Building Legacies that Last Estate Planning and Elder Law

New Tax Law Creates New Advantages

Pexels-photo-209224It might be wise to take a fresh look at your estate plan for new options.

Many estate plans will need to be changed to take advantage of the new tax laws, according to the Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog in "A Gift from the New Tax Act: Kill That Trust."

One of the key changes for estate planning purposes, is that the estate tax exemption has been doubled.

Thais means people with estate plans that created trusts for the sole purpose of limiting their estate tax exposure may want to revisit their plans. They might now be better off revising those trusts or even getting rid of them altogether.

An estate law attorney can advise you on creating an estate plan that fits your unique circumstances and may include a trust or dealing with the doubling of the estate law exemption.

Reference: Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog (Dec. 26, 2017) "A Gift from the New Tax Act: Kill That Trust."


2018 Estate Tax Exemption Projections

TaxesThe IRS has not yet announced what the 2018 estate tax exemption will be. However, expert analysts think there will be some slightly good news for wealthy people.

They predict that the exemption should increase to $5.6 million for a single person and more than $11 million for married couples.

At the same time, they predict that the annual gift tax exemption should also increase to about $15,000, as Forbes reported in “Estate Tax Exemption To Top $11 Million Per Couple in 2018.”

This should give wealthy people and their estate planning attorneys a little bit more flexibility, as they attempt to shrink estates to below the threshold.

While most people who might be affected by this exemption increase would prefer to see the estate tax repealed entirely, that is increasingly looking like it will not happen this year.

Congress has turned its attention to tax reform, but getting anything passed could be a long process and will likely continue into next year.

Repealing the estate tax is also controversial. If Democratic votes are needed to pass tax reform legislation, that might take the estate tax off the table.

If you have questions about your estate and how it might have an impact on the estate tax, then you should see an experienced estate planning attorney in your area.

Reference: Forbes (Sep. 15, 2017) “Estate Tax Exemption To Top $11 Million Per Couple in 2018.”

Estate Tax Repeal Could Hurt Charities


At first glance, it miBigstock-Elder-Couple-With-Bills-3557267_previewght not seem like there is much of a relationship between the existence of the estate tax and charities.

The former takes money from the wealthiest estates involuntarily and uses it to help fund government programs. The latter are entities that people voluntarily give money to, in support of causes that they think benefit society.

However, the two are very much related, as Bloomberg discusses in "GOP Plan to Kill Estate Tax Sets Up Charitable Giving Conflict."

The issue is that one of the most common ways to get around the estate tax is to shrink an estate to just below the estate tax exemption limit. A great way to do this is to give money to charity.


When the estate tax was temporarily eliminated in 2010, charitable giving was reduced by 37%.

This has many charities very nervous about the possibility that the estate tax could be eliminated again, as the Trump administration and Congressional Republicans would like.


Republicans are looking for ways to get around this problem by finding other ways to encourage
charitable giving.


It is not yet certain whether they will have the votes necessary to do that.


It is also not certain at this point whether they will have the votes to eliminate the estate tax either.


Reference: Bloomberg (Aug. 25, 2017) "GOP Plan to Kill Estate Tax Sets Up Charitable Giving Conflict."

Forgotten Estate Taxes

MP900341744[1]Many people who think that there is no reason that they need to plan for the estate tax, will have estates that face large estate tax bills because they have not thought about state estate taxes.

When most people think about estate taxes, if they think about them at all, they think about the federal estate tax. That is the estate tax that receives most of the attention in the national media.

For most people that is the only estate tax they do need to worry about. It is the only one that could apply to their estate.

Most people do not need to worry too much about it, since their estates will be below the historically high estate tax exemption at the federal level.

Nevertheless, there are other forgotten estate taxes that can create problems as the Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog points out in "Don't Underestimate State Estate Taxes."

Maryland and the District of Columbia have their own estate taxes, in addition to several other states.

These state taxes often have much lower exemptions than the federal government.

The estate of someone who has planned only for the federal estate tax, might have to pay a large and unexpected bill to these states to cover the state taxes.

As is the case when the federal estate tax has not been adequately planned for, not planning for state estate taxes can create problems for estates that have few liquid assets and thus no simple way to pay the bill.

Fortunately, planning around state estate taxes can be done with the help of an experienced estate planning attorney.

Reference: Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog (June 8, 2017) "Don't Underestimate State Estate Taxes."



Estate Tax Uncertainty

Business_meeting[1]President Trump has made an official proposal to repeal the estate tax entirely, as expected. That  raises more questions than it answers.

While campaigning for the Presidency, Donald Trump frequently said that, if elected, he would repeal the estate tax entirely. As with all political campaign promises, that did not necessarily mean he would follow through soon on the promise, if he did at all.

