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End of Year? Good Time to Review Estate Plan

Posted by Nina Whitehurst | Dec 25, 2018 | 0 Comments

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The new tax laws offer some opportunities. Have you taken the laws into consideration?

With the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in place, the end of the year is a good time to review your estate plan and see what you are missing or what opportunities may be available, according to The National Law Journal in “2018 Year-End Estate Planning: Double the Tax Benefits, but with an Expiration Date.”

As of Jan. 1, 2018, the amount an individual can transfer free of any federal gift, estate or GST exemptions were doubled to $11,180,000 for singles and $22,360,000 for married couples. Note that these figures contain annual inflationary increases and are projected to increase further, rising to $11,400,000 for singles and $22,800,000 for married couples in 2019.

On Jan. 1, 2026, all these levels will revert to 2017 levels.  However, that should be more than enough time to make the most of this law. There is also no way to know what additional tax legislation will occur between now and 2026, so many are being advised to act sooner, rather than later.

Making use of the annual exclusion gift remains one of the simplest estate planning methods. This refers to the amount that any individual is permitted to give to any other individual, with no gift tax costs. Indexed for inflation, this amount is currently set at $15,000 and will likely stay at that level in 2019.  Remember that you can't carry this over from one year to the next. Use it or lose it.

Married couples are permitted to combine this annual exclusion when making gifts to their adult children.  Therefore, they are allowed to be extremely generous, giving a gift of $30,000 per year to an adult child, without using any of their transfer tax exemptions. 

Another way to maximize the use of gifts is by covering the costs of tuition or medical care. Individuals can make unlimited gifts by paying tuition directly to the recipient's school or by paying their medical expenses directly to the health care provider. This also applies to paying health insurance premiums.

The most common planning opportunity under TCJA is to make full use of the new exemptions. Unless assets decline in value, lifetime gifts utilizing the exemption amounts will almost always result in overall transfer tax savings. All income and future appreciation that resulted from the gifted assets escape future gift and estate taxation. These exemptions are at historically high levels and could have an exponential impact on a gifting strategy.

There's no reason to put off addressing traditional estate planning, especially in light of this generous law. Revisions may need to be made to maximize these new exemption levels. A review of your estate plan is also needed if families have undergone any major changes, including birth, death, divorce, marriage, etc., to ensure that the documents and the plan still reflect your wishes.

We can advise you in creating an estate plan that fits your unique circumstances and advise you on where you might benefit from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

Reference: The National Law Review (Nov. 29, 2018) “2018 Year-End Estate Planning: Double the Tax Benefits, but with an Expiration Date”

About the Author

Nina Whitehurst

Attorney at Law Nina has been practicing law for over 30 years in the areas of estate planning, real estate and business law She is currently licensed in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Oregon and Tennessee. Her Martindale-Hubbell attorney rating is the highest achievable: 5 stars in peer...

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