Vermont Estate Planning Blog

Monday, August 3, 2020

Office Operations - Summer 2020

Although our physical office has re-opened, we are meeting clients by appointment only.   In order to address the needs of our clients and the community while promoting safety for all, limited members of our professional team work in the office on a daily basis.  When possible, our attorneys continue to work remotely, meeting with existing and prospective clients via video or telephone conferencing. For clients visiting our office for a scheduled appointment, we have implemented office safety measures that include physical distancing, facial coverings, sneeze guards, hand sanitizer, and routine surface cleaning.  Remote (virtual) witnessing and notarization of documents is also available when appropriate.
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Thursday, July 30, 2020

Lawyer Joke

A man walked into a lawyer’s office and asked about the fee.

The lawyer responded, “It’s $100 for 3 questions.” 

“Isn’t that a lot?” asked the man. 

“Yes,” responded the lawyer….and what’s your third question?”


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Monday, July 27, 2020

Lady Bird Deed Has Soared into Vermont Statutes

An Enhanced Life Estate Deed (ELED), sometimes referred to as a “Life Estate Deed with Reserved Powers,” “Lady Bird Deed,” “Medicaid Deed,” or “Italian Deed,” graduated from Vermont’s common law into Title 27 of the Vermont Statutes when Governor Phil Scott signed the Vermont Enhanced Life Estate Deed Act into law on July 13, 2020.  Although there are variations of life estate deeds in other states, Vermont has been just one of six states that recognize an ELED.  (The 5 other states include Texas, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, and West Virginia.)

With the common law life estate remaining intact, the main purpose of the ELED Act was to clarify some of the rights and reservations of the property owner (Grantor), settling title questions raised by Courts, lenders, and title insurance  companies.

The following outline recaps the highlights of previously-existing ELED:

¨ Grantor conveys a property interest to a Grantee that takes effect upon the death of the Grantor

¨ Grantee acquires immediate title to property upon death of Grantor, without probate

¨ There is no Gift Tax return requirement, as there is no present gift

¨ The property receives a step-up in tax basis (for capital gains)upon the death of the Grantor

¨ If used as a primary residence, the property is an exempt asset for Medicaid purposes (with an equity limit of $595,000 if no spouse resides there) AND there is no transfer penalty

As an improvement upon existing common law, the ELED Act adds the following clarifications:

¨ Grantor may revoke or revise the deed without consent of Grantee

¨ Granting of mortgage does not revoke the ELED

¨ If a sole Grantee, or a “tenant-in-common” Grantee predeceases the Grantor, that interest will pass to that Grantee’s heirs or beneficiaries in Probate


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Friday, May 1, 2020

Lawyer Joke

Q: What do you call healthy lawyers voluntarily self-isolating in the future?

A: Alternate reality.


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Friday, April 24, 2020

Office Operations

Like many professional businesses, our attorneys and staff have been working remotely since the end of March, serving the needs of existing and prospective clients “virtually.”  In accordance with the Governor’s most recent Order, some staff have returned to our physical location, though attorneys will continue to connect with clients via telephone and video chat.  When our entire team can return to our physical offices, we will continue to routinely sanitize and practice social distancing in order to promote the safety of our clients, staff, and community.


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Friday, April 24, 2020

Indoor Scavenger Hunt-Estate Edition

There’s no debating that we are living through unprecedented and challenging times right now.  While many are combating this pandemic on the front lines, many more of us are following the “stay home, stay safer” model prescribed by our leaders.  And staying home may be on our agenda for longer than originally expected or what some of us think we can tolerate.  The binge-watching, the banana bread baking, the macaroni necklace crafting, the mask-sewing, the spring cleaning, closet organizing, and the list goes on. Have you run out of ways to spend your time at home?

Here’s another suggestion: indoor scavenger hunt—estate edition.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2020

COVID-19 Office Update

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have temporarily closed our physical office.   We will continue to monitor emails, answer the main office telephone, and retrieve telephone messages as we strive to meet the needs of our clients from our remote offices.

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Wednesday, February 19, 2020

The SECURE (“Setting Every Community Up for Retirement”) Act of 2019: Why it May Not Impact Your Estate Plan

Many individuals have questions and concerns about the SECURE Act that was signed into law at the close of 2019.  One section significantly changes the rules regarding required distributions from retirement plans (IRAs, 401(k)s, 403(b)s and the like) – not for the plan participant or owner, but for the beneficiary. 

Spouses and a small category of other individuals are not affected by the law – they may continue to stretch the distributions over their life expectancy.  However, for most non-spouse beneficiaries inheriting a retirement account, funds will need to be withdrawn in full no later than ten (10) years after the owner’s death, instead of the previous lifetime “stretch” of those distributions.  Individuals who have been aggressively directing taxable income to retirement accounts, with the assumption that their children and grandchildren would be able to withdraw funds over many decades, are the most affected by the new law.

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Friday, January 31, 2020

Tip/News: New Numbers for 2020

Estate/transfer tax

Vermont estate tax exclusion: $4,250,000

Federal estate and lifetime gift tax threshold: $11,580,000

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Monday, January 27, 2020

Lawyer Joke

Q: If a lawyer and IRS agent are both drowning and you can only save one, would you go to lunch or read the news?

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Thursday, January 23, 2020

The SECURE Act: Glass Half Full?

There is no doubt that the SECURE Act of 2019, signed into law on December 20, 2019, as part of the spending package, revolutionizes  the treatment of many retirement benefits, particularly in the area of required withdrawals for the plan-owner’s beneficiary.  But, should you panic?  Well, that may depend upon whether you are a glass-half full or glass half-empty personality type.

Here’s what you need to know in basic terms:

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