However, President Trump recently released a tax reform proposal that calls for a total repeal of the estate tax, among other things.

That does not mean that anyone should make plans for the end of the estate tax, as Investment News points out in “Trump tax proposal leaves advisers in the dark on estate tax repeal.”  Moreover, the plans of President Trump only cover the federal estate tax, and not the estate taxes imposed by states.  Maryland and DC impose a state estate tax and Virginia does not.  Consult a Maryland estate planning attorney or DC estate planning attorney to consider how those taxes should affect your estate plan.

The biggest issue is how an estate tax repeal will get passed in Congress, if it can be at all.

Ordinary legislation requires 60 votes in the Senate to pass without a filibuster. It is unlikely that any large tax cut on the wealthy will be able to get those votes, since Democrats have vowed to block them.

The budget reconciliation process can be used so that only 50 votes are needed to pass an estate tax repeal, but there are many restrictions on that process. The most important one is that anything passed must be revenue neutral, which means that any cuts have to be offset with tax increases elsewhere.

If the cuts are not revenue neutral, then the law must sunset after 10 years.

The estate tax would come back.

President Trump has previously proposed changing capital gains taxation to offset the estate tax repeal, but it is not known how much support that idea has in Congress.

Both the President and Republicans in Congress, would like to see many more tax cuts that also have to be paid for, which might mean the estate tax repeal could be dropped for other priorities.

Reference: Investment News (April 27, 2017) “Trump tax proposal leaves advisers in the dark on estate tax repeal.”


No Estate Tax Does not Mean no Estate Planning

stacks of coinsWith the release of President Trump’s tax plan and Republican majorities in Congress, it seems inevitable that the estate tax will go away. That does not eliminate the need to do estate planning.

A big part of modern estate planning is planning around the federal estate tax. Many estate planning instruments were designed to help lower the estate tax burden on wealthy estates. Profit Law Firm helps clients reduce federal estate taxes.

Without an estate tax, it might seem that there is not much of a reason to do complex estate planning at all. Some people anticipate that will be the case soon, since President Trump has released a tax proposal that would eliminate the estate tax and Republicans who hold majorities in both houses of Congress agree with the idea.

However, it is not that simple as Financial Advisor recently discussed in “Estate Planning: It’s Not Over.” Some states such as Maryland and DC, have state estate taxes, at $3 million and $2 million, respectively see more information about these estate taxes.  So residents in these states will have to do some extra planning regardless of the federal tax rates and a Maryland estate planning attorney can help.

It still is not clear when, if and how the federal estate tax might be repealed.

Congress could choose to phase it out over a few years or scrap the idea entirely, if they cannot agree on offsetting spending cuts or where to raise revenues from elsewhere. Senate Democrats could also mount a filibuster over any tax plan that Republicans propose, which they are expected to do.

No elimination of the estate tax is permanent, of course. Even if it passed now, it could always be reinstated when Democrats control government again.

While you might be excited about the elimination of the estate tax, do not make the mistake of thinking that means you can make your estate plans with the assumption in mind that it will go away for good, if it does at all.

Reference: Financial Advisor (April 3, 2017) “Estate Planning: It’s Not Over.”


Trump’s Tax Plan

Bigstock-Elder-Couple-With-Bills-3557267[2]After much anticipation, President Trump released his long awaited tax plan. While there is much for wealthy people to cheer in it, including eliminating the estate tax, no one will want to cheer too much or too soon.

Since taking office, President Trump had been promising that he would reveal a plan for tax reform. He gave very few details about it, except that it would contain some of the biggest tax cuts in history, if not the biggest.

Last week, the White House finally released the anticipated plan, although many details are still missing.

The plan, if passed, would be one of the biggest tax cuts in history. Most experts agree that it includes large tax breaks for wealthy people, including eliminating the estate tax and the alternative minimum tax.  His plan would eliminate the federal estate tax.  Maryland residents would still pay Maryland estate taxes and DC residents would still pay DC estate taxes.  The Maryland tax exemption is currently at $3 million and the DC tax exemption is currently at $2 million, learn more about estate tax planning

Income tax rates on the highest earners would be cut dramatically, as would corporate tax rates.

The proposal does not just cut the taxes of the richest. Some middle class and lower income earners would see tax decreases coming from a doubling of the standard deduction.

The New York Times reported on the plan in "White House Proposes Slashing Tax Rates, Significantly Aiding Wealthy."

The President's tax plan has a long way to go before it is passed.

What was released was a one-page list of bullet points without any accompanying details. It will be up to Congress to determine the details of how to implement the plan.

