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 Holidays & Farewell, 2020!

The holidays have arrived and the new year will be soon upon us. Safe to say, many of us are ready to say goodbye to 2020!

As you make your list of plans and goals for 2021, it may be time to put an estate plan in place or revisit your existing plan. We are able to meet via videoconference, from the safety of your home. And we can assist you with remote signing of documents. Contact us to discuss how we can help you 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.

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?”

 

Estate Planning Under New Tax Law

With the new tax law, and the Federal Estate Tax exemption at more than $11 Million per person, the question arises: Is Estate Planning Now Dead?

The answer is without question: No, estate planning is certainly not dead!  Planning is as important as ever.  The change in tax law merely provides an opportunity to focus on other priorities, including providing for care and protection of minor children, determining the right decision makers, and achieving charitable and family goals.  The list of planning considerations is as diverse and as unique as each individual, and the for those who no longer planning around the Federal Estate Tax, this is a great opportunity to make sure other planning objectives are achieved.

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.

Do You Have A Will?

If the answer is “no,” a recent survey shows that you are not alone.  Only 4 in 10 American adults have a will or trust in place.  While older Americans are more likely to have a plan in place (81 percent of those age 72 or older and 58 percent of boomers), younger Americans, including those at ages of having minor children, are much less likely to have a plan.  A “a whopping 78 percent of millennials (ages 18-36) and 64 percent of Generation Xers (ages 37-52) do not have a will.”  See this AARP article for more information about the survey results.

 

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.