Thursday, May 7, 2015
Amongst the dozens of things newly widowed Roberta Bekerman had to do, she also had to persuade Delta Air Lines that she was entitled to inherit her husband’s frequent flier miles. Although the company’s policy states that its “SkyMiles” cannot be transferred upon death, Ms. Bekerman asked them to make an exception.
Ms. Bekerman’s experience illustrates what lawyers and people with frequent-flier programs describe as an inconsistency: Though the published “terms and conditions” of most airline programs prohibit the transfer of miles, heirs are often able to get the rule waived. For example, through its MileagePlus program, United has “made case-by-case exceptions” allowing miles to be transferred after the death or divorce of a member, charging a $150 transfer fee. Many lawyers anticipate that this airline boilerplate will not be the last word, and include provisions in clients’ wills saying who will receive the frequent-flier miles when the account owner dies.
See Deborah L. Jacobs, Loyalty Program Rules Aren’t Ironclad, The New York Times, May 6, 2015.
Tuesday, January 20, 2015
An American woman who is on trial in Indonesia for the murder of her mother has filed a lawsuit seeking money from a trust in the victim’s name to pay legal bills.
Heather Mack and her boyfriend, Tommy Schaefer, could face the death penalty if found guilty of murdering Sheila von Wiese-Mack, whose body was found in a suitcase outside a luxury resort in Bali.
To pay for her legal expenses, Mack filed a suit in Chicago to transfer $150,000 out of her mother’s $1.6 million trust fund to which she is the sole beneficiary. The money would go to a bank to pay future billed expenditures. A hearing on the matter is scheduled in Cook County circuit court on Friday.
See Reuters in Indonesia, Woman on Trial In Mother’s Murder In Bali Files Lawsuit to Access Trust Fund, The Guardian, Jan. 16, 2015.
Special thanks to Joel Dobris (Professor of Law, UC Davis School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.
Wednesday, January 7, 2015
As I have previously discussed, 529 college savings plans can be a powerful vehicle to finance higher education, however, there are additional considerations for U.S. expatriates.
529 plans are established in a specific U.S. state under that state’s rules as well as federal rules. To establish a 529 account, many plans require the account holder have a U.S. residence at the time the account is established. If you plan to move overseas, it is recommended you establish 529 plans before leaving the U.S. Yet, if you are already living overseas you may consider having a trusted family member create the account for the benefit of your children. This could mitigate any negative tax treatment of the account in a foreign jurisdiction. Remember, the account holder has the right to change the beneficiary or to surrender the holding of the account to someone whom you did not elect.
Many non-U.S. based educational institutions are eligible for 529 withdrawals, but if the beneficiary decides to attend a college that does not qualify, the 529 plan can be used for another family member.
See Jonathan Lachowitz, Ask an Expert: Tips for U.S. Expats Using 529 College Savings Plans, The Wall Street Journal, Jan. 5, 2015.
Monday, October 13, 2014
There are approximately 868 million people across the globe who are at least sixty years or older. This comprises about twelve percent of the world’s population and by 2050, it is estimated that more than two billion people, or 21% of the global population will be sixty or older.
HelpAge International recently ranked the social and economic well-being of older residents in ninety-six countries in the “Global AgeWatch 2014 Index.” The report rated each country on four broad factors important to an aging population: supporting income security, fostering good health, employment and education, and the overall environment for older residents. While Norway was rated the best country for elder residents, Afghanistan was rated the worst country for older people for the second consecutive year. Provided below are the worst countries to grow old in according to the report:
- West Bank and Gaza
- The United Republic of Tanzania
See Alexander E.M. Hess and Thomas C. Frohlich, The Worst Countries to Grow Old In, USA Today, Oct. 12, 2014.
Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing this article to my attention.
Friday, September 19, 2014
The European Court of Justice recently ruled that Spanish authorities cannot charge different rates of inheritance tax for residents and non-residents. In Spain, there are a complex range of tax relief options that can reduce the tax to zero for residents, however, these have previously been unavailable to non-residents.
Non-residents who have been discriminated against by paying more tax than Spaniards for inheritances or gifts of property will likely be owed a refund of the difference. The verdict earlier this month could open the floodgate to thousands of people reclaiming their tax. Thus far, the Spanish authorities have not responded to the ruling. Spain has six months to change its laws, which should come by January 2016.
The reason for the decision rested on the notion that charging other members of the EU different rates to Spanish residents went against the spirit of the European union. The court said the Spanish legislation was discriminatory and there was no reason why inheritance tax should be charged at a higher rate for non-Spaniards than for Spaniards.
See Liz Phillips, EU Court Rules Against Spain Over Discriminatory Tax Rules, The Telegraph, Sept. 18, 2014.
