Legacy Planning, Once Removed Podcast Series

Ongoing Series


McGuireWoods is thrilled to announce the launch of a new podcast hosted by Steve Murphy, chair of the firm’s private wealth services practice group. “Legacy Planning, Once Removed” explores estate planning and provides steps for the management of wealth throughout life and upon death. Steve showcases meaningful ways to pass wealth on to others and accomplish donors’ financial short- and long-term goals.

Over the next 25 years, baby boomers will pass an unprecedented $68 trillion to beneficiaries and charities. The key challenge of legacy planning lies in how to use wealth to help the next generation be productive and independent.

Podcast topics focus on beneficiary designations and property ownership, estate and gift tax, and best practices for productive investment, wealth management and transfer of wealth. 

Videos are posted on YouTube and social media channels. Podcasts also are available on iTunes and Spotify.

Episode 26 – Substance Abuse and the Challenge of Trusts

On this episode we talk about the potential advantages of transferring wealth, but also the potential pitfalls — and the terrible irony that transferring wealth in the wrong way, at the wrong times or for the wrong reasons can sometimes have negative consequences. 

In this episode, we explore the sad situation of a beneficiary who suffers from substance abuse. In this case, the donor may fear that a gift or trust might enable destructive behavior. But if structured in the right way in terms of access, control and flexibility, the trust could even facilitate treatment and recovery.

Episode 25 – What Is a Dynasty Trust, Perpetuities Trust or Generation-Skipping Trust?

Many clients ask about a particular kind of trust called a “dynasty trust,” “perpetuities trust” or “generation-skipping trust.” There is no set way to draft these types of trusts — rather, these terms only emphasize the intent of the trust to benefit future generations.

This episode discusses those trusts — or rather, their common features or elements, and how to incorporate these aspects into the terms of a trust related to access, control and flexibility. The episode also addresses options for funding and administering the trust for tax and nontax purposes.

Episode 24 – Expressing Goals and Intent for the Trust: The Trust Letter of Wishes

On this podcast, Steve has emphasized that the estate plan is designed to carry out the intent of the testator or settlor. With that in mind, it is especially important for the client to communicate those wishes, so that the trustee, beneficiaries and other interested parties understand the settlor’s intent in situations that might arise, such as a beneficiary’s request for funds to purchase a home or for the beneficiary’s support or education. 

Sometimes the trust document is not the ideal place for the settlor to include more specific instructions — the language in the trust agreement often is complicated by legalese, or by tax and other practical considerations. Some clients prefer to communicate those wishes informally or rely on the trustee to make the right decision. But many clients would benefit from leaving a separate letter, sometimes called a “Trust Letter of Wishes,” that expresses the settlor’s intent in the settlor’s own words.

This episode explores the Trust Letter of Wishes, walks through some important limitations and guiding principles for the letter, and offers suggestions on how to use such a letter to communicate the settlor’s intent.

Episode 23 – Naming Guardians for Minor Children

For parents with young children, naming the guardian who will raise their children upon the parents’ passing can be one of the most important and foundational questions of an estate plan. And in fact, because this decision is so personal and important, many clients find it daunting — and as a result, they might delay making the decision, or even delay putting in place their estate plan altogether. This episode explores some common questions about the naming of a guardian and provides helpful tips for clients who are considering who to name and how to approach this important decision.

Episode 22 – Building Flexibility into the Estate Plan: the Power of Appointment

On this podcast, we talk about the importance of flexibility in irrevocable trusts and estate planning. Once a trust is irrevocable, we can explore methods to modify that trust to address changed circumstances. But in the planning process, we can look ahead and build flexibility into the documents so that even after the testator’s passing, the plan can be updated in the future.

One common method to build in flexibility is to give a person a power, called a “power of appointment,” that enables the person to change the terms of the trust and even the beneficiaries. This power can provide helpful flexibility. But as we explore in this episode, that power might give too much flexibility to that person, and the power should be carefully structured to ensure the client’s wishes are carried out.

Episode 21 – Passing Down the “Family Cottage” or Other Legacy Property

As we have discussed on this podcast, legacy planning is not just about transferring money. It’s also about transferring values and relationships. And often the transfer of specific property goes hand-in-hand with the fostering of those values and relationships. To this end, many clients hope to pass along a family vacation home, farm or other gathering place to future generations. Practitioners and advisers often refer to this as the “family cottage.” The idea is certainly attractive. And if transferred in the right ways, such a “family cottage” can be a gathering place for generations to come, and a place where those values are communicated, and those relationships are fostered. Unfortunately, if not transferred correctly, the “family cottage” can become a source of tension and resentment for the family and can undermine those same values and relationships that the client hoped to encourage. This episode explores factors to consider in structuring such transfers.

