One of the topics I discuss in my initial client meetings is the federal estate tax and its future. Over the years, the discussion has had to change as the landscape of federal estate tax changes. I’m often asked what I think Congress will do in the future with the estate tax…and the truth is…I don’t rightly know.
This article from About.com talks about how estate planners have been wrong at guessing what would happen in the future based on the past. The article talks about how most estate planners never thought the estate tax repeal of 2010 would occur. Personally, I got that one right. The article also talks about how no estate planners thought that there would be a $5 million exemption with a 35% estate tax rate. In all honesty, I blew that one…big time.
The best, and most consistent, advice I’ve given my clients is that prudent planning includes a cost-efficient system for updating your estate plan as the laws change over time. Estate taxes aren’t the only things that change, by the way – your personal and financial situation changes over time, as does your estate planning attorney’s experience. [I’m like fine wine; I get better with time.] If that makes sense to you, then the way to make sure you have the most up-to-date plan is to work with an attorney that has a system for regular client updates and education.
I think the worst approach to take is to gamble that the laws will be in your favor in the future. Congress does not have your best interests in mind when it comes to what happens to your estate after you’re gone. Moreover, with the new estate take law being good for two years only, it’s clear that the estate tax has become another political football – subject to the tides of election cycles.
This is no different that gambling at a casino – and Congress is the house. You need a good estate planning attorney to stack the deck in your favor and take the guesswork out of it.
Posted by Victor Medina, Medina Law Group, LLC