Thomas H. Sullivan

Attorney at Law

Latest Blog Posts

Money Isn’t Everything in Estate Planning

Posted on: June 13th, 2017
Money may be the most talked about wealth contained within a person’s estate, but the riches of their experience and wisdom can mean even more to family members down the line. Reinforcement of family traditions can be built into your estate plan alongside your wishes regarding your money, property, and belongings. After all, what really makes a family a family is its values and traditions — not the way its finances read on paper....

How to Protect Your Child’s Inheritance from His or Her Untrustworthy Spouse

Posted on: June 6th, 2017
Parents who develop an estate plan often do so to provide for their heirs financially. Many want to make sure hard-earned assets, family heirlooms, or closely held businesses stay within the family. Indeed, a common question is what cost effective options are available to protect one’s children’s inheritance from a spouse in the event of untrustworthiness or divorce....

Estate Planning for Military Families

Posted on: May 30th, 2017
Although Memorial Day just passed, it is important to honor those that have served our country. This time is also a good opportunity for members of the military and their loved ones to consider setting up an - or revising an existing - estate plan. Military families need to consider special estate-planning issues that others do not. This is particularly true when one or more family members are deployed overseas....

3 Ways Your Trust Can Help a Loved One With Mental Illness

Posted on: May 23rd, 2017
When a loved one suffers from a mental illness, one small comfort can be knowing that your trust can take care of them through thick and thin. There are some ways this can happen, ranging from the funding of various types of treatment to providing structure and support during his or her times of greatest need....

Tools You Can Use to Leave Words of Wisdom to the Next Generation

Posted on: May 15th, 2017
You come into the world a blank slate, and as you grow, you gain wisdom. You've planned your estate to leave physical assets to beneficiaries, so now think about leaving them something that’s just as important but less tangible: the hard-won wisdom you’ve accumulated over your life. Let your family and friends learn from your mistakes, and profit from your successes. ...

The Difference between Lifetime and Deathtime Planning

Posted on: May 9th, 2017
According to a March 2017 survey by Caring.com, six out of ten Americans have no will or any other kind of estate planning. Many said they’d get around to it, eventually. When they’re old. (The survey did find that the elderly are much more likely to have some plan in place.) It’s all too clear that most of us think “estate planning” is a euphemism for “deathtime” planning. Indeed, in the Caring.com survey, one-third said that they didn’t need an estate plan because they didn’t have any assets to give someone when they’d died....

How Your Trust Can Help a Loved One Who Struggles with Addiction

Posted on: May 2nd, 2017
Because of its prevalence, navigating a loved one’s addiction is actually a relatively common topic in everyday life. But you should also consider it when working on your estate planning. Whether the addiction is alcoholism, drug abuse, or behavioral like gambling, we all want our loved ones to be safe and experience a successful recovery. A properly created estate plan can help....

How a Community Property Trust Could Save You From Heavy Taxation Down the Road

Posted on: April 28th, 2017
When it comes to your family’s legacy, every dollar you can save from tax collection counts. One way to keep your assets out of the hands of the IRS is the formation of community property trusts. ...

Integrating Community Property Trust Into Your Estate Planning

Posted on: April 28th, 2017
A well-crafted estate plan is comprised of many individual parts, and careful, trust-based estate planning is the best way to ensure the highest possible quality of life for you and your loved ones....

Which life events require an immediate estate plan update?

Posted on: April 25th, 2017
Estate planning is the process of developing a strategy for the care and management of your estate if you become incapacitated or upon your death. One commonly known purpose of estate planning is to minimize taxes and costs, including taxes imposed on gifts, estates, generation skipping transfer and probate court costs. However, your plan must also name someone who will make medical and financial decisions for you if you cannot make decisions for yourself. You also need to consider how to leave your property and assets while considering your family’s circumstances and needs....

3 Decidedly Dumb Ways to Leave an Inheritance for Your Children

Posted on: April 18th, 2017
Estate planning offers many ways to leave your wealth to your children, but it’s just as important to know what not to do. Here are some things that are all-too-common, but textbook examples of what not to do or try.......

Does a Dynasty Trust Make Sense for Your Family?

Posted on: April 11th, 2017
Earlier this year, NBA team owner Gail Miller made headlines when she announced that she was effectively no longer the owner of the Utah Jazz or the Vivint Smart Home Arena. These assets, she said, were being placed into a family trust, therefore raising interest in an estate planning tool previously known only to the very wealthy­–the dynasty trust....

Safeguarding Your Estate Plan Against Three Worst-Case Scenarios

Posted on: April 2nd, 2017
Even with an estate plan, things can always happen that may cause confusion for the estate–or threaten the plan altogether. Below are three examples of worst-case scenarios and ways to demonstrate how a carefully crafted plan can address issues, from the predictable to the total surprise. ...

Not Just Death and Taxes: 5 Essential Legal Documents You Need for Incapacity Planning

Posted on: March 28th, 2017
Comprehensive estate planning is more than your legacy after death, avoiding probate, and saving on taxes. Good estate planning includes a plan in place to manage your affairs if you become incapacitated during your life and can no longer make decisions for yourself. ...

