The Tax Cut and Jobs Act signed into law on December 22, 2017, doubled the estate tax exemption. So nobody needs an estate plan any more right? Unfortunately not. This doubling is not slated to last forever, and depends highly on who is in control of congress when the bill sunsets in a few years.
You should look at this instead as a window to make changes that could save you millions. If you answer yes to any of the following questions, you should review your estate plan with an attorney.
- Did you get married or divorced?
- Did your spouse pass away or become incapacitated?
- Are there any new children in your family?
- Did any of your beneficiaries have any of the above changes in their family, or do they have any new financial problems?
- Are your designated fiduciaries still able to fulfill their roles?
- Did you sell or buy any significant assets?
- Did you move to a new state?
- Did you retire?
To speak about any of these changes with a responsive, qualified attorney, click or call today.
The new estate tax bill doubles the amount of federal estate tax exemption, so now there is no estate tax on estates up to just over 11 million. That means that if you sit in the 5-11 million range (or 10-22 million range for couples), you should be contacting your financial planner or estate planning attorney to review your estate planning documents, because you may be leaving money on the table.
One major gotcha is that this is only true from 2018-2025, so absent congressional action, the amount could revert to just over 5 million. Still, there are some planning techniques to be used in the meantime to ensure that you get the tax savings even if there is a reversion.
Other key estate planning provisions remain unchanged, importantly the property step-up value at death.
Whether or not you believe Chief Economic Advisor Gary Cohn said “Only Morons Pay the Estate Tax,” estate tax is a real problem for many Californians, especially home and business owners. It is something to prepare for ahead of time.
Imagine your parent has a family farm or a successful restaurant or small business and a home, together valued at $10 million. The estate tax would take $1.8 million of that, as this year the individual estate tax is 40% for estates worth over 5.49 million. With almost $2 million going to the state, many families are forced to choose. Do you sell the business? The family home? For many households, it is like having a leg knocked out from under them, and now all competing companies have to do is lean on them.
There are ways to avoid state tax, but many require years of careful planning. Most people who pay the estate tax aren’t morons; they were just caught unprepared. Don’t get caught.