The list did not indicate how the tax cuts should be paid for, which is likely to displease Republican deficit hawks.

Democrats are also likely to oppose the cuts and might filibuster them in the Senate.

Reference: New York Times (April 26, 2017) "White House Proposes Slashing Tax Rates, Significantly Aiding Wealthy."


The Final Estate Tax Battle

Mac-glasses[1]Political watchers are eager to see if President Trump and the Democrats will go to war over the estate tax. Some have declared it the final battle in the estate tax wars. Those wars have a long history.

President Donald Trump promised to end the estate tax in his campaign for office. While it is not yet clear whether he will carry through on that promise, many observers in Washington D.C. are wondering if it could lead to the permanent end to the estate tax.

With so much else Democrats object to, observers are speculating whether Democrats will finally capitulate and agree to end the estate tax or whether they will continue the fight. The battle over the tax has been raging for a long time.

The Hill discusses all of this in "Trump vs. the Democrats: Is this the end of the 100 year war over the Estate Tax?"

One of the most remarkable things about the estate tax battle, is that the arguments have essentially remained unchanged for over 100 years.

The Republican arguments against the tax derive from those first advanced by early economists, including Adam Smith. Democratic arguments in favor of the tax are virtually the same as those advanced by Theodore Roosevelt in 1906. If there is to be another fight over the tax in this Presidency, the old arguments are likely to be used again.

Of course, this might not be the final battle in the war.

The estate tax briefly disappeared under President George W. Bush. If President Trump wins and gets rid of it, the tax could come back when Democrats next gain power.

Reference: The Hill (Jan. 12, 2017) "Trump vs. the Democrats: Is this the end of the 100 year war over the Estate Tax?"


Estate Planning With no Estate Tax

Draft_lens6229982module49470302photo_1249598396business-man[1]The federal estate tax might soon be a thing of the past. That does not mean that you will no longer need a will.

On January 20, 2017, the Republican Party will control the Presidency, the Senate and the House of Representatives. The party will quickly act on its long-stated goal of eliminating the federal estate tax.

If it does so, do not be tempted to think that you no longer need an estate plan. There are reasons to get one that have nothing to do with avoiding the estate tax.

At the very least, you still want to have a will as Forbes discusses in "Five Reasons You Need a Will (Even If the Estate Tax Is Repealed)!"

The reasons include:

  • In a will, you appoint an executor who is in charge of administering your affairs. The executor can make sure that all of your debts are paid and that your assets are handled appropriately.
  • If you have minor children, a will is used to designate who you want to have guardianship of those children in case something happens to you.
  • In a will, you can give specific bequests to people. That means if you want one of your children to have a specific piece of personal property for sentimental reasons, a will is the place that you do that.
  • While getting a will you can also get advanced medical directives that will determine how you should be cared for, if you are incapacitated and not able to communicate with doctors at the time.
  • A will is more efficient than allowing the courts to handle your affairs without your directions. Having a will is cheaper and faster than going to court. It also protects your estate by making sure that your property does not go to people you do not want to have it.

Reference: Forbes (Dec. 8, 2016) "Five Reasons You Need a Will (Even If the Estate Tax Is Repealed)!"


Depression Era Trusts May Expire Soon

Bigstock-Extended-Family-Outside-Modern-13915094[1]Many family dynasty trusts created during the Great Depression to avoid rising taxation, will automatically terminate soon. Trustees and beneficiaries need to be prepared.

One of the lasting legacies of the Great Depression will soon come to an end. In response to that crisis, the government greatly increased the gift and estate tax rates. Wealthy families responded, in turn, by creating dynastic trusts to hold their wealth and preserve it for future generations.

Most of the trusts created at that time have mandatory termination dates at which time the trust assets must be distributed to the residual beneficiaries.

Successfully carrying out that process will require some planning as the Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog explained in “Preparing for Trust Termination.”

The first challenge for many trusts and trustees will be determining the residual beneficiaries. In many cases, they could be distant relations of the original trust settlors and not the same people who currently receive regular distributions from the trusts.

Once the beneficiaries are determined, they will need to plan for how receiving the trust assets, will  impact their lives and financial futures. Depending on the amount of money received, the beneficiaries’ tax and estate plans could change dramatically.

Those who do not plan appropriately, could face negative consequences that could have been avoided.

If you are a residual beneficiary of a depression era trust, you should seek independent legal advice. It might not be a good idea to rely on the advice offered by the trustees and their legal advisors.  Profit Law Firm, LLC can provide an independent consultation.

You need an attorney who will be acting only in your interests.

Reference: Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog (Dec. 5, 2016) “Preparing for Trust Termination.”