Update – “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act”
On December 22, 2017, the President signed into law the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” (P.L. 115-97). This law changed the estate and gift tax exemption from estate taxes from $5 million dollars to $10 million dollars which is indexed to inflation with a base year of 2011. This brings the amount exempt from estate tax decedent to 11.2 million dollars beginning for deaths occurring after December 31, 2017. If properly done this amount can be doubled by married couples to $22.4 million dollars.
Good Estate Planning Makes for a Good Living:
When you’ve worked all your life to accumulate assets for the benefit of yourself and your family, you don’t want “unintended heirs” such as the tax collector and estate administrator to benefit financially at the expense of your intended heirs.
An estate plan can help assure your family of financial security after your death. It can cut taxes, administrative costs, and red tape. It allows you to dispose of your assets as you wish, with consideration given to your heirs’ individual needs and desires.
Estate planning isn’t just for the wealthy few. Most people are aware of the exclusion for a certain amount of assets from estate taxes. The exclusion amount my seem very large. Yet, when you consider the value of retirement benefits, life insurance, the value of your home and other assets, you may be surprised at how much you’re worth.
Complete the worksheet in this brochure to begin your own estate plan. List your assets, their estimated value, and how title to them is held. Attach additional sheets if necessary.
Bring this worksheet —in any stage of completion— to our office, and let us give you an estimate of the estate taxes that would be due on your estate. We can also review with you the planning techniques that are most appropriate in your particular situation.
Consider these planning ideas
The cornerstone of your estate plan is your will which directs the overall distribution of your assets. But to minimize estate taxes you may need a variety of other techniques, such as trusts or a lifetime giving program.
• Credit shelter trust. One commonly used trust is the credit shelter trust or bypass trust, designed to make sure that a married couple uses both of their estate tax exemptions.
• Life insurance trust. Another type of trust can be set up to hold life insurance policies preventing the proceeds from being included in your estate.
• Charitable trust. A charitable remainder trust allows a spouse or children to access the earnings from assets in the trust for a time, with the assets eventually going to charity.
• Living trust. A revocable living trust is intended to avoid the need for assets to go through a court proceeding known as probate after you die.
A lifetime giving program takes advantage of the fact that you can give tax-free gifts of a certain amount to as many recipients as you like each year. This can be a great way to transfer assets to children, grandchildren, and other intended heirs while you’re still alive, reducing the taxable value of your estate in the process.
You can even avoid the annual limit on the amount of a gift if you make gifts directly to an educational institution for college expenses or to a hospital for medical expenses.
If you own a family business or farm, you have special estate planning challenges. A lack of cash to pay estate taxes forces the sale of many family businesses. Good estate planning can maximize taxes or provide the liquidity to pay them.
In addition to planning to lower taxes, every owner of a family business should include succession planning as a part of his or her estate plan. Each plan will be different, depending on the owner’s wishes and the particular circumstances of the business.
Finally, don’t forget that an estate plan is about more than taxes. Your plan should include a durable power of attorney in case you become incapacitated, a medical directive or “living will” to specify your wishes for medical treatment, and directives for guardianship of your minor children.
And if you already have an estate plan, pull it out and review it. You’ll be surprised how quickly it can become out of date.
A good estate plan should be a good living plan that allows you to enjoy your assets. It should allow you to live according to your preferred lifestyle and, upon your death, to have whatever is left pass according to your wishes. For assistance with your estate planning, give us a call.
A good place to start is to figure out what you have and what you owe, the worksheet below is perfect for doing this.