2018 is upon us. The time has come to put into practice the resolutions we made at the end of 2017. Most people resolve to exercise more and eat healthy. Maybe you have resolved to follow the lead of a friend or family member, or heed the advice of your financial planner or accountant, and finally set up an estate plan. Or maybe you just purchased a new home or have a new addition to the family, and want to make sure things are covered in case the unexpected happens. Whatever reason you may have for thinking about setting up an estate plan, 2018 is the year to finally get it done!
Below are just a few of the many reasons to finally get that estate plan set up:
Estate plans drafted several years in the past should be reviewed and updated in light of the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act recently passed by Congress and signed into law by President Trump. The Act doubles the amount of assets that a deceased person can leave to beneficiaries before the Federal estate tax applies ($11.2 million for a single person, $22.4 million for couples). Many older estate plans were structured with significantly lower estate tax exclusion amounts in mind, and may result in significant, and completely avoidable, capital gains taxes. For example, many older estate plans direct that, upon the passing of a spouse, a bypass trust (also called a credit shelter trust) be funded with assets up to the exclusion amount (currently $11.2 million). Any assets in the bypass trust will receive a step-up in tax basis when the first spouse passes, but will not receive a step-up in tax basis when the surviving spouse passes. Given that the combined estate of most married couples is not more than $11.2 million, most couples with an outdated estate plan will see their entire estate placed in a bypass trust, and their beneficiaries will have a significant capital gains tax bill to pay when the surviving spouse passes. Such an unintended result is easily avoided by updating the estate plan.
In conclusion, whether you have never set up an estate plan, or set up an estate plan years ago and it is on a shelf covered in dust, make 2018 the year you finally act to make sure your affairs are in order.