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
According to the 2014 Retire Overseas Index, 1.4 million Americans are choosing to retire overseas. Here are the seven best retirement locations in the world, based on cost-of-living, climate, healthcare, crime statistics, and other quality of life criteria:
- The Algarve, Portugal
- Cuenca, Ecuador
- George Town, Malaysia
- Chiang Mai, Thailand
- Dumaguete, Philippines
- Pau, France
- Medellin, Colombia
See Richard Eisenberg, The 7 Best Places to Retire Around the World, Forbes, Aug. 25, 2014.
Friday, August 22, 2014
Samsung Electronics Co. is sitting on a cash pile that is 58 percent larger than Apple Inc.’s treasure chest. The message to South Korea’s biggest company is “use it or lose it.”
The government of President Park Geun Hye published plans for a ten percent tax on what should be either spent on wages and investment or distributed to shareholders. The levy could affect Samsung, which had the equivalent of $60 billion in cash and short-term investments compared to Apple that had $38 billion.
Moon Chang Yong, head of Korean Tax Bureau, said “We’re trying to give a signal here . . .The aim is to create a virtuous cycle and recirculate corporate earnings back to households.”
Yet under the new rule, companies are unlikely to increase investments, dividends or wages significantly. “Companies may prefer to use their internal cash reserves rather than sell bonds when they need capital expenditures and that’s what the government wants.” As for now, it is uncertain whether the new law will lead to increases in investments and wages.
See Kyungji Cho and Cynthia Kim, Samsung Told by Korean Tax Man To Use Apple Topping Cash, Bloomberg, Aug. 20, 2014.
Monday, August 11, 2014
America is undeniably facing a retirement calamity. Millions of boomers fear that they will outlive their savings. Yet many retirement experts think New Zealand may have answers that may help avert a crisis here.
Although New Zealand has a population of just 2% of ours, it has a similar swell of postwar boomers who were not the greatest savers. However, the huge difference lies in the seven-year popular voluntary KiwiSaver retirement savings plan that is helping to transform its country into a nation of savers. Everyone can have a KiwiSaver plan for life, and its transferable from job to job. This is different from plans in the U.S. because how much you save for retirement, depends greatly on whether you work for an employer with a 401(k) type savings plan or pension plan. “Only about half of the U.S. workforce actually has access to an employer retirement savings plan or pension.”
The KiwiSaver has been “the most successful savings scheme in the last 100 years.” Since its inception, 2.3 New Zealanders have signed up.
See Richard Harris, Why New Zealand’s Retirement System Works So Well, Market Watch, Aug. 5, 2014.
Wednesday, August 6, 2014
Many Americans dream about living overseas, yet do not realize that living is different than visiting. Before you retire to a foreign country, consider not just weather and cost of living, but also healthcare; safety; tax and visa requirements; and how friendly the country is to foreigners. Depending on your goals, here are some possibilities:
- Establish a base for traveling abroad. Culture, history and cuisine make Europe a popular draw for many North Americans. Yet, if high dollar areas like Paris are not in your budget, consider a place where your money will go further. These may include Brussels, Vienna and Dublin. You may even consider areas throughout Spain.
- Experience a small-town life. This idea can be appealing to people seeking foreign culture in a more intimate setting. Colonials are grabbing cottages that have come on the market as the French and Italian countryside grays. Prices are stagnant in both countries, thus the areas offer great values.
- More bang for your buck. Mexican cities of San Miguel de Allende, Cuernavaca and Guanajuanto have been popular with cost-conscious retirees. Those loving eco-tourism are also drawn to Costa Rica and Ecuador.
See Deborah L. Jacobs, The Best Foreign Retirement Havens, Forbes.
Thursday, July 31, 2014
After starting with almost nothing, successful entrepreneurs now run some of Taiwan’s largest companies. These firms have helped propel Taiwan’s rapid economic growth over the past decades, and are crucial to maintaining the island’s future.
Yet some analysts estimate that only one third of these family run companies, which account for up to 90% of the island’s business, have a succession plan. “In Taiwan, though, it’s still the emperor’s style of succession. No-one outside can tell what will happen—it’s the founder’s decision.”
It is a traditional Chinese approach for founders to divide the family firm up between their children however, this tradition has divided companies. Many Taiwanese companies have become so large that younger family members have been incapable of taking a leadership role. “Family businesses are definitely very important in Taiwan and across Asia because they control a lot of resources . . . And if they make the wrong decisions . . . the whole economy will suffer a lot.” Because many first generation entrepreneurs are workaholics, they have difficulty relinquishing their position as they want to make major decisions for their company. Consequently, their successor does not have the opportunity to handle the whole company.
See Cindy Sui, The Tricky Business of Succession Planning in Taiwan, BBC News, July 30, 2014.