned to his wife but failed to pay property-transfer taxes on the transactions. He suggests such oversights can't be tolerated in the person seeking the appraiser's job.

The incumbent points to numerous parcels of real property that Singh listed on his candidate disclosure form. Donegan says the listings inflated Singh's net worth. He then points to property records that show Singh previously transferred those holdings into his wife's name.

Singh calls the entire matter a simple oversight. He claims a consultant advised him to transfer the properties into his wife's name for estate purposes. He says because she handled the transactions, he was unaware a tax shortfall had occurred. He says he has since corrected the situation.

He also claims that his listing of the properties as assets is only appropriate. He says he is still paying the taxes, insurance and mortgages tied to the properties. He says he listed them on the disclosure form to provide voters with full transparency.

Estate planning is an essential process to preservation of family assets. People with complex financial responsibilities, and even those with less complex situations, can benefit from expert estate planning advice. But as this story shows, regardless of what one's plans may be for the future, one must address some issues in the here and now, something that can be done best by working with an experienced attorney.

Source: Orlando Sentinel, "Donegan slams foe on tax, disclosure issues," David Damron, Oct. 11, 2012

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