Episode 20 – Helping a Beneficiary Purchase a Home

Many clients like the idea of helping a child, grandchild or other beneficiary with the purchase of a home to give the person a “head start” and a sense of independence. But this kind of transfer can have unanticipated, adverse consequences. This episode explores options and best practices for structuring transfers from a tax and non-tax perspective, and discusses how a trust may provide for such a purchase even after the client’s passing.

Episode 19 – The Step-Transaction Doctrine and the Case of Smaldino

Because each donor is treated as a separate party for tax and other purposes, donors often involve others in making gifts. For example, a donor might transfer assets to his or her spouse, so the spouse actually makes the gift for tax purposes. These transfers might be especially important, given the possible “sunset” of current gift, estate and GST tax exemptions at the end of 2025. 

However, the manner and timing of those transfers should be carefully structured so the transaction is respected. In some cases, the various steps of a transaction can be collapsed, so they are treated as a single transaction — with disastrous results. This episode reviews pitfalls for clients who seek to engage in this kind of planning, and considers the cautionary tale of Smaldino, a recent Tax Court case.

Episode 18 – The Reciprocal Trust Doctrine

This podcast often discusses the elements of a trust, and how to grant access, control and flexibility to beneficiaries and trustees. But for tax and other purposes, the donor typically cannot retain those kinds of powers.

Interestingly, the donor often can set up a trust for the benefit of a spouse, and grant the spouse that kind of access, control and flexibility — Episode 11 discussed that concept, the spousal lifetime access trust or SLAT. A popular scenario involves each spouse setting up a SLAT to benefit the other spouse or others.

However, such transfers should be carefully structured to avoid the “reciprocal trust doctrine” and to ensure the transactions are respected. This episode discusses key principles of the reciprocal trust doctrine, lays out problems that can arise when setting up multiple trusts, and offers tips on the best way to create such trusts.

Episode 17 – Annual Gifting to Individuals: Options, Opportunities and Pitfalls

The beginning of the year is a good time to think about annual gifts to descendants and other beneficiaries. Episode 17 will walk through some options to make efficient use of annual gifting and also address some potential pitfalls.

Episode 16 – Gift and Estate Tax, Inflation Adjustments for 2024

In previous episodes, we discussed the exemptions that apply for gift, estate and generation-skipping transfer tax. Many of these exemptions are adjusted for inflation each year. In Episode 16, we’ll review those exemptions and the adjustment for inflation in 2024, and we will look ahead to some potential changes in the law at the end of 2025.

Episode 15 – The Rich Relative Playbook

For this podcast and in general, we think a lot about wealth and the transfer of wealth. Of course, we should define “wealth” broadly, to include not just money and property, but also relationships, values, history and wisdom. On this podcast in particular, we talk about ways to transfer wealth to encourage and foster the right kinds of values and behavior, rather than enabling the worst kinds. This is a difficult and complex process.

In this episode, Steve explores one type of person, whom he calls the “rich relative,” who seems to do a great job of sharing wealth — including money and wisdom — in a positive way. He discusses the concept of the “rich relative” and this person’s approach to sharing of wealth, and what the rich relative’s playbook might teach us about the opportunities and pitfalls of transferring wealth.

Episode 14 – Leaving It All to Charity: Lessons From Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis

Celebrities Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis recently made the news with their comments about their estate planning. They plan to give all of their money to charity upon their deaths, as part of their plan to raise well-adjusted kids. In this episode, Steve unpacks the comments they have made about their estate plan. He identifies some opportunities and pitfalls, and he distills some lessons others can consider in structuring their own estate planning to achieve their goals.

Episode 13 – It’s 5 o’Clock: Do You Know Where Your Will Is? A Lesson From Aretha Franklin

If you had to say where your will is located right now, could you?  Despite the importance of that document, many clients are not sure where the original is located.  In this episode, Steve discusses the case of Aretha Franklin’s will, and how the location of her will led to uncertainty and litigation regarding her true intent. In that case, two potential wills of Franklin’s were found in two separate locations, and the jury had to determine which one was her true last will and testament. This case is a cautionary tale in many ways, but it especially highlights the need to store original documents in the proper place.  Tune in for tips on where to store your will, who else should know its location, and how you can keep track of that information throughout your life.

Episode 12 – SLATs and the Case of McKim vs. McKim

Steve Murphy, chair of the private wealth services group, dives deeper into the subject of SLATs in this episode. SLATs can work well with estate tax benefits and creditor protection benefits, all while giving the spouse access, flexibility, and control. But in the event of death or divorce, suddenly some of those advantages evaporate. To explain this, Steve explores the case of McKim vs. McKim, which presents a challenging situation where the husband set up a SLAT with his wife as beneficiary and trustee however, they divorced.

