May 17, 2013

Estate Planning is Still Required

senate.jpgOur readers who follow politics know that members of Congress have battled in recent years with respect to revisions to the tax law. Specifically, estate, gift, and income taxes have been subject to adjustments. The purpose of this blog post is not to describe the specific changes made to these laws. The laws in this area are fluid and heavily influenced by politics, making them subject to change at almost any time. Because our readers cannot rely on consistency in the tax law, they must be mindful of their estate plans, beneficiary designations, and means by which title is held. The goal is so that intended recipients receive intended assets and that taxes are reduced as much as legally possible.

Further, while some of the tax laws have been revised at the Federal level, they have not been so adjusted in New York State. As such, estates valued at more than one million dollars are subject to New York State estate tax. In the New York metropolitan area, it is easy to accumulate one million dollars in assets, which could be deemed the value of real estate (net of the balance of a mortgage), life insurance policies that are considered to be revocable and other assets.

In any tax climate, estate planning will always be needed for the purpose of naming guardians for minor children, providing for beneficiaries with special needs such as those with physical or mental disabilities, identifying those persons desired to serve as executors and for establishing business succession plans. People with property in multiple states also require estate planning services, as different states may have their own estate tax, necessitating strategies to achieve tax reduction. In addition, same sex couples require estate planning, even if they reside in a state where they are considered legally married, to determine the allocation of assets in other states and to ensure that the spouse receives intended assets, rather than blood relatives.

Estate documents should be considered to be organic documents, requiring review and redrafting from time to time. Those persons who executed estate documents in the last fifteen years would benefit from a consultation with our firm to evaluate whether the documents comply with current tax law and personal circumstances. Certainly in that period of time, marriages or divorces may have occurred and children may have been born, requiring the naming or deleting of particular beneficiaries. We look forward to discussing your estate planning needs.