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The New Tax Law: Does Your Estate Plan Need to be Updated?

Congress passed the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (the 2012 Tax Act) in the final hours of 2012.  The 2012 Tax Act means big changes for gifts, trusts and estates tax laws from what was scheduled to occur without any congressional action – something better known as the Fiscal Cliff.

We now have a permanent estate and gift tax exemption amount of $5,000,000, adjusted for inflation annually beginning in 2010.  We also have permanent portability, or the availability of a surviving spouse to use the deceased spouse’s estate tax exemption in certain circumstances.  The estate tax rate is set at 40%, and our annual gift tax exemption amount was raised to $14,000.  In addition, there were a number of changes to the taxation of trusts.

With the new changes in the tax law in place, and some of them “permanent,” does your estate plan need to be revisited?

The most popular estate plan for decades for married couples has been the bypass trust/marital trust or A/B trust combination to ensure the most advantageous tax situation.  With more than $10 million in assets exempt from estate tax, the concern over estate taxes has been all but taken off the table.  These trusts are still fantastic vehicles in an estate plan for reasons other than just tax savings, but it may be a good time to revisit your documents and make sure the trusts or other planning techniques fit your situation.

Dig out the copies of your current estate plan, and review these questions below.  If anything is of concern or may just need a second glance, give us a call.

  1. Is your estate large enough to trigger federal estate taxes?
  2. Does your plan distribute your property outright or in trust?  Do you know why?
  3. Does the plan name the appropriate individuals or entities to make distribution, investment or other important decisions?
  4. Is there a relationship among your beneficiaries that could cause a conflict with the decision maker you appoint?
  5. Are you recently married or divorced?
  6. Is either spouse a non-U.S. citizen?
  7. Are your charitable intentions, if any, properly reflected?
  8. Are your assets properly protected in the case of creditors, judgments or divorce?
  9. Do you have the proper powers of attorney in place in the event of disability or incapacity?  Does the document name your desired agent?
  10. Is your plan just out of date?

For more information regarding estate planning, business law or tax controversy and  compliance, please visit the Hoffman & Associates website at www.hoffmanestatelaw.com or call us at 404-255-7400.

In accordance with IRS Circular 230, this article is not to be considered a “covered opinion” or other written tax advice and should not be relied upon for IRS audit, tax dispute, or any other purpose.  The information contained herein is provided “as is” for general guidance on matters of interest only.  Hoffman & Associates, Attorneys-at-Law, LLC is not herein engaged in rendering legal, accounting, tax, or other professional advice and services.  Before making any decision or taking any action, you should consult a competent professional advisor.