With 2017 in our rearview mirror it’s time to look ahead to 2018.
We’ve compiled a list of things to watch this year in regard to estate planning, so you and your family remain completely protected. Don’t have an estate plan? The new year is a great time to resolve to take care of this extremely important issue.
The death tax
The death tax has been in a state of flux ever since the early 2000s when the Bush administration’s first tax cuts changed the exemption and tax rates. The recently-passed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is the latest significant change. Starting January 1, 2018, the estate tax exemption amount will double to $11.2 million per person (married couples have $22.4 million of combined exemption). Like the current exemption, this amount will adjust annually for inflation. However, this enhanced exemption expires on December 31, 2025, at which time it will return to an amount similar to the $5.49 million per person exemption we’ve had in 2017. Similar to what happened when the Bush tax cuts phased in (and were scheduled to expire) during the 2000s, we’ll face the same situation over the coming years. The law provides a deadline and timetable, but political activity may result in something entirely different. Regardless of your stance on this new tax law, if you have a plan based around the now-old rules, it’s time to make sure your plan still meets your needs and goals while maximizing the benefit to your family, charities, or other beneficiaries.
What happens if you don’t die? Historically, much of estate planning focused on what happened to your assets after your death. With cognitive impairment affecting so many of the aging population, you must plan for the contingency that you don’t die and instead require assistance managing your affairs. Depending on your circumstances, this could range from a relatively simple matter of ensuring you have a trusted person authorized to make decisions on your account to extensive planning such as becoming eligible for help paying for nursing home care. Either way, now is the time to ensure that your plan protects you, even if you don’t die.
Giving your family lifelong financial security
Although you may not have a “large” amount of wealth now, you probably have an IRA or a life insurance policy. A modest IRA or life insurance policy could be the foundation for lifelong financial security for your family. To make this a reality, you need to set up your affairs with the proper structures to ensure that money avoids costs, taxes, and the risk of financial immaturity or ignorance. A good estate plan can ensure that the savings you’ve spent a lifetime building will be there for your family.
Fixing broken or old trusts
Many people have inherited assets from parents, aunts, uncles, and others through a trust. Some of these trusts may use old strategies or be expensive or difficult to administer. The law recognizes that old trusts may need some refreshing. There are many options available to modernize an old trust, so we recommend speaking to your estate attorney about which option is best for you and the trust you inherited.
2018 is looking like an exciting, dynamic year. No matter where you are on the estate planning journey, change is inevitable, so take some time this year to make sure you and your family are fully protected no matter what happens in your life or in congress!