Happy New Year – 2021! Now, Let’s Discuss Taxes!

The IRS has increased exemptions for 2021, which could be helpful to you. Specifically, the federal estate tax exemption has increased to $11.7 million (up from $11.58 million in 2020.) This is the amount you can transfer at your death or (as a lifetime credit) transfer as a gift during your lifetime (less gifts you have already made). As this tax exemption sunsets at the end of 2024 and returns to 2017 exemption amounts ($5.49 million), the current exemption presents an estate planning opportunity for you.

The annual gift tax exclusion amount remains $15,000 in 2021.

Happy New Year – 2020!

Happy New Year!

Here’s what the new year brings for estate and gifting taxes. The 2020 tax changes are:

  • The Estate and Gift tax exemption rate is increased (adjusted for inflation) to $11.58 million per individual in 2020.  This is an increase from $11.4 Million per individual in 2019.
  • Planning together, in 2020, married couples can transfer a total of $23.16 Million in inheritance or gifts without gift or estate tax (subject to prior use of the credit).
  • The annual gift exclusion amount is unchanged from 2019.  It remains $15,000.

Remember, the tax law that ushered in these increased Federal Estate Tax exemption amounts expires at the end of 2025.  Talk with your accountant or attorney to see if you could benefit from taking steps before 2026 to utilize the tax exemption.

New Years Resolutions?

Is an estate planning tune up on your list of New Years Resolutions?

If yes, you’re in good company!

Check out this fun “punch list” from Above the Law: Estate Planning Resolutions For 2019: How To Be A Grown-Up In The New Year.

This is a great list and includes items I’ve written about here and here.  A short summary of their list:

  1. Write a Last Will and Testament.
  2. Make a Power of Attorney.
  3. Execute a Health Care Proxy.
  4. Purchase a life insurance policy.
  5. Check beneficiary designation forms.
  6. Consider long-term care and disability insurance.
  7. Consult with a financial advisor.
  8. Talk to your parents and grandparents about their estate plans.
  9. Consider burial options.
  10. Inventory your assets.

Happy New Year – 2019 Estate & Gift Tax

Happy New Year!

Now, time to talk taxes!  The 2019 tax changes are:

  • The Estate and Gift tax exemption rate is increased (adjusted for inflation) to $11.4 Million per individual in 2019.  This is an increase from $11.18 Million per individual in 2018.
  • Planning together, in 2019, married couples can transfer a total of $22.8 Million in inheritance or gifts without paying gift or estate tax (subject to prior use of the credit).
  • The annual gift exclusion amount is unchanged from 2018.  It remains at $15,000.

Remember, the tax law that ushered in these increased Federal Estate Tax exemption amounts expires at the end of 2025.  Talk with your accountant or attorney to see if you could benefit from taking steps before 2026 to utilize the tax exemption.

Estate Planning Considerations for Mothers

How should a mother provide for her children in her will?  A recent article asks this question, pointing out that many women live alone and need to make decisions on their own, and not with a spouse or partner, regarding their estate planning, finances, and inheritance for their children.

“There are 26.7 million women who are aged 65 or older, according to the 2016 profile of older Americans by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Nearly half (46%) of women who are aged 75 or older live alone. These women have homes, financial resources and children, requiring them to make these decisions on their own.”

The author points out that a mother’s desire to treat her children “equally” in her estate planning, may not match the realities faced by her children.  “For many, dividing the inheritance equally among their offspring is a deeply held value. But it isn’t always easy: What if one child is a successful professional with a good pension plan, and the other is a struggling artist who may never have adequate health coverage? Or perhaps one daughter has a special-needs child, and the other has chosen not to have children? What then is the process of balancing their value of equal distribution and the contradictory need to make financially realistically decisions?”

 

Inheritance Tax in Indiana

Good news for Hoosiers doing their estate tax planning: Indiana does not have an inheritance tax.  Indiana previously had an inheritance tax, but it was repealed in 2013.  Thus, there is no Indiana Inheritance tax for those who die after December 31, 2012.

Indiana is in good company.  The majority of U.S. states do not have Inheritance Tax.  However, Federal Estate Tax and other taxes remain and are important considerations in planning your Indiana estate.

Finally Writing a Will

Here’s a journalist’s take on getting (his long put off) estate planning documents in place:

What it was Like to Finally Write My Will, by John Schwartz.

And here’s Mr. Schwartz’s “To Do” list from this piece.  Of course, I recommend always having a lawyer prepare your documents!

