Now that Congress finally passed a reasonable estate tax law with a $5,250,000 exemption that is both indexed for inflation and transferable to one’s surviving spouse, who needs to do estate planning? Well, truthfully, some do not need much estate planning, but remember that estate planning always should have been more than just tax motivated. Estate planning involves issues like; who will take care of our minor or disabled children, who makes my end-of-life decisions, how is the best way to divide our assets among our heirs considering their differing needs and tax status, can your heirs manage what you are leaving them or should the assets be in trust with an experienced manager, and how should you title your assets for the best distribution to heirs. These and other decisions still should be made.
Most of us would like to ignore the issue if we could (myself included), but we do our heirs a disservice if we do not address these questions. I have seen many, many sad estate settlements (with unhappy children of the deceased) that could have been made so much better with only a small amount of planning. For a modest amount of legal fees you can put some certainty into your will or trust and often avoid some unpleasantness for your heirs that you might not have expected or intended. Sometimes the biggest mistake we can make is to think too much about our feelings on the matter instead of thinking about their feelings on the matter.
For your family’s sake, put some thought into the planning sooner rather than later. If you do not have an attorney we can give you some names of good estate attorneys and you can always ask us some questions about the kinds of things you should consult with your attorney about.Loren L McCann, CPA, MS