How You Can Build an Estate Plan that Includes Asset Protection

Posted on: March 21st, 2017
Much of estate planning has to do with the way a person’s assets will be distributed upon their death. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg. From smart incapacity planning to diligent probate avoidance, there is a lot that goes into crafting a comprehensive estate plan. One important factor to consider is asset protection....

5 Reasons to Embrace the Emotional Side of Estate Planning

Posted on: March 14th, 2017
When you hear the phrase “estate plan,” you might first think about paperwork. Or your mind might land on some of the uncomfortable topics that estate planning confronts head-on: end-of-life decisions, incapacity, and your family’s legacy from generation to generation. Those subjects hit home for everyone....

How to Build Freedom From Court Interference Into Your Estate Plan

Posted on: March 7th, 2017
It’s clear why you might want to avoid court involvement in your estate for financial reasons, knowing that probate can quickly get costly and time consuming for those involved. But there is an emotional component to it as well. Your assets are just that: yours. And the idea of them being discussed and deliberated on in a public forum might not be such an appealing one....

Do It Now: Name a Guardian for Your Minor Child(ren)

Posted on: February 28th, 2017
We know it’s hard. Thinking about someone else raising your children stops us all in our tracks. It feels crushing and too horrific to consider. But you must. If you don’t, a stranger will determine who raises your children if something happens to you - your child’s guardian could be a relative you despise or even a stranger you’ve never met....

The Top 2 Ways the Court Gets Involved in Your Estate, and How to Avoid Them

Posted on: February 21st, 2017
No one wants unnecessary court involvement in their life. But without careful and proactive estate planning, chances are that some aspect of your estate will end up being decided there....

New Legislation Could Mean the End of Estate and GSTT Taxes

Posted on: February 14th, 2017
On January 24, 2017, the Death Tax Repeal Act of 2017, or H.R. 631, was introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives by South Dakota congresswoman Kristi Noem. If passed, H.R. 631 would completely repeal the federal estate tax. A separate companion bill put before the Senate by South Dakota senator John Thune, S. 205, would also repeal the generation-skipping transfer tax (GSTT). ...

How to Pick a Trustee, Executor, and Agent Under a Power of Attorney

Posted on: February 7th, 2017
While the term fiduciary is a legal term with a long history, it very generally means someone who is legally obligated to act in another person’s best interests. Trustees, executors, and agents are all examples of fiduciaries. When you pick trustees, executors, and agents in your estate plan, you’re picking one or more people to make decisions in your and your beneficiaries’ best interests and in accordance with the instructions you leave. Luckily, understanding the basics of what each of these terms means and what to consider when making your choices can make your estate plan work far better....

Better to Play it Safe: Proactive Estate Planning and Cognitive Impairment

Posted on: January 31st, 2017
Most financially savvy individuals begin planning their estate when they’re in peak mental shape. The idea that this might change at some point in the distant future is an unpleasant one, and they would rather go about their estate planning as if they’ll be as sharp as a tack late into their golden years. Unfortunately, this common approach of ignoring a potential problem and hoping it simply won’t happen can leave a giant hole in your estate plan. Read on to find out that this common hole can be more easily filled than you might think. ...

A Powerful Exercise to Surface the Values You Want to Pass on to the Next Generation

Posted on: January 24th, 2017
Successful estate planning is about far more than simply passing your wealth to the next generation— it’s also about passing on your values. No matter which financial or legal structures you choose to contain and manage your assets, these instruments only preserve your wealth until it reaches the hands of your beneficiaries. What happens then? Your values enabled you to accumulate wealth and persevere in spite of obstacles and long odds. If your children and grandchildren don’t share and cherish those values, they could lose their inheritance as quickly as they received it....

Got Stuff? George Carlin Says You Need An Estate Plan!

Posted on: January 17th, 2017
George Carlin would have been a great pitchman for estate planning. You may remember his stand-up routine on "stuff." We all have stuff, and we're pretty particular about our stuff. We move it around with us, it's hard for some of us to get rid of it, and some of us don't like our stuff mixed up with other people's stuff....

Why Factoring Long-Term Care Into Your Estate Plan Pays Off

Posted on: January 15th, 2017
For most people, thinking about estate planning means focusing on what will happen to their money after they pass away. But that misses one pretty significant consideration: the need to plan for long-term care....

Impacts of the Trump Presidency on Estate Planning: Your Quick Guide

Posted on: January 5th, 2017
It's official — the Electoral College voted on December 19, 2016, essentially completing the 2016 presidential election cycle. With that bit of uncertainty behind us and a fresh year starting out, here's what you need to know about planning your estate under the incoming Trump administration and Republican-controlled Congress....

Asset Protection

Posted on: October 15th, 2013
A revocable trust provides no asset protection for the trust maker during his or her life. Upon the death of the trust maker, however, or upon the death of the first spouse to die if it is a joint trust, the trust becomes irrevocable as to the deceased trust maker's property and can provide asset protection for the beneficiaries, with two important caveats. First, the assets must remain in the trust to provide ongoing asset protection. In other words, once the trustee distributes the assets to a beneficiary, those assets are no longer protected and can be attached by that beneficiary's creditors....