A recent client of mine had an existing estate plan that he and his wife had prepared decades before. I have changed the details, but the substance is the same.
He wanted to make changes to his estate plan. He thought that under his current estate plan, he was giving his baseball memorabilia to his brother and his jewelry to his nephew. He decided now that instead wanted everything to go to charity.
When I reviewed his estate plan, I found that his estate plan didn’t say any of that!
He had used a mail-order estate planning service, similar to many internet services of today. There were documents he had sent to the mail-order service, and those documents said what he wanted, but his wishes hadn’t been incorporated into his estate plan.
The lesson here is that even if you already have an estate plan, read through it, and ensure that what you want is going to who you want. You only have one legacy. Be sure to secure it properly.
Famous food critic Anthony Bourdain’s fortune, initially reported at $16 million, is being probated in New York at $1.2 million. This could be just misreported information, but often travelers like himself will have offshore assets that will not be probated in America.
In addition to his cash and tangible assets, most of which was left to his daughter, he left his frequent flyer miles to his wife. Not all frequent flyer programs will allow miles to be passed on, but if you travel as often, or even a tenth as often as Anthony Bourdain, this is another area to consider when making an estate plan.
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.
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.