“Get a will. Really. Dying without one — “intestate” — is a drag for everyone.

Get a lawyer. Unless your life is wonderfully uncomplicated, you’ll want the help of an adviser. Even if you do it yourself, have an attorney look over your work.

Decide on your beneficiaries, and make sure your insurance policies and other investments are in agreement with what your will says.

Name an executor. It’s a tough and thankless job, so get someone with good judgment; this person can be paid out of your estate.

Got young kids? Name a guardian. If not, the courts will appoint one; why not take care of this essential matter ahead of time?

Secure your paperwork. Once the documents are done, put them in a safe place and make sure your relatives know how to find it.

Revisit it every five years. The world changes; your will should, too.”

This is a great starting list, but I also add:

Get Advanced Directives.  Have decision makers in place in the event of incapacity.

Put a Trust in Place for Minors.  Make sure you protect your children’s inheritance until they are at mature ages.

New Tax Law

Happy New Year!

We have some big tax changes. Highlights of the new tax law’s impact on your estate planning:

  • Federal Estate Tax:
    o The federal estate tax exemption amount has doubled. In 2018, each individual has a $11.2 Million exemption amount. This is double the 2017 exemption of $5.49 million per person.
    o As with recent years, the federal estate exemption amount will continue to be adjusted annually for inflation.
    o Portability remains. This means in 2018 a married couple can collectively pass $22.4 Million without Federal Estate Tax.
    o The stepped-up basis remains.
    o The top federal estate tax rate, on transfers more than the exemption amount, remains 40%.

 

  • Gift Tax:
    o The gift tax lifetime exemption amount has similarly doubled, now at $11.2 Million per person as well.
    o In 2018, the annual gift tax exclusion is $15,000 per person, an increase of $1,000 from 2017. The annual exclusion will continue to be annually adjusted for inflation.

 

  •  Generation Skipping Tax (“GST”)
    o The GST has also doubled in 2018, to $11.2 Million per person.

But note that under the new law, on January 1, 2026, these increases will all revert back to 2017 amounts.

With these significant changes in tax exemptions, it’s a good time to pull out your estate planning documents and review your plan. If your estate benefits from these exemption increases, you will want to evaluate whether to make gifts prior to the 2026 return to 2017 amounts.

It is also a good time to make sure your documents reflect your current intentions. In additional to reviewing who are the beneficiaries of your estate, review all of your decision makers. Include your incapacity documents in this review (Power of Attorney and Health Care Representative) and make sure you still have the correct persons named.

Prince – Dying Without A Will?

The recent passing of music legend Prince serves as yet another reminder to get your estate plan in place.  As reported in the press, Prince’s sister has filed papers with the Court alleging that her brother died without a will.  Dying without a will in place is called “intestate.”  You can find my summary of Indiana’s intestate laws, here and here.  The intestate laws act as a default estate plan, and very likely may not include all of your intentions.

In Prince’s case, it has been widely reported about his great business abilities and his strong desire to be in control of his music and his public image.  It also appears Prince was generous and was a benefactor to many charitable organizations. If Prince truly did not have a Last Will & Testament (and this remains to be seen), then his great desire for control over his art and his charitable intent will not be realized now that he has passed.  A true loss of opportunity for his great legacy.

For the rest of us, this is a reminder that it is never too early to plan and make sure our intentions will be followed.

A Celebrity’s Daughter’s Death and Estate Planning for Young Adults

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the importance of having your now adult child get his or her estate planning documents prepared.  The idea may seem unnecessary at first blush — your now 18 year old (or twenty-something) “adult” child has just reached the legal age of adulthood and likely has yet to accumulate significant assets.  He or she may in many ways seem still like a child to you, and not yet ready for important adult documents.  However, under the law, they are adults, and you are no longer their default decisionmaker nor are you automatically granted access to your adult child’s medical records.  This is an important time for your child to designate whom he or she wishes to make these types of decisions.

A celebrity death serves as reminder to us of all the necessity of getting these documents in place.  Bobbi Kristina Brown, the twenty-two year old daughter of Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown, died recently after several months in a comatose state.  You can read more about the tragic story here and here.  Unfortunately, her lack of incapacity planning documentation and resulting legal protections (not unusual, given her age) resulted in a family legal fight during her incapacity.  A reminder to talk with your young adult children about the necessity of getting, at a minimum, their incapacity documents in place under the counsel of an estate planning attorney.