Episode 11 – Spousal Lifetime Access Trusts, or SLATs

Steve Murphy, chair of the private wealth services practice group at McGuireWoods, discusses the Spousal Lifetime Access Trust, also known as the SLAT. Steve explains the rights that your spouse can have in this trust through the categories of access, flexibility, and control. And it is ultimately up to you, the client, to determine what level of access, flexibility, and control you would like to give your spouse as you draft a SLAT.

Episode 10 – Trustee Removal and Case Update on Leo Kahn Revocable Trust

In this episode, Steve discusses the importance of the rule-based power to remove and replace a trustee. He explores this topic through the Leo Kahn Revocable Trust case in Massachusetts. In this case, the settlor named three trustees, and one trustee eventually wanted to remove the other two. The trust, however, included provisions that prevented this action, which landed the matter in court to resolve potential ambiguity in the document. Throughout his discussion, Steve stresses the importance of the power to remove and replace trustees – and the importance of making this power as clear as possible.

Episode 9 – Selecting the Right Trustee 

In this episode, Steve provides insights on selecting a trustee of an ongoing trust, who may be the beneficiary or a third-party trustee. Steve will explain the advantages and disadvantages of each option, in addition to the three categories of functions your chosen trustee will manage.

Episode 8 – Trusts and Trustee Discretion

In this episode, Steve discusses the terms of a trust, how to ensure that the best trust structure is in place, and how to establish the right directions for a trustee to follow. He unpacks the differences between a rules-based approach with automatic steps for distribution of the trust versus a standards-based approach, where you give your discretion to your trustee, but the decision making is really vested to them with your guidance. 

Episode 7 – Trust Income Tax

Steve has covered the transfer tax system of estate tax and gift tax, and generation-skipping transfer (GST) tax thus far in the Once Removed series. But there’s a separate tax regime everyone should be mindful of in estate planning: the income tax. Steve details the income tax and the particular rules of how it applies to trusts. He will explain how you can build in flexibility to make sure your intent is carried out in the future, and is carried out in a tax-efficient manner.

Episode 6 – In re Harrison and “Holdback” Trusts

Steve Murphy, chair of the private wealth services practice group, presents the case of In re Harrison. In this case, the settlors of a trust tried to go the simple route – they had the assets pass outright to their grandson for the most part. The assets would be held in trust for his benefit for a period of time. But when the time came for those distributions, the trustee wasn’t so sure the grandson was ready for those funds. As Steve walks you through this pivotal case, he’ll underscore the important principles of making the right decisions when planning that will benefit your beneficiaries and yourself.

Episode 5 – Trusts

Steve Murphy, chair of the private wealth services group, discusses four potential benefits of a trust structure and ways to balance potential concerns for your estate plan through simplicity and flexibility, on the one hand, or structure and certainty, on the other. He addresses the question of when you should have a gift or bequest held in a long-term, irrevocable trust for a beneficiary.

Episode 4 – Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax

There is a limit on how much you can benefit future generations without incurring additional transfer tax. Tune in to this episode to learn about the Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax (GST). This is a complex tax that applies to transfers of wealth between multiple generations. Steve Murphy, chair of the private wealth services practice group at McGuireWoods, shares the history of the GST tax and how it could affect different generations.

Episode 3 – Estate and Gift Tax

What is the goal for transferring wealth during life and upon death? Whatever your plan may be, taxes will be a part of it. However, they don’t need to be the sole factor.

Steve Murphy, chair of the private wealth services practice group at McGuireWoods, explains why taxes should not be the most important factors in the transfer of your wealth this episode of the Once Removed series. Steve provides substantive information on the importance of ultimately knowing where you fall on the estate tax spectrum and explains the exceptions that exist to assist you with management of your wealth.

Episode 2 – Property Ownership, Beneficiary Designations, and Avoiding Probate

How do you ensure that your assets are passed as simply and efficiently as possible?

Steve Murphy, chair of the private wealth services group at McGuireWoods, will walk you through the classes of property involved before probate, the process of probate, and the importance of keeping a well-maintained list of your assets and checking it twice. Steve shares that avoiding probate is just a factor in your estate planning, not a means to an end.

Episode 1 – Once Removed: A Thoughtful Estate Plan

Once you are removed from the equation, what kind of structure can you leave behind to increase your chances that your wishes will be carried out? Steve Murphy, chair of the private wealth services group, introduces his new podcast series in this first episode. He explains the thought behind the “once removed” concept and how our actions affect our wealth in life